This Article was contributed by FCC partner, CEED Bulgaria
Everyone talks about reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but did you know that oceans are Earth’s main “carbon sink,” sucking 30 to 40 percent of greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere? Also, the greenhouse gas in the oceans is more than 100 times greater than it is in the air.
Removing carbon from the ocean to fight climate change is a process that involves taking carbon dioxide (CO2) out of seawater and either storing it in a different location or converting it into a substance that is not harmful to the environment. The idea behind this process is to decrease the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, which would in turn help mitigate the effects of climate change.
One of the ways to remove carbon from the ocean is through a process called ocean fertilisation, which involves adding nutrients to the ocean in order to promote the growth of phytoplankton. These tiny plants absorb CO2 as they grow, and when they die, they sink to the bottom of the ocean, taking the carbon with them. However, this method is still experimental, and its effectiveness and potential consequences are still being studied.
Another method is called direct air capture, which involves using machines that can pull CO2 directly from the air and store it in a different location. This technology is still in its early stages of development, but it has the potential to be effective in removing large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere and the ocean.
Another method is to capture CO2 emissions from industrial processes before they are released into the atmosphere and inject them into deep-sea geological formations or other storage facilities. This process, called carbon capture and storage (CCS), has already been implemented in some locations, but it requires large amounts of energy and infrastructure to be effective on a larger scale.
The MIT report describes a two-step “electrochemical” process that draws CO2 out of the seawater. The first step uses electricity to temporarily acidify the water, which encourages the removal of CO2. A second step removes the acidity and collects the CO2.
According to Kripa Varanasi, a professor of mechanical engineering and co-author of the MIT report, MIT’s approach reduces the energy costs and expensive membranes used to collect CO2 to the point where merchant ships that run on diesel power could collect enough CO2 to offset their emissions.
Captura Corp., a company that was spun out of the California Institute of Technology, marked the start of its first pilot plant near Newport Beach, Calif., designed to remove CO2 from the Pacific Ocean. The company uses a process that relies on electrolysis and membranes to remove CO2 from seawater. It receives financial support from Saudi Arabian Oil Co., as well as a $1 million grant from a carbon removal XPRIZE competition, funded by a $100 million gift from Elon Musk.
For information, the XPRIZE is the largest incentive prize in history, stimulating global competition between companies, governments, and investors who can find effective ways to remove 10 billion metric tonnes of CO2 annually by 2050.
Removing carbon from the ocean to fight climate change involves various methods, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. While these methods have the potential to be effective, they require further research and investment to be implemented on a larger scale.
Additional information about MIT’s efforts and the fight against climate change can be found here.