Algae blooms could be crucial to cutting the costs of carbon capture

In a process that spares freshwater.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Brillian Planet's algae farm. Brilliant Planet

Scientists have long used the photosynthesis of algae to convert biofuels and produce other sources of sustainable living. Now, they have taken it a step further using the plants for low-cost carbon capture.

The inventive company working on this process is Brilliant Planet and they were featured in a report published Friday by TechCrunch.

Removing carbon from the atmosphere is essential

Adam Taylor, CEO of Brilliant Planet, told the publication that removing carbon from the atmosphere is an absolute necessity.

“You might have seen the IPCC report that came out yesterday — if you read the IPCC report, you know we’ve missed the point at which we can just change your behaviors and just decrease CO2 output. We’ve got to remove carbon from the atmosphere, the carbon that we already put up there. It’s going to be critical to have other ways of keeping carbon in the atmosphere at manageable levels to limit global warming. Ideally, we would just change our behaviors, we’d fully electrify everything right away, but it just takes time,” added Taylor. “It takes time to change people, governments, and companies, We’ve got to do something about it.”

There are many advantages to Brilliant Planet's carbon-sequestering method. It is achieved without using essential freshwater, is solar-powered, and helps de-acidify the ocean water it does use.

An extremely energy efficient system

“We have to move very large volumes of seawater around, and that uses energy, but we’ve done a lot of design work around running the system extremely energy efficient. So gravity feeds down through most of the system from one pond into the next. We have a partnership with Southampton University on optimizing every aspect of the paddle wheels and the ponds. A lot of time and effort has gone into minimizing that energy cost, but fundamentally, we do need to raise water from ocean level to a few meters above sea level,” explains Taylor.

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“In the process we do we de-acidify that ocean water. So for every one unit of ocean water we bring in, we de-acidify the equivalent of five units of ocean water back to pre-industrial levels.”

And Brilliant Planet has some very ambitious goals of getting the price of a ton of CO2 removed from the atmosphere down to a sub-$50 price point. The company currently has a 3-hectare research facility in Morocco but is preparing for the construction of a 30-hectare one while continuing research and development in London.