Our process has several social and environmental co-benefits, described in detail here. We provide high-quality, sustainable job opportunities in vulnerable rural areas with few alternative income sources.
We also de-acidify the seawater that passes through our site, promoting the formation of local, shell-forming organisms which improve biodiversity.
No action is without impact, but there are no material negative externalities associated with our CO2 removal process. We adhere to the IFC Performance Standards and comply with all local laws and regulation.
All emissions associated with the removal process are accounted for within our Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) aligned to ISO 14040-14044 standards. We continuously monitor our process’s environmental and social impacts with our Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS).
We have conducted a rigorous GIS analysis identifying over 500,000km2 of flat, low-lying coastal desert land available to perform removals.
Even if only a portion of this is developed, our sites would still sequester several gigatonnes of atmospheric CO2 every year at current productivity rates. Our science and engineering teams are working toward pushing that bar higher every day as we develop the technology.
Yes – the biomass that we produce would not have grown otherwise and is specifically intended for CO2 removal.
Operating in deserts with very low Net Primary Productivity (NPP) also means that we do not interfere with or replace CO2 fixation that is already happening. We operate off an effective baseline of zero.
Algae are inherently efficient at converting atmospheric CO2 into biomass: photosynthesis is powered by free solar energy. This efficiency means that our operating costs are very favourable when compared to other engineered approaches to CO2 removal.
Brilliant Planet has reduced the energy demand at every process stage, such as pumping seawater, mixing with paddlewheels and drying. As our technology matures, we are working to achieve sub-$100/ton at larger scales.
The CO2 buried in our dry biomass is highly stable. Each tonne sequestered remains stored for well beyond 1,000-years because it is dry, very salty, and acidic. Any one of these physical characteristics would, on its own, prevent decay. Burial sites are carefully positioned and designed to ensure that conditions do not change over time.
This has been proven through controlled real-world experiments, evidence from biomass preserved by the same process from thousands of years ago, and scientific theory. Read more about MRV and durability here.
We do not use arable land. This is one of the key strengths of our process when compared to other biomass-based approaches to CO2 removal.
We work in hot deserts which means that, as we scale, we will not compete with agriculture, forestry or naturally productive areas for land.
Every tonne of CO2 removed by our system is easily measured by simply weighing the buried biomass.
Leakage is easily monitored over the long-term using purpose-designed sensors. We locate our sites on land specifically for this purpose.
We use simple, gravity-driven drum filters to filter biomass out of our water. These filters are widely used across multiple sectors where dewatering is required, including mining, desalination, and aquaculture.
We can use these systems because the organisms we produce form long chains and are significantly larger than many other species of algae.
The vast majority of the nutrients within our system come from the seawater that is used as an input for our process. There are certain times during the year when a small amount of low-carbon content nutrients are required in the early stages of the process.
The amount used is so small that, even at gigaton-scale, we would have a negligible impact on global nutrient supply chains.
We locate our sites on land so that the carbon we remove from the atmosphere is easily measurable.
This also means we have control over many parameters within our process, so we can be efficient and operate throughout the year. It is not practical or cost effective to operate in the ocean.