Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Undersea Volcanic Rocks Offer Vast Repository For Greenhouse Gas, Says Study

Date:
July 15, 2008
Source:
The Earth Institute at Columbia University
Summary:
A group of scientists has used deep ocean-floor drilling and experiments to show that volcanic rocks off the West Coast and elsewhere might be used to securely imprison huge amounts of globe-warming carbon dioxide captured from power plants or other sources. In particular, they say that natural chemical reactions under 78,000 square kilometers (30,000 square miles) of ocean floor off California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia could lock in as much as 150 years of US carbon dioxide production.

Basalts on seafloor near Juan de Fuca Ridge. Image shows about 3 by 4.5 feet.
Credit: Cruise AT11-16, Alvin Dive 4045; Courtesy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

A group of scientists has used deep ocean-floor drilling and experiments to show that volcanic rocks off the West Coast and elsewhere might be used to securely imprison huge amounts of globe-warming carbon dioxide captured from power plants or other sources. In particular, they say that natural chemical reactions under 78,000 square kilometers (30,000 square miles) of ocean floor off California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia could lock in as much as 150 years of U.S. CO2 production.

Interest in so-called carbon sequestration is growing worldwide. However, no large-scale projects are yet off the ground, and other geological settings could be problematic. For instance, the petroleum industry has been pumping CO2 into voids left by old oil wells on a small scale, but some fear that these might eventually leak, putting gas back into the air and possibly endangering people nearby.

Lead author David Goldberg, a geophysicist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, called the study "the first good evidence that this kind of carbon burial is feasible."

"We are convinced that the sub-ocean floor is a significant part of the solution to the global climate problem," said Goldberg. "Basalt reservoirs are understudied. They are immense, accessible and well sealed--a huge prize in the search for viable options." One of the main advantages, he said, is a chemical process between basalt and pumped-in CO2 that would convert the carbon into a solid mineral.

In their paper, Goldberg and his colleagues Taro Takahashi and Angela Slagle used previous deep-ocean drilling studies of the Juan de Fuca plate, some 100 miles off the Pacific coast, to chart a vast basalt formation that they say could be suitable for such pumping. Basalt, the basic stuff of the ocean floors, is hardened lava erupted from undersea fissures and volcanoes. In this region, much of it lies under some 2,700 meters (8,850 feet) of water, and 200 meters (650 feet) or more of overlying fine-grained sediment. Drilling by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program has shown the rock is honeycombed with watery channels and pores that would provide room for pressurized CO2. The scientists have mapped out specific areas that they say are isolated from earthquakes, hydrothermal vents or other factors that might upset the system.

Ongoing experiments by Lamont scientists on land have shown that when CO2 is combined with basalt, the gas and components of the rock naturally react to create a solid carbonate--basically, chalk. Later this year, a separate team headed by Lamont geochemist Juerg Matter will begin pumping CO2 into a landbound basalt formation at a power plant near Reykjavik, Iceland--the first such large-scale demonstration. Basalts lie at or near the surfaces of other land areas including the northeast United States; the Caribbean; north and south Africa; and southeast Asia.

Goldberg says that undersea basalts, which are widespread, may be bigger, and better, than ones on land. At the depths studied, any CO2 that does not react with the rock will be heavier than seawater, and thus unable to rise. And in places like the Juan de Fuca, even if some did escape the rock, it would hit the overlying impermeable cap of clayey sediment.

Skeptics point out that getting the CO2 to such sites could be expensive and tricky. But Goldberg says the West Coast formations should be close enough to the land for delivery by pipelines or tankers. He called on government to study the details of how the idea might work, and whether it would be economically feasible. The United States currently spends about $40 million a year studying carbon sequestration, but nearly all of that goes to land-based research. "Forty million is about the opening-day box office for Finding Nemo," said Goldberg. We need policy change now, to energize research beyond our coastlines."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Earth Institute at Columbia University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. David Goldberg et al. Carbon dioxide sequestration in deep-sea basalt. PNAS, July 14, 2008

Cite This Page:

The Earth Institute at Columbia University. "Undersea Volcanic Rocks Offer Vast Repository For Greenhouse Gas, Says Study." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080714172153.htm>.
The Earth Institute at Columbia University. (2008, July 15). Undersea Volcanic Rocks Offer Vast Repository For Greenhouse Gas, Says Study. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080714172153.htm
The Earth Institute at Columbia University. "Undersea Volcanic Rocks Offer Vast Repository For Greenhouse Gas, Says Study." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080714172153.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Phoenix Thunderstorm Creates Giant Wall of Dust

Phoenix Thunderstorm Creates Giant Wall of Dust

Reuters - US Online Video (July 26, 2014) A giant wall of dust slowly moves north over the Phoenix area after a summer monsoon thunderstorm. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rare Lemur Among Baby Animals Debuted at Cleveland Zoo

Rare Lemur Among Baby Animals Debuted at Cleveland Zoo

Reuters - US Online Video (July 26, 2014) A rare baby Lemur is among several baby animals getting their public debut at a Cleveland zoo. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins