Critical Obstacles and Development Needs

“Vicious Cycle” of Low Investment/Low Awareness

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The lack of awareness of and support for ocean-based CDR amongst key audiences was clearly identified as one of the (if not the) primary obstacles to unlocking greater resources that could accelerate the development and testing of ocean-based CDR pathways. Readers may consult the road map “Growing & Maintaining Public Support” which details the specific obstacles, needs, and opportunities to advance public awareness and support. 

Participants in the expert workshops leading to the production of this road map broadly agreed that there exists a “vicious cycle” whereby the lack of investments into ocean-based CDR pathways has prevented proof-of-concept field trials from taking place. These field trials are in turn critical to answer key questions on environmental benefits and risks, as well as technical feasibility, which in turn could increase enhance public confidence in further exploration of ocean-based CDR pathways. 

Without this essential information, and/or without increasing public support, there is likely to be continued underinvestment into pilot projects. 

The lack of awareness of and support for ocean-based CDR amongst key audiences was clearly identified as one of the (if not the) primary obstacles to unlocking greater resources that could accelerate the development and testing of ocean-based CDR pathways. Readers may consult the road map “Growing & Maintaining Public Support” which details the specific obstacles, needs, and opportunities to advance public awareness and support. 

Participants in the expert workshops leading to the production of this road map broadly agreed that there exists a “vicious cycle” whereby the lack of investments into ocean-based CDR pathways has prevented proof-of-concept field trials from taking place. These field trials are in turn critical to answer key questions on environmental benefits and risks, as well as technical feasibility, which in turn could increase enhance public confidence in further exploration of ocean-based CDR pathways. 

Without this essential information, and/or without increasing public support, there is likely to be continued underinvestment into pilot projects. 

The lack of awareness of and support for ocean-based CDR amongst key audiences was clearly identified as one of the (if not the) primary obstacles to unlocking greater resources that could accelerate the development and testing of ocean-based CDR pathways. Readers may consult the road map “Growing & Maintaining Public Support” which details the specific obstacles, needs, and opportunities to advance public awareness and support. 

Participants in the expert workshops leading to the production of this road map broadly agreed that there exists a “vicious cycle” whereby the lack of investments into ocean-based CDR pathways has prevented proof-of-concept field trials from taking place. These field trials are in turn critical to answer key questions on environmental benefits and risks, as well as technical feasibility, which in turn could increase enhance public confidence in further exploration of ocean-based CDR pathways. 

Without this essential information, and/or without increasing public support, there is likely to be continued underinvestment into pilot projects. 

Projects

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Minimal Levels of Public Investment to Date

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Public investment from governments must play a critical role in providing early-stage funding to development and field testing of ocean CDR technologies, which in turn helps to “de-risk” private investment and finance of ocean-based CDR efforts. This public investment de-risking function is critical to create the enabling conditions for building an industry and a market and has been done successfully in a number of fields, from healthcare to renewable energy.  So far, public investment in ocean- based CDR is lacking. 

A previous analysis by the Energy Futures Initiative and the Bipartisan Policy Center of US federal investments in ocean-based CDR RD&D found a total expenditure of only $44.3 million on marine pathways across 115 projects from 2005 to 2018[1]Hezir, Joseph S., Bushman, Tim, Stark, Dr. Addison K., Smith, Erin. “Carbon Removal: Comparing Historical Federal Research Investments with the National Academies’ Recommended Future” Funding Levels” April 2019. . 

In the US, the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) is the primary source of US public support through the $50 million MARINER program designed “to develop the tools to enable the United States to become a global leader in the production of marine biomass” (but for energy, not CDR) and through $2 million in recently announced awards to support research and development on direct ocean capture (electrochemical) technologies. 

In the EU, the OceanNETs (NETs: Negative Emission Technologies) project is evaluating a wide range of ocean-based CDR pathways for their theoretical, technological, economic, social, and political viability. OceanNETs is funded at € 7.19 million (~$8.75 million). 

While these government funding programs are steps in the right direction, they fall well short of the recently released call for a 10-year, $1.75 billion US federal investment in ocean-based CDR research, development, and demonstration[2]Energy Futures Initiative. “Uncharted Waters: Expanding the Options for Carbon Dioxide Removal in Coastal and Ocean Environments.” December 2020. . 

