Two Caltech Startups are Harnessing the Ocean’s Carbon Capture Potential: Calcarea & Captura

July 13, 2023
1 min read
Source: CapturaCorp

Calcarea and Captura, two Caltech-supported companies along with a handful of other start-ups, are taking on climate change by shifting their carbon capture and storage focus to the oceans. Originally, Carbon capture and Storage involved the capture of carbon dioxide emissions from industrial processes. This carbon is then transported through pipelines and stored deep underground. The procedure is effective and energy-intensive. This, in turn, makes it expensive.

Oceanic carbon removal is beneficial for the ocean biosphere since the increased levels of carbon dioxide have affected marine ecosystems through ocean acidification. The process also enhances the ocean’s natural capacity to draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through equilibrium processes. While Captura removes the carbon from the ocean directly, Calcarea aims to clean the fuel gas directly from the cargo ships to safely and permanently store the carbon dioxide in the ocean by mimicking the Earth’s natural processes to make carbon dioxide react with limestone to produce bicarbonate ions.

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Jess Adkins, the CEO of Calcarea, was inspired to act upon the idea as there is a looming need to address the issues of climate change triggered by human actions. Earlier, the most efficient way to gain and produce energy was through the burning of hydrocarbons such as oil and gas, of which a societal transformation was a direct result. However, the consequences of the same included global warming and climate change, which have caused severe harm to the entirety of our existence. Human Activity in total has generated over 400 gigatons of carbon dioxide. About one-third has settled in the atmosphere, where it sits trapped in the heat and global warming. The other third is taken by the surface biosphere, which is made up of rocks and plants that use carbon dioxide and photosynthesis. The rest of the third is absorbed by the oceans.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that in order to avoid catastrophic damage to human health and the planet, the temperature of the planet should not drop by 1.5 degrees Celsius. This can be done by switching to renewable energy and initiating carbon capture and storage practices to clean up the mess of emissions polluting the planet. This approach is required because if the use of fossil fuels were eliminated, there would still be 400 gigatons of carbon dioxide released, which would still have to be dealt with.

Adkins, the CEO of Calcarea, states, “It’s no longer sufficient to only decarbonize the economy by switching to renewables.” We could have done it if we started earlier, but we didn’t, and now we have to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and we also have to decarbonize the economy.”

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