Singapore is planning to expand a pilot project that boosts the ocean's capacity to absorb CO2 emissions using emerging technologies that supporters hope can play a key role in addressing climate change.
As scientists call for more research into ocean carbon dioxide removal (OCDR), Singapore's national water agency, PUB, has built a plant that utilizes electricity to extract CO2 from seawater, enabling it to absorb more greenhouse gas when it is pumped back into the ocean.
The project, built at a desalination facility on the western coast, extracts 100 kg of CO2 a day using technology designed by U.S. firm Equatic, founded by scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles.
At the plant, seawater is run through an electrolyser, which converts dissolved CO2 into calcium carbonate and produces hydrogen.
PUB’s general manager, Gurdev Singh, said that PUB aims to secure funds by the end of the year to build a demonstration plant with a daily capacity of 10 tons and will look at further expansion opportunities.
Equatic founder Gaurav Sant stressed the commercial potential, said that "What makes this a resilient commercial opportunity is that you can essentially have the same equipment to give you two products: carbon credits and hydrogen." He added that it could also profit by selling calcium carbonate to the local building industry.
The project is one of several pilot OCDR ventures around the world. Some rely on bringing nutrient-rich deep-sea water to the surface to stimulate seaweed growth, while others focus on reducing ocean acidification levels and thereby increase CO2 uptake.
Some experts warn that the potential ecological impact of these technologies is still unknown. More than 200 scientists said recently in an open letter that OCDR research should be prioritized not only to maximize its potential, but also to avoid potential risks.