Philanthropic investment is also important to build an enabling environment for increasing public awareness and support of ocean-based CDR pathways[3]Gagern, Antonius. “Demystifying Ocean-Based Carbon Dioxide Removal: An Explainer - Insights from Our Shared Seas.” Our Shared Seas, 19 Jan. 2021. https://oursharedseas.com/demystifying-ocean-based-carbon-dioxide-removal-an-explainer/ . The ClimateWorks Foundation[4]“Climate Works: Ocean Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR)”. https://www.climateworks.org/programs/carbon-dioxide-removal/oceans/ and the Grantham Environmental Trust[5]Lorenzo, Emanuele Di. “New Partnership to Deploy Ocean-Based Solutions to Climate.” Ocean Visions, 21 Oct. 2020, www.oceanvisions.org/post/new-partnership-with-grantham-environmental-thrust-to-deploy-ocean-based-solutions-to-climate. are two of a small number of philanthropic organizations which include ocean-based CDR in their portfolios. 

Public investment from governments must play a critical role in providing early-stage funding to development and field testing of ocean CDR technologies, which in turn helps to “de-risk” private investment and finance of ocean-based CDR efforts. This public investment de-risking function is critical to create the enabling conditions for building an industry and a market and has been done successfully in a number of fields, from healthcare to renewable energy.  So far, public investment in ocean- based CDR is lacking. 

A previous analysis by the Energy Futures Initiative and the Bipartisan Policy Center of US federal investments in ocean-based CDR RD&D found a total expenditure of only $44.3 million on marine pathways across 115 projects from 2005 to 2018[1]Hezir, Joseph S., Bushman, Tim, Stark, Dr. Addison K., Smith, Erin. “Carbon Removal: Comparing Historical Federal Research Investments with the National Academies’ Recommended Future” Funding Levels” April 2019. . 

In the US, the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) is the primary source of US public support through the $50 million MARINER program designed “to develop the tools to enable the United States to become a global leader in the production of marine biomass” (but for energy, not CDR) and through $2 million in recently announced awards to support research and development on direct ocean capture (electrochemical) technologies. 

In the EU, the OceanNETs (NETs: Negative Emission Technologies) project is evaluating a wide range of ocean-based CDR pathways for their theoretical, technological, economic, social, and political viability. OceanNETs is funded at € 7.19 million (~$8.75 million). 

While these government funding programs are steps in the right direction, they fall well short of the recently released call for a 10-year, $1.75 billion US federal investment in ocean-based CDR research, development, and demonstration[2]Energy Futures Initiative. “Uncharted Waters: Expanding the Options for Carbon Dioxide Removal in Coastal and Ocean Environments.” December 2020. . 

Philanthropic investment is also important to build an enabling environment for increasing public awareness and support of ocean-based CDR pathways[3]Gagern, Antonius. “Demystifying Ocean-Based Carbon Dioxide Removal: An Explainer - Insights from Our Shared Seas.” Our Shared Seas, 19 Jan. 2021. https://oursharedseas.com/demystifying-ocean-based-carbon-dioxide-removal-an-explainer/ . The ClimateWorks Foundation[4]“Climate Works: Ocean Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR)”. https://www.climateworks.org/programs/carbon-dioxide-removal/oceans/ and the Grantham Environmental Trust[5]Lorenzo, Emanuele Di. “New Partnership to Deploy Ocean-Based Solutions to Climate.” Ocean Visions, 21 Oct. 2020, www.oceanvisions.org/post/new-partnership-with-grantham-environmental-thrust-to-deploy-ocean-based-solutions-to-climate. are two of a small number of philanthropic organizations which include ocean-based CDR in their portfolios. 

Public investment from governments must play a critical role in providing early-stage funding to development and field testing of ocean CDR technologies, which in turn helps to “de-risk” private investment and finance of ocean-based CDR efforts. This public investment de-risking function is critical to create the enabling conditions for building an industry and a market and has been done successfully in a number of fields, from healthcare to renewable energy.  So far, public investment in ocean- based CDR is lacking. 

A previous analysis by the Energy Futures Initiative and the Bipartisan Policy Center of US federal investments in ocean-based CDR RD&D found a total expenditure of only $44.3 million on marine pathways across 115 projects from 2005 to 2018. 

In the US, the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) is the primary source of US public support through the $50 million MARINER program designed “to develop the tools to enable the United States to become a global leader in the production of marine biomass” (but for energy, not CDR) and through $2 million in recently announced awards to support research and development on direct ocean capture (electrochemical) technologies. 

