Calcarea’s Unique Approach Captures CO2 From Ships And Sequesters It Directly Into The Ocean

Calcarea's Unique Approach Captures CO2 From Ships And Sequesters It Directly Into The Ocean - Carbon Herald
Calcarea Team At AltaSea. Credit: Calcarea

A unique CO2 capture and removal technology is redefining the boundaries of the carbon capture industry, acting as an efficient approach to eliminating the emissions of the hard-to-abate shipping industry. Caltech-founded, Calcarea is a carbon-sequestration start-up developing a revolutionary technology that captures ship-board carbon dioxide and converts it to safe, durable ocean salts. 

The process mimics the earth’s natural oceanic carbon cycle – excess CO2 with CaCO3 in the ocean forming bi-carbonate (durable form of carbon) but shortens this cycle that takes over millennia. 

Calcarea also just announced it has signed a collaboration agreement with Lomar’s corporate venture lab, lomarlabs, to develop Calcarea’s technology that captures CO2 from ship-board exhausts, and converts it into stable, benign ‘bicarbonate’ ions that could be directly and safely released into the ocean.

Calcarea team at Ripple. Credit: Calcarea

Lomarlabs provides early stage tech companies with the physical infrastructure, support, industry insight, expertise and funding they need to responsibly test, prove and commercialize their solutions. The collaboration will provide Calcarea with direct access to the leading climate-conscious shipowner Lomar to accelerate the deployment of the technology within the industry. 

“We are thrilled to collaborate with lomarlabs to commercialize and deploy our on-board carbon capture system. Our technology offers lower energy demands, lower costs, and lower infrastructure requirements than comparable alternatives to cut emissions from shipping. But we need traction from ship owners and operators themselves to get our system out into the industry and in use. This collaboration will accelerate the testing and maritime engineering needed to get our system in use and reducing emissions,” commented Dr. Jess Adkins, Founder and CEO of Calcarea. 

To find out more about Calcarea’s unique approach that addresses shipping industry’s emissions, we interviewed Dr. Jess Adkins who described the technology in detail and shared the next steps towards accelerating it. 

“The Calcarea technology would bring ship exhaust into contact with limestone (solid calcium carbonate) inside a reactor filled with seawater. The reactor is specifically engineered in such a way to cause the CO2 to react with the limestone to form dissolved bicarbonate (which is not a solid, rather it is like a glass of salty water where the salt is in solution as ions). This stream of seawater with bicarbonate is released overboard, and the CO2 is safely and permanently stored as oceanic bicarbonate (the reaction doesn’t reverse). There is already over 38,000 gigatonnes of bicarbonate in the oceans, so the innovation of the Calcarea approach is in converting CO2 into this form so that it can be stored. As you might guess, the calcium carbonate is consumed as the ship travels, and is then replenished at the next port,” he explained. 

Credit: Calcarea

As there is already gigatonnes of bicarbonate in the world’s oceans, Calcarea’s released ocean water with bicarbonates has negligible effect on ocean pH. The use of the technology in theory fights ocean acidification

Relevant: “Ocean Alkalinity Enhancement Is By Far The Largest Scale Potential Carbon Removal We Have Available To Us” – Mike Kelland, CEO Planetary Technologies

Despite its straightforward approach, the company’s technology is based upon over a decade of oceanographic and marine engineering work conducted at CalTech and the University of California. It already has built and tested two pilots to date, however, the partnership with Lomar will take it to its next step of commercialization by developing an engineering and marine architecture analysis of how to incorporate it into ships. It will also involve at-sea trials.

According to Dr Adkins, the marine engineering will aim to retro-fit the reactor into various categories and classes of ships. The team will also need to test it on-board and at-sea. “We need to get shipping industry players to buy and use the system. We think that our upcoming Joint Development Agreement will help with all of those,” he added. 

Credit: Calcarea

Apart from offering a safe approach to removing ships’ emissions, Calcarea is competitive with currently available carbon capture and storage technologies in terms of cost and efficiency. 

“The shipping industry emits roughly 1 gigatonne of carbon dioxide per year, similar in size to the aviation industry, and has relatively few options with which to decarbonize. The industry is looking at clean fuels such as hydrogen or ammonia, but these involve entirely redesigning ships and their engines, and may take decades to materialize at the quantities needed,” said Dr Adkins. 

Relevant: EU And UK Will Spend €5M To Retrofit Ships With Carbon Capture Technology

Calcarea offers on-board carbon capture and conversion. The converted CO2 into bicarbonates is then safe to be released into the ocean water which saves money and efforts compared to capturing and accumulating pure CO2 on board, offloading it at ports, and transporting it to injection sites for permanent underground sequestration. 

“As you might imagine this is very complicated and expensive. By offering a capture technology that can be fit onto existing ships, and that can “sequester CO2 in the wake” we think that Calcarea can help the industry reduce its emissions faster,” added Dr Adkins.

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