Sequestration of CO2 in Basalt Geological Formations Along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States

Carbon capture and storage has been proposed as an important component to a well rounded plan to control increasing carbon dioxide levels in the earth’s atmosphere.  One method for sequestering CO2 is to pump new emissions into geological formations.  Previous research has shown basalt and ultramafic rock reservoirs to be good, secure, long term locations for the sequestration of CO2.  Goldberg et al. (2010) examined the potential of various reservoir sites in the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP) basalt flows to be sequestration sites for large cities along the eastern seaboard of the United States.—Anna Fiastro
Goldberg, D., Kent, D., Olsen, P., 2010. Potential on-shore and off-shore reservoirs for CO2 sequestration in Central Atlantic magmatic province basalts. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 107, 1327.doi:10.1073/pnas.0913721107.

          The Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP) lies on and off shore along the eastern coast of North America.  CAMP consists of numerous basins of thick continental sediments with veins of basalt running through them.  These basins were created during the Triassic and Jurassic time periods.  Since these events, other seismic activity and interactions with water and the atmosphere have caused some of these rock formations to erode, while the remainders have become stratified with varying thickness and composition over a large area.  This stratification has lead to ideal conditions for CO2 injection and sequestration.
          What has occurred is that layers of very thick and dense basalt have surrounded areas of less dense and porous basalt.  The porous basalt allows space for a chemical reaction to occur between the minerals of the basalt and the injecting CO2 creating a mineral carbonate that fills in the cracks.  The dense basalt layers seal the pumped CO2 and the carbonate product in the basin so that it is harder for it to be reintroduced into the environment and atmosphere.
          These authors speculate that these types of layered formations can be found in the Orange Mountain basalt, the Newark Rift Basin, the Long Island Rift Basins, and the South Georgia Rift Basin.  This is based on sampling data, density and porosity profiles, computer modeling, and scientific speculation.  These sites are close to major metropolitan areas on the east coast of the United States, allowing them to work efficiently as storage locations for areas of high industrial CO2 output.  The speculated size of the reservoirs also offers the potential to store massive amounts of CO2.  For example, estimates show that one basin could contain the equivalent emissions from 3 or more coal-fired power plants for up to 40 years. 
Further study is necessary to confirm the existence of these basins, and demonstrate their suitability to act as sequestration locations.  Studies would include high-resolution survey mapping, followed by drilling in and around locations.  Pilot injection projects would then be conducted and monitored to determine the safety and effectiveness of this form of capture and storage.  Goldberg et al. also suggested that research should first be conducted at on-shore sites as they are more accessible and cost effective, and then offshore sites can be explored with the increased technology and knowledge.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s