In the EU, the OceanNETs (NETs: Negative Emission Technologies) project is evaluating a wide range of ocean-based CDR pathways for their theoretical, technological, economic, social, and political viability. OceanNETs is funded at € 7.19 million (~$8.75 million). 

While these government funding programs are steps in the right direction, they fall well short of the recently released call for a 10-year, $1.75 billion US federal investment in ocean-based CDR research, development, and demonstration. 

Philanthropic investment is also important to build an enabling environment for increasing public awareness and support of ocean-based CDR pathways. The ClimateWorks Foundation and the Grantham Environmental Trust are two of a small number of philanthropic organizations which include ocean-based CDR in their portfolios. 

Projects

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Underdeveloped Markets for Carbon Removal

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The lack of well-developed markets for carbon removal and permanent storage also affects the flow of early-stage investment into ocean-based CDR pathways specifically. 

There has recently been some progress to develop carbon removal markets (e.g. Nori, Puro Earth), and there are a growing number of corporate commitments to carbon removal, alongside several high-profile CDR ‘futures’ purchases from Stripe, Shopify, and Microsoft.

However, more work is needed to keep growing the markets for CDR and to better connect the growing demand for carbon removal to the potential suppliers of carbon removal. More clarity and certainty on the demand side (scale, specifications, pricing, etc.) will give clarity to potential early-stage investors and may increase capital flow into development of the technologies and enterprises that can ultimately deliver carbon removal at a competitive price.

As outlined in the technology-specific road maps (Electrochemical CDR, Macroalgae Cultivation & Carbon Sequestration, Ocean Alkalinity Enhancement), many of the ocean-based CDR pathways also generate co-products that can serve as important sources of revenue for carbon removal ventures. These include, but are not limited to: high value bioproducts, bioplastics, and bioenergy from macroalgae; hydrogen, chlorine, and oxygen gases, as well as hydrochloric acid from electrochemical processes; and valuable metals refined from ocean alkalinity enhancement pathways.  Unknowns about the current and projected sizes of the markets for these co-products hinders development of more accurate business models for investors into ocean-based CDR pathways. 

The lack of well-developed markets for carbon removal and permanent storage also affects the flow of early-stage investment into ocean-based CDR pathways specifically. 

There has recently been some progress to develop carbon removal markets (e.g. Nori, Puro Earth), and there are a growing number of corporate commitments to carbon removal, alongside several high-profile CDR ‘futures’ purchases from Stripe, Shopify, and Microsoft.

However, more work is needed to keep growing the markets for CDR and to better connect the growing demand for carbon removal to the potential suppliers of carbon removal. More clarity and certainty on the demand side (scale, specifications, pricing, etc.) will give clarity to potential early-stage investors and may increase capital flow into development of the technologies and enterprises that can ultimately deliver carbon removal at a competitive price.

As outlined in the technology-specific road maps (Electrochemical CDR, Macroalgae Cultivation & Carbon Sequestration, Ocean Alkalinity Enhancement), many of the ocean-based CDR pathways also generate co-products that can serve as important sources of revenue for carbon removal ventures. These include, but are not limited to: high value bioproducts, bioplastics, and bioenergy from macroalgae; hydrogen, chlorine, and oxygen gases, as well as hydrochloric acid from electrochemical processes; and valuable metals refined from ocean alkalinity enhancement pathways.  Unknowns about the current and projected sizes of the markets for these co-products hinders development of more accurate business models for investors into ocean-based CDR pathways. 

The lack of well-developed markets for carbon removal and permanent storage also affects the flow of early-stage investment into ocean-based CDR pathways specifically. 

There has recently been some progress to develop carbon removal markets (e.g. Nori, Puro Earth), and there are a growing number of corporate commitments to carbon removal, alongside several high-profile CDR ‘futures’ purchases from Stripe, Shopify, and Microsoft.

However, more work is needed to keep growing the markets for CDR and to better connect the growing demand for carbon removal to the potential suppliers of carbon removal. More clarity and certainty on the demand side (scale, specifications, pricing, etc.) will give clarity to potential early-stage investors and may increase capital flow into development of the technologies and enterprises that can ultimately deliver carbon removal at a competitive price.

