Startup’s ‘antacid’ enhances ocean carbon removing

Elon Musk’s willingness to throw plenty of cash at plenty of issues has been well-demonstrated, as Twitter’s board can attest. And final week, the local weather tech billionaire’s predilection paid off for 15 of the groups competing for the $100 million XPrize Carbon Removing competitors — each of which received a $1 million “milestone” award. The grand prize winner for this contest, to be named in 2025, will suck up $50 million in backing; $30 million extra will probably be distributed among the many runners-up.

Chosen from the greater than 287 teams that certified for the general competitors, the 15 ventures acknowledged final week characterize an incredible mixture of carbon removing approaches that depend on each know-how and nature to get the job executed. The selections on milestone awards had been based mostly on “operations plans, efficiency information, life-cycle evaluation and price estimates.” 

Coincidentally (or possibly not), one startup I’ve been angling to write down about, Planetary Applied sciences, confirmed up on the checklist of three groups engaged on ocean-related options. Its course of really is a posh one with a number of co-benefits apart from CO2 removing together with the cleanup of mine waste, inexperienced hydrogen manufacturing and ocean restoration.

A number of weeks in the past, three-year-old Planetary disclosed that it has up to now raised about $6.11 million, break up between traders together with Innovacorp and Apollo Tasks, in addition to numerous grants. The corporate has additionally scored some notable company procurement commitments for its carbon removing credit. “Shopify is proud to have been working with Planetary by way of our Sustainability Fund since early 2020, and as their first customer we’re assured that their ACT Platform is a recreation changer for carbon removing,” stated Stacy Kauk, head of sustainability for Shopify, in an announcement.

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Planetary’s process, which will be piloted at large scale in Quebec, Nova Scotia and the United Kingdom later this year, uses an electrolyzer to purify rocks left over after mining and remove trace elements such as nickel or cobalt. The alkaline substance that this process creates is then added to the ocean, where it enhances a natural carbon sequestration process. Co-founder Brock Battochio (a 2021 GreenBiz 30 Under 30 alum) likens it to an “antacid” for the ocean. The byproduct from this process is hydrogen, which can be used as a low-carbon fuel. Incidentally, the trace elements and minerals removed from the mine tailings might be used for batteries.

What’s next for corporate buyers? The company is selling 3,000 carbon credits that retire between 2025 and 2027 related to the new projects. It hasn’t disclosed the price per metric ton, but in documentation about its carbon purchase contracts, Shopify notes that it paid a premium to help support the company’s research and development. 

Jason Vallis, vice president of external relations for Planetary, said the startup is exploring two models for scaling up the technology. The first approach involves helping with cleanup of old sites, and the second would involve deploying its electrochemistry within existing mining operations — as it plans to do with nickel and cobalt mining company Brazilian Nickel at a location in the U.K. A chunk of the startup’s new funding will go toward getting the pilots built, and those pilots will be used to help develop a process for measuring and verifying the carbon removal impact, Vallis said.

Among carbon removal startups, Planetary’s focus on the ocean is still relatively unusual, which is odd when you consider that it already sequesters about one-third of anthropogenic emissions today, according to World Resources Institute. Two other ocean-related projects are on the list of XPrize milestone awards: Captura, a project born at the California Institute of Technology (a.k.a. Caltech), which plans to pilot its approach at a desalination plant; and Marine Permaculture SeaForestation from the Climate Foundation, which centers on open-ocean seaweed mariculture.

Another startup to watch is Running Tide, a Maine-based kelp farming organization that has also received early backing from Shopify — it’s in the portfolio being cultivated by Chris Sacca’s Lowercarbon Capital.

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