Team: Carboniferous, Inc.
Carboniferous, Inc. harnesses the carbon-sequestering power of plants with natural preservation mechanisms in oxygen-free ocean basins to achieve durable carbon sequestration.
Carboniferous’ methods involve placing densified crop byproducts (biomass) in the hypersaline and anoxic (oxygen-free) Orca Basin area of the Gulf of Mexico. The extreme environment in the basin inhibits biomass decomposition and mixing with the water column above. Effectively isolated from the external marine environment, this natural storage mechanism has high potential for efficient carbon storage, which is monitored during sampling trips.
The Potential Advantages
Biomass sequestration in deep, anoxic basins has several advantages as a long-term carbon sequestration pathway for carbon dioxide removal (CDR). Hypersalinity, anoxia, and high pressure limit the breakdown of organic material to the scale of thousands of years and with minimal ecological risk. Because the Orca Basin is small and strongly stratified, any breakdown of added biomass is contained within physical boundaries that improve the possibility of effective monitoring and verification. Finally, the utilization of a natural marine sequestration pathway is energetically and technologically efficient.
While the extreme environment of the Orca Basin makes it effective for carbon storage, it poses several logistical and operational challenges. First, effective monitoring requires sensors that are robust to the Basin’s pressure and salinity gradients, but also sensitive enough to capture minuscule changes in seawater chemistry immediately adjacent to the biomass bales. There are also challenges associated with monitoring at 2500m depth; engineering reliable landers and retrieval systems requires very specialized experience, particularly in an area where very few long-term sampling systems have been tested and where biogeochemical processes are not well understood. Finally, uncertainty in the regulatory landscape governing permitting and oversight of this marine CDR pathway is a significant risk to advancement; effectively navigating this uncertainty, particularly as one of the first companies to apply for a research permit under Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act, likely requires active and experienced policy expertise.