As outlined in the technology-specific road maps, many of the ocean-based CDR pathways also generate co-products that can serve as important sources of revenue for carbon removal ventures. These include, but are not limited to: high value bioproducts, bioplastics, and bioenergy from macroalgae; hydrogen, chlorine, and oxygen gases, as well as hydrochloric acid from electrochemical processes; and valuable metals refined from ocean alkalinity enhancement pathways.  Unknowns about the current and projected sizes of the markets for these co-products hinders development of more accurate business models for investors into ocean-based CDR pathways. 

Projects

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Limited Expertise and Labor Force

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There was strong agreement in the expert workshops that a shortage of capacity, skills, and knowledge in the ocean CDR field amongst researchers, entrepreneurs, marine managers, and key stakeholders creates obstacles to the enhanced development and testing of ocean-based CDR pathways. More effort is needed to further identify the requisite knowledge and skills set for ocean-based CDR development and to work with relevant institutions to train and develop people with the capacity needed globally,  

There was strong agreement in the expert workshops that a shortage of capacity, skills, and knowledge in the ocean CDR field amongst researchers, entrepreneurs, marine managers, and key stakeholders creates obstacles to the enhanced development and testing of ocean-based CDR pathways. More effort is needed to further identify the requisite knowledge and skills set for ocean-based CDR development and to work with relevant institutions to train and develop people with the capacity needed globally,  

Projects

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Technology Development for Needed Tools Still in Early Stages

Version published: 

Investment is needed not only in development of ocean-based CDR technologies but also in the associated tools needed to support the field. This includes a new suite of hardware and software products that can:

  1. Provide physical, chemical, and biological information at sufficient spatial and temporal density necessary to make informed carbon sequestration estimates.
  2. Provide remote verification of carbon sequestration and permanence.
  3. Provide the autonomous or remote monitoring, maintenance, and troubleshooting necessary to support large-scale offshore operations.

Investment is needed not only in development of ocean-based CDR technologies but also in the associated tools needed to support the field. This includes a new suite of hardware and software products that can:

  1. Provide physical, chemical, and biological information at sufficient spatial and temporal density necessary to make informed carbon sequestration estimates.
  2. Provide remote verification of carbon sequestration and permanence.
  3. Provide the autonomous or remote monitoring, maintenance, and troubleshooting necessary to support large-scale offshore operations.

Projects

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Nascent and Uncertain Governance and Regulatory Regimes

Version published: 

Advancing the investment into development and testing of ocean-based CDR approaches will require governance structures that both enable the permitting of legitimate testing and development and ensure that the public interests are protected.  

Current governance-related gaps include:

  • There are no specific regimes in the US nor internationally governing ocean-based CDR.
  • Uncertainty and lack of expertise/knowledge around the jurisdiction and application of relevant international governance regimes to ocean-based CDR (e.g. London Convention/London Protocol, UN Convention on Biological Diversity).
  • In many countries, there are complex regulatory mazes to navigate to gain permits for in-water experimental trials, hindering development of trials. This is particularly challenging in countries (e.g. the US) featuring overlapping jurisdictions and authorities in the coastal zone.

These and other governance and regulatory uncertainties present real challenges and risks to those working to conduct research and development on ocean-based CDR pathways and inhibit private investment.

Regimes and protocols around monitoring, reporting, and verification for ocean-based CDR also needs to be strengthened to clarify roles and responsibilities of CDR providers (sellers), buyers, and regulators.

Advancing the investment into development and testing of ocean-based CDR approaches will require governance structures that both enable the permitting of legitimate testing and development and ensure that the public interests are protected.  

Current governance-related gaps include:

  • There are no specific regimes in the US nor internationally governing ocean-based CDR.
  • Uncertainty and lack of expertise/knowledge around the jurisdiction and application of relevant international governance regimes to ocean-based CDR (e.g. London Convention/London Protocol, UN Convention on Biological Diversity).
  • In many countries, there are complex regulatory mazes to navigate to gain permits for in-water experimental trials, hindering development of trials. This is particularly challenging in countries (e.g. the US) featuring overlapping jurisdictions and authorities in the coastal zone.

These and other governance and regulatory uncertainties present real challenges and risks to those working to conduct research and development on ocean-based CDR pathways and inhibit private investment.

Regimes and protocols around monitoring, reporting, and verification for ocean-based CDR also needs to be strengthened to clarify roles and responsibilities of CDR providers (sellers), buyers, and regulators.

Projects

No projects listed. Want to add a project to this section? Become a Contributor.
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