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This startup is improving the ocean’s ability to store carbon, by reversing acidification

Ebb Carbon’s pioneering carbon removal technology combines with electrochemistry to accelerate the natural process of removing carbon from the ocean, storing it safely for over 10,000 years, while reducing simultaneously the acidity of the ocean – helping to heal one of our most powerful assets in the fight against climate change.

The ocean is one of our greatest assets in the fight against climate change. Occupying 70% of the Earth’s surface, it produces more than 50% of the oxygen we breathe, sustains abundant biodiversity and is the largest carbon sink in the world, absorbing around 30-50% of the CO2 produced by combustion of fossil fuels.

The ocean’s efficiency in absorbing CO2 is also its loss; the more CO2 it absorbs, the more acidic it becomes. Ocean acidification is essentially a change in ocean chemistry/pH, which consequently leads to “collapsed food webs, corrosive polar seas, death of coral reefs and mass extinctions”. Ocean acidification has increased by 25% since pre-industrial times due to human activity and the effects are seen globally.

Moreover, the processes responsible for removing ocean carbon take millions of years; and with carbon dioxide increasingly prevalent in our atmosphere, it would be beneficial to find a way to improve carbon removal from the oceans, without the associated impacts of acidification.

Matt Eisaman, Carbon RefluxThe CTO and co-founder of , has spent the past decade studying the ocean’s carbonate system and how it, along with electrochemistry, can help the ocean absorb more atmospheric carbon dioxide. In February 2021, Eisaman and co-founder Ben Tarbel launched Ebb Carbon, a company that uses technology and electrochemistry to accelerate the processes of carbon removal from the ocean, with the benefit of reducing ocean acidity.

“Ocean chemistry is well understood, so I always knew Ebb’s technology was possible. To date, we have demonstrated that our electrochemical system is energy efficient, inexpensive, and ocean compatible,” Eisaman said. Sustainable Brands™. “So the question we face today is not really ‘can we do this?’ It’s ‘Can we do this fast enough, on a large enough scale to reduce gigatonnes of carbon dioxide per year by mid-century?’

Ebb Carbon’s solution has the potential to be one of the most important and least expensive routes to removing excess carbon from the air. The electrochemical process works by intercepting the salt water that salt water treatment facilities deposit in the ocean and adjusting the electricity of its molecules – the salt and water molecules in the salt water are rearranged to produce acidic and slightly alkaline saltwater solutions. When this alkaline salt water returns to the ocean, a natural chemical reaction occurs – and CO2 is pulled out of the air and stored as bicarbonate.

Image credit: Carbon Reflux

“We are enhancing a carbon storage process that is already underway. The ocean has a natural solution for carbon storage: bicarbonate, the most abundant form of carbon storage in the ocean. It safely stores carbon dioxide for over 10,000 years; and it doesn’t make the ocean acidification problem worse — it actually helps solve it,” says Eisaman.

Ebb Carbon’s system provides a permanent solution to safely store excess carbon for over 10,000 years. And the process is scalable: Ebb Carbon’s approach uses the vast surface of the ocean to capture and store carbon, and its technology is built with pre-engineered modular elements that scale easily. Ebb’s systems are designed to be integrated into existing installations, so they can be installed quickly, reducing carbon dioxide faster. In addition to carbon removal and permanent storage, the technology helps heal the ocean by reducing its acidity.

“The reason we chose to focus on the ocean is because we believe it is our best natural ally when it comes to climate change – it covers over 70% of the globe and acts like a sponge that absorbs permanently removing carbon from the atmosphere. Because we are exploiting such a vast natural resource, Ebb’s technology has the potential to have a huge impact on climate change,” says Eisaman.

Carbon removal technology is key in the fight against climate change – according to the latest IPCC report, 5-10 gigatonnes of CO2 will need to be removed from the air each year by 2050 to avoid global overheating. Currently, there are 19 carbon removal facilities around the world that extract CO2 from the air. Combined, they capture around 10,000 tonnes of CO2/year – that’s a start, but just a small fraction of what we need.

“The world is going to need a variety of technologies to meet the challenge of removing gigatons of carbon from our atmosphere. Harnessing the power of the ocean in this fight is an underexplored area of ​​carbon removal; and we are excited to be one of the few working on this potential solution,” says Eisaman. “We expect ocean carbon removal, direct air capture and other Ebb technologies to play a significant role in extracting the gigatons of carbon we need to remove from our atmosphere. .”

Over the next five years, Ebb Carbon plans to partner with facilities that treat seawater, including desalination plants, aquaculture facilities and wastewater treatment plants.

“By placing our systems next to facilities that already process seawater, we can tap into existing networks of pumps and pipes that process and transport seawater,” says Eisaman. “This reduces complexity and costs, and will help us deploy our systems and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere faster.”

The first Ebb system will be deployed later this year to provide carbon offsets to its first customer, Bandaged. This system will be rated at a capacity of one hundred tons of CO2 per year. Over the next few years, Ebb is expected to deploy dozens of similar units that will allow the team to continually improve system efficiency and cost. By 2027, Ebb plans to operate at megaton scale by partnering with various facilities that already process seawater.