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  • Writer's pictureBen Tarbell

Full steam ahead: Ebb’s ocean carbon removal solution is up and running at PNNL-Sequim

At Ebb Carbon, our goal is to remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the air while locally reducing ocean acidification. To accomplish this, we have developed an ocean carbon dioxide removal (CDR) system that takes a proven electrochemical technology and applies it to the defining challenge of our time: climate change.

Today, I’m proud to share that Ebb Carbon is operating our first 100 ton ocean CDR system at the DOE’s only marine lab, Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL)-Sequim. We are fortunate to work alongside world-leading experts in ocean health, modeling and biogeochemistry from PNNL, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL), and the University of Washington’s Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean and Ecosystem Studies (CICOES) and the Salish Sea Modeling Center (SSMC).

The view of Sequim Bay from the PNNL laboratory
Our view of Sequim Bay from our location at PNNL

Building the scientific foundations for ocean carbon dioxide removal

Ebb will operate our system, which is roughly the size of a shipping container, at PNNL-Sequim’s marine labs lab for at least two years. In the lab, Ebb’s system processes seawater pumped in from Sequim Bay by passing it through a series of membranes. These membranes act like a filter, removing acid from the water. Once the acid is removed, the seawater can absorb additional CO₂ from the air and store it as bicarbonate—a safe and naturally abundant form of carbon storage in the ocean that doesn’t acidify seawater.

With our scientific collaborators, we are undertaking several important investigations. We are running experiments to measure and model how much CO₂ is removed from the air as a result of Ebb’s process. We are developing ocean modeling tools, so scientists can run virtual experiments to better understand how Ebb’s process captures and stores carbon and helps locally mitigate ocean acidification. We are also conducting lab experiments to understand any impacts on local marine biology like oysters and eelgrass epifauna—an important food source for salmon.

The results of this work will be published to help advance the field of ocean CDR, grow awareness and understanding of Ebb’s climate solution, and lay the foundations for a rigorous measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) methodology for Ebb’s ocean CDR solution.

Ebb Carbon's system within PNNL-Sequim's labs
A view of the Ebb system from within PNNL's lab

Parallels to the solar industry

The similarities between the state of the ocean carbon dioxide removal industry today and the solar industry in the early 2000s are striking. Many of the technologies that can help us remove carbon dioxide from the air, like electrochemistry, aren’t new; it’s how we’re applying them to CDR and scaling them that’s novel. And just like in the early days of solar, ocean CDR needs expert scientific validators who can help gather and analyze the data that will build trust in, and acceptance of, this climate technology.

My time in the solar industry started on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the silicon photovoltaic cell by Bell Labs in 1954. In those early days, I spent a surprising amount of time side-by-side with scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado. Together, we were finding answers to the questions I most often heard from investors and customers: would the solar panels perform safely and reliably, day after day in the way we predicted? Would the panels last long enough to pay back the financing required to buy them in the first place?

Solar had never been a mainstream technology, so despite its 50 year history, the industry didn’t tackle the challenge of building broad acceptance and adoption until the 21st century. Meeting this challenge was an investment–and we had to start slow to go fast.

It took time to work with the experts at NREL to gather data, and then share that data to bridge the gaps in understanding between scientists, investors, and energy consumers. All of that deliberate, hard work to drive transparency and trust built the foundations of the solar industry as we know it today. The cost of solar has declined over 90% in the last decade, and by the end of 2020 there were approximately 2.7 million residential solar systems in the U.S.

Advancing Ebb’s climate solution

At Ebb, we are collaborating to advance our climate solution because we know that removing our first tons of CO₂ today in the right way will speed the way to removing billions of tons of CO₂ in the future. By working with national labs and academic partners, we’re anchoring our efforts to deploy safely and effectively in rigorous science.

Our work at PNNL-Sequim is just the beginning. As we work to safely and responsibly remove billions of tons of excess carbon dioxide from the air, we are eager to join forces with scientists, academics, NGOs, and local communities who want to help shape the future of ocean carbon removal. If this sounds like you, we’d love to hear from you.


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