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Algae: New Carbon-Capture Player?

By NAM News Room

There’s a new method for capturing atmospheric carbon, according to one startup: build enormous algae ponds in deserts, Bloomberg reports (subscription).

What’s going on: The London-based Brilliant Planet “is planning to build giant ponds of algae to rid the world of tons of carbon dioxide” in a desert in Morocco.

Why it’s important: “There’s a critical need—the International Energy Agency has estimated some 7.6 billion metric tons of emissions must be eliminated to reach 2050 climate goals. And there’s a growing market for the service, particularly as businesses search for alternatives to shoddy carbon offsets.”

Oceans on land: The ocean has been a prime location for these projects because in it organisms grow quickly “and absorb carbon dioxide very efficiently.” Seaweed, for example, has been used to sink carbon to the ocean floor.

  • “Brilliant Planet is trying to recreate the ocean phenomenon of algae blooms on land actually, in barren deserts, where there’s little economic or ecological activity to disrupt.”
  • The company grows sea algae in ponds at its Moroccan site, then harvests the bloom and dries it out in the sun. “That biomass is then buried a few meters in the ground, where, in theory, it’s stored away for millennia.”
  • Emissions from the process are “close to negligible,” according to the company.

The upsides: The approach is cheaper than direct-air carbon capture, and the company has identified hundreds of thousands of square miles worldwide with the proper conditions for its algae pools.

  • The pools “could suck 3 billion metric tons of carbon out a year, according to the company’s calculations.”
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