ScienceDaily (Jan. 5, 2010) — Scientists say buried volcanic rocks along the heavily populated coasts of New York, New Jersey and New England, as well as further south, might be ideal reservoirs to lock away carbon dioxide emitted by power plants and other industrial sources. A study this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences outlines formations on land as well as offshore, where scientists from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory say the best potential sites may lie.
Some basalt on land is already well known and highly visible. The vertical cliffs of the Palisades, along the west bank of the Hudson River near Manhattan, are pure basalt, and the rocks, formed some 200 million years ago, extend into the hills of central New Jersey. Similar masses are found in central Connecticut. Previous research by Lamont scientists and others shows that carbon dioxide injected into basalt undergoes natural chemical reactions that will eventually turn it into a solid mineral resembling limestone. If the process were made to work on a large scale, this would help obviate the danger of leaks.
The study’s authors, led by geophysicist David S. Goldberg, used existing research to outline more possible basalt underwater, including four areas of more than 1,000 square kilometers each, off northern New Jersey, Long Island and Massachusetts. A smaller patch appears to lie more or less under the beach of New Jersey’s Sandy Hook, peninsula, opposite New York’s harbor and not far from the proposed plant in Linden. The undersea formations are inferred from seismic and gravity measurements. “We would need to drill them to see where we’re at,” said Goldberg. “But we could potentially do deep burial here. The coast makes sense. That’s where people are. That’s where power plants are needed. And by going offshore, you can reduce risks.” Goldberg and his colleagues previously identified similar formations off the U.S. Northwest.