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Running Tide Technologies grows kelp and then sinks it to extract carbon from the air


A Maine-based startup, Running Tide Technologies, is experimenting with breeding kelp, a type of algae, with the goal of extracting carbon from the air and storing it deep under the ocean. floor, potentially giving the world another nature-based tool to combat climate change.

Running Tide founder Marty Odlin, a Dartmouth graduate and engineer whose family includes generations of fishermen, works with a team of engineers, software developers, oceanographers, marine professionals, data scientists and hatchery technicians to bury massive amounts of kelp on the ocean floor. Odlin aims to “restore and then accelerate this natural process” of carbon-absorbing algae from the atmosphere, he told CNN Business.

“Kelp is one of the fastest growing things in the world, so it absorbs carbon at the fastest rate of any species in the world,” said Odlin. From his uncle’s converted lobster, he and his team use ocean currents move kelp in deep water where it can be sunk. Gravity then puts the kelp under tremendous pressure as it sinks into the deep ocean.

The seeds are grown in a hatchery, and once ripened, the team puts the kelp into biodegradable buoys. As it grows, the plant eventually becomes too heavy for the buoy and sinks to the ocean floor where the massive pressure of the water pushes it into the seabed. “Once the kelp has grown, the biodegradable buoy will dissolve and lose its buoyancy and everything will sink to the bottom of the ocean,” Oldin told CNN. “The ocean is a great natural carbon sink,” he added.

But it’s not a simple task, he admits. “The intentional removal of eight hundred gigatonnes of carbon from the atmosphere will likely be the greatest technical challenge in human history,” said Odlin. “It’s basically about running 150 years of the oil industry upside down in 15 years.”

Odlin works with scientists and universities to collect data to make sure the carbon is removed. “The good thing about growing kelp is that it grows remarkably fast and the deep-water environments in which it flows have very low temperatures, which can limit decomposition into carbon dioxide,” said Peter Raymond, professor of ecosystem ecology at Yale, CNN. Business.

Carbon sequestration has been a hot topic for some time, but conversations around methodologies have resumed as the Biden administration focuses on the fight climate change and the development of clean energy technologies.

“There are a lot of really progressive companies out there who want to minimize their carbon footprint and we can sell the carbon removal service to those companies,” Odlin said of Running Tide’s overall business strategy. When a company purchases a carbon elimination credit from Running Tide, Odlin and his team remove the carbon to offset the carbon they emit to run their business.

Running Tide Technologies grows kelp and then sinks it to extract carbon from the air

The Shopify e-commerce platform is Running Tide’s first big customer for carbon elimination credits. Stacy Kauk, the director of Shopify’s sustainability fund, told CNN Business that she was surprised to learn that Running Tide was “not based on expensive equipment or power-hungry processes, and yet their solution has a huge cost. potential to fight against climate change ”. Shopify is also helping Running Tide evolve and commercialize its technology and create more partnership opportunities.

While planting trees can be one of the best ways to capture carbon, companies are trying to find new ways to take it up a notch. “We can do large-scale reforestation efforts, but they won’t get us where we need to go,” Odlin said of using trees for carbon sequestration. “They don’t remove carbon from the carbon cycle,” he added. “It’s kind of like temporary storage.” Additionally, external factors such as forest fires and mountain pine beetle infestations can completely destroy trees, eliminating sequestration and releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

“Making it cheaper for companies to invest in carbon capture and storage is the best way to immediately reduce fossil fuel emissions,” said Sally Benson, co-director of the Precourt Institute at Stanford Energy .

Timing is urgent. “It’s like an incredibly big crisis, and every year counts,” Odlin said. “Every year we allow this carbon into the atmosphere, the world heats up.”

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