All Articles
Climate Tech

The Ocean is the Next Frontier of Carbon Removal

September 22, 2023
x min read

The answer for sustainable carbon removal might be hiding in a surprising place: the bottom of the ocean.

Ocean carbon removal projects are a fast growing trend for startups and venture capital.

The big idea:

  • The ocean holds more carbon than any other part of Earth
  • While the path to net zero is largely focused on simply reducing greenhouse gas emissions, that is likely to be insufficient on its own
  • Aside from just reducing emissions, there is an enormous need to actually remove CO2 from the environment at scale
  • Ocean carbon removal could play an important role in being able to successfully remove gigatons of CO2 from the environment
  • There are many different types of approaches for ocean based carbon dioxide removal, including deep sea storage, micro algae cultivation, artificial upwelling and more

How it works:

  • Deep sea storage takes captured CO2 and then stores it in the ocean water column or sea bed
  • Micro algae naturally captures carbon on its own and is one of the most effective ways to naturally capture carbon
  • The concept of micro algae cultivation is to add important nutrients such as nitrogen and iron to areas of the ocean where nutrients are limited to encourage micro algae growth
  • That micro algae growth then absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere and a process occurs which leads some carbon to sink to the ocean floor as biomass, some carbon to be sequestered in the deep ocean and some carbon to be recycled as nutrients
  • Artificial upwelling replicates another natural upwelling, which is the process of bringing nutrients from the deep ocean floor towards the sunlight to enable photosynthesis of micro algae
  • Artificial upwelling does this through pump technology that stimulates phytoplankton and draws in carbon dioxide

What’s happening:

  • Ocean Networks Canada, a world renowned ocean observing facility hosted by the University of Victoria, has entered into a collaboration with leading carbon removal company Running Tides to study what happens after sinking biomass to the bottom of the ocean floor
  • Seafields, a United Kingdom based startup, recently announced they conducted the world’s first study of sinking sargassum to the bottom of the ocean floor
  • Oslo based publicly traded company Ocean Geoloop (OSE: OCEAN) is developing a first of its kind ‘ocean dome’ system to create a circular ecosystem between point of source carbon capture and cleaning the ocean
  • Notably, Chevron is a shareholder of Ocean Geoloop
  • Ebb Carbon, a startup founder by former talent from Tesla and SolarCity, has recently launched the first ever ocean C02 removal system

By the numbers:

  • The United States Department of Commerce just announced $24M in funding for ocean based carbon dioxide projects, citing their enormous importance as part of net zero
  • Brilliant Planet, a London based startup focused on cultivating micro algae at large enough scale to sequester gigatons of carbon, raised a $12M Series A led by Union Square Ventures and Toyota Ventures
  • Running Tide, the startup who has generated the first ever carbon credits from ocean removal, raised $54M in a Series B led by Lowercarbon Capital
  • Further, Running Tide has a partnership with Microsoft to purchase 12,000 tons of carbon removal

The intrigue:

  • There are a number of unique other possibilities created by harnessing the power of the ocean for carbon removal
  • New Mexico based Ocean Based Climate Solutions has developed a technology that converts CO2 into fish food through artificial upwelling that creates phytoplankton
  • Creating new phytoplankton boosts fish populations and also completes the cycle of carbon removal, as the excrement from fish becomes natural waste that sinks to the bottom of the ocean floor

Discover what’s next. The world’s biggest ideas, disruptive trends, most exciting early stage companies and groundbreaking entrepreneurs.

By clicking Subscribe you're confirming that you agree with our Privacy Policy.
Thanks for subscribing!
Keep an eye out for a welcome email shortly.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.