CO2RE – the UK’s national research hub on Greenhouse Gas Removal, led by the University of Oxford, has announced the winners of its Pathfinders Call 2 round that is looking to provide grants for research on methane or ocean greenhouse gas removal.
The winners from the announced in 2022 funding call will receive up to £50,000 each to explore greenhouse gas removal techniques with high potential to impact climate change mitigation efforts.
CO2RE announced 4 projects with exciting and innovative approaches to emissions removal. They are as follows:
- Research on Sphagnum moss growth in peatland pools to reduce methane emissions led by Dr Jonathan Ritson from the University of Manchester.
- Removing atmospheric methane using solar driven catalytic membrane technologies – a project led by Dr Zhentao Wu from Aston University and Dr Wei Li from the University of Edinburgh.
- Developing efficient pre-treatment of seawater for ocean carbon removal method – a project known as SeaCURE led by Dr Paul Halloran from the University of Exeter.
- Modeling mineral particle transport and dissolution in the ocean for Ocean Alkalinity Enhancement (OAE) – research led by Dr Rachel White from Port and Coastal Solutions.
Sphagnum moss growth (a type of moss found in many peatlands) impacts emissions removal as the moss traps methane bubbles and increases the concentration of dissolved oxygen in the surrounding water. This creates a habitat where bacteria, feeding on methane, thrive. It converts methane into carbon dioxide which is а 80 times less powerful greenhouse gas in the first 20 years of release than methane.
The second research led by Dr Zhentao Wu from Aston University and Dr Wei Li from the University of Edinburgh, is investigating the removal of methane from the air using catalytic ceramic membranes. Currently, removing methane from ambient air is challenging due to the low concentrations of the gas in the air. The process requires high energy input to remove meaningful quantities of methane.
The project develops an innovative catalytic ceramic membrane that has a unique pore structure. It amplifies the interactions between sunlight, catalyst, and methane to remove low-concentration methane from the air efficiently. It also uses solar updraft technologies to power the constant air movement. If successful, the process, based on membrane innovations may also be combined with other methane removal technologies, or could potentially be used for removing other non-CO2 greenhouse gasses which exist at low concentrations in the atmosphere.
SeaCURE is another research, developing a low-carbon seawater pre-treatment process to remove magnesium and calcium from seawater with the end goal of removing carbon dioxide from the ocean at a large scale.
As seawater can contain significant concentrations of calcium and magnesium as solid minerals, they can form on the membranes used in the process of removing CO2 from the ocean, which destroys them. SeaCURE wants to overcome this limitation. As most techniques that can remove calcium and magnesium from seawater are resource intensive, this project aims to develop a method that is lower cost and scalable, cleaning the seawater before using it in the carbon dioxide removal process.
The final winning project awarded by CO2RE investigates patterns of mineral and water dispersion in the oceans to address a knowledge gap that is critical for assessing the effectiveness of Ocean Alkalinity Enhancement (OAE).
The process of OAE involves adding alkaline substances to the ocean that convert dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) in seawater into bicarbonates and carbonates – stable forms of carbon that will remain in a solid form for thousands of years. The resulting CO2 reduction in the surface waters would then be rebalanced as the ocean would absorb more CO2 from the air to re-establish equilibrium.
Currently, two key uncertainties remain in determining how effective OAE might be in removing atmospheric CO2: the movement of dissolving mineral particles and of alkalinized seawater in the key surface layer of the ocean.
The project investigates ways of modeling this using different mathematical approaches to determine the distribution in space and time of the alkalinity released by dissolving particles and its interaction with the changing ocean surface layer.