Scientists have found a new way to store thousands of years’ worth of carbon dioxide and prevent its release into the atmosphere, boosting efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions from several sources.
Carbon sequestration, or carbon capture, typically involves removing carbon from the atmosphere, compressing it, and storing it underground.
But Israeli climate change solutions company Rewind drew inspiration from Earth’s natural processes for an innovative carbon storage solution, Rewind CEO Ram Amar told ABC News.
The method involves taking plants and other biomass that have absorbed dense amounts of carbon and depositing it at the bottom of the Black Sea, Amar said.
“We look to nature because the best machine for capturing carbon dioxide from the air today is plants,” Amar said.
Plants, especially trees, are known for their ability to capture and store carbon dioxide. During photosynthesis, plants take carbon dioxide from the air, which allows them to grow. Then, when they die and decompose, they release the carbon back into the air, Amar said.
The researchers hypothesized that if they could balance how much carbon is released when plants die, they could achieve a net negative effect of carbon re-entering the atmosphere, Amar said.
Rewind takes existing plant matter that has been burned or not put to good use and sends it to the coast where it sinks to the bottom of the Black Sea.
The Black Sea is “the best place in the world” to store carbon-dense biomass for several reasons, Amar said. The geological shape of the enclosed sea prevents mixing of oxygen from the upper layers, where photosynthesis takes place and where oxygen comes from the air, with deeper layers.
The lack of oxygen creates the perfect protective environment for plants, preventing them from decaying and releasing carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere, experts said.
What originally drew Amar to the Black Sea were several wooden shipwrecks lying on the seabed that had been “frozen in time for over 2,000 years,” he said.
“We found that if we take residual plants and throw them at the bottom of the Black Sea, they will stay out of the air for thousands of years,” he said. “That ticks the box for permanence with a natural solution.
In addition, because the Black Sea is surrounded by the bread of Europe, countries such as Ukraine, Bulgaria and Romania, which grow hundreds of millions of tons of agriculture annually, about a gigatonne of residual biomass is left each year, combined with the abundance of wood products from natural and managed forests in the region, Amar said .
Woody plants such as trees are the best biomass to use in this process because they capture carbon quickly and are very stable in water, Amar said. Other agricultural residues, such as sunflower stalks harvested for their seeds and oil, also fit the bill for this method of carbon storage, Amar said.
The plants are tested for how much carbon they contain and whether they contain harmful chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides before they are transported and sunk into the sea, Amar said.
Amar and his team estimated that if this method of carbon storage were scaled up, it could remove 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually.
In 2022, the world will collectively emit about 36.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide, according to The global carbon budget. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced last year that removing carbon is critical to mitigating climate change.
While Fr 2 billion tons of carbon are removed According to the IPCC, 10 billion tons per year should be removed from the atmosphere each year through carbon capture to meet urgent net-zero goals.
While carbon capture has become a viable solution for climate mitigation, one of the biggest challenges, experts say, is the amount of energy needed to filter CO2 from the air, along with the infrastructure and operational costs.
In August, US Department of Energy announced that it will award up to $1.2 billion to two direct air capture projects, the largest engineering carbon removal investment ever made.
Last year, Energy Department pledged $2.6 billion in funding for the Carbon Capture Demonstration Projects Program, which aims to develop technologies for storage and infrastructure in major industrial sources of carbon dioxide, such as cement, pulp and paper, iron and steel, and chemical manufacturing facilities.