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Ocean Carbon Capture
1 week ago

In the relentless battle against climate change, innovative approaches to reduce carbon dioxide emissions have become paramount. While efforts to reduce emissions from industries and transportation continue, scientists and environmentalists are increasingly turning their attention to carbon capture and removal technologies. Among these emerging solutions, Singapore has taken a pioneering step by expanding a pilot project designed to enhance the ocean’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide emissions. This groundbreaking initiative, led by the Singapore Public Utilities Board (PUB), involves extracting CO2 from seawater using electricity and represents a potentially vital tool in the global fight against climate change.

The Vision Behind Ocean Carbon Dioxide Removal (OCDR)
As the urgency to address climate change intensifies, scientists have emphasized the importance of researching ocean carbon dioxide removal (OCDR) methods. While reducing greenhouse gas emissions remains essential, removing CO2 from the atmosphere has gained prominence as a complementary strategy. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has even stated that CO2 removal is as crucial as emission reduction in mitigating temperature increases.

Singapore’s Innovative Approach
Singapore’s initiative involves a unique approach to OCDR. Located on the western coast of the island nation, a desalination facility has been equipped with technology developed by the U.S. firm Equatic, founded by scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). This technology utilizes electricity to extract CO2 from seawater, facilitating greater absorption of greenhouse gases when the treated seawater is pumped back into the ocean.

The process at the plant is simple yet ingenious: seawater is run through an electrolyser, which converts dissolved CO2 into calcium carbonate while producing hydrogen as a byproduct. This novel approach demonstrates the potential to remove 100 kilograms of CO2 from seawater daily.

The Path Towards Scaling Up
While the pilot project is a promising first step, PUB has ambitions to scale up this innovative technology. Gurdev Singh, a PUB general manager who leads the project, expressed the organization’s intention to secure funding by the end of the year for a demonstration plant with a daily capacity of 10 tons. This expansion is the next critical phase, as Singh explained, “We have shown that the technology works, but the key now is to optimize the technology at scale.”

Balancing Profit and Environmental Impact
The Equatic project not only demonstrates potential in the fight against climate change but also offers commercial prospects. Gaurav Sant, founder of Equatic, highlighted the project’s resilience as a commercial opportunity. He emphasized that the technology could yield carbon credits, hydrogen production, and profits from selling calcium carbonate to the local building industry. This multifaceted approach adds an economic incentive to support the project’s growth.

However, some experts and environmentalists remain cautious about the ecological impact of these emerging OCDR technologies. The potential risks, including unintended consequences for marine ecosystems, remain a subject of concern. More than 200 scientists recently underscored the need for prioritizing OCDR research in an open letter, calling for a balance between maximizing its potential and mitigating potential ecological risks.

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