Why using the oceans to suck up CO2 might not be as simple as hoped

Meanwhile, some additional studies have recently raised doubts about a different ocean-based approach: growing seaweed and dipping it to suck and store carbon.

Finding efficient ways to pull down greenhouse gases will be important in the coming decades. A report by the National Academy of Ocean-Based Carbon Removal in December noted that the world had 2 s. An additional 10 billion tons may be needed annually by the middle of the century to limit temperatures to.

According to research group Ocean Vision, increasing the salinity of the oceans could theoretically remove billions of tons per year on its own. But the National Academy panel noted that it would require rock extraction, grinding and shipping on almost identical scales, all of which would also have significant environmental consequences.

New studies have not delivered a final, definitive term on whether any of these methods would be possible ways to help achieve carbon elimination goals.

But Michael Fuhr, one of the authors of the Olivin study and a doctoral student at GEOMAR, says his findings suggest that the approach is “not as easy as expected so far.” He adds that it can only work well in certain places where marine chemistry is appropriate. This may include areas where the water is low in salinity but rich in organic silt, which will increase the acidity.

Fuhr and others say additional laboratory experiments and fieldwork will be needed to determine how well this method works in the real world, what the ideal conditions are, or whether other materials are more promising.

Maria-Elena Vorath, a researcher at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, said in an email that studies show that the Olivin process does not work the way we assume. But she insisted that the mineral was “one of the most enduring and promising methods nature has given us.”

“We just need to understand and read the manual,” she said, noting that mixing water in real oceans and other variables could alter the results seen in the lab.

One company, Project Vesta, has been planning to conduct field trials in the Caribbean for many years, in which olivine sand will be spread on beaches or in shallow water. Tom Green, the company’s chief executive officer, says it is also planning lab experiments, toxicology testing and field trials off the east coast of the US.

Project Vesta started as a nonprofit but is now a so-called public benefits corporation, meaning it has two goals: to make a profit and to achieve social good. Hopefully, carbon credits will eventually be sold for any greenhouse gases removed from Olivine, Green says.

A handful of additional startups are working on other ways to increase ocean salinity through approaches, including electrochemical processes. These include Ebb Carbon, Planetary Technology and Exchange, all pre-sold with tons of carbon removal that they expect companies, including Shopify and Stripe, to achieve.

Meanwhile, the National Academy panel called for the establishment of a $ 125 million US research program to study how we can develop ways to measure or accelerate these processes, identify environmental side effects and reliably measure and test how carbon is being removed. Did. .

“Ocean geochemistry is full of complexities,” says Will Burns, a visiting professor at Northwestern University focusing on carbon removal. “We will need to do a lot of repetition of this research, under very different conditions and on different scales, to come to the conclusion that we can do this on a large scale and monetize it.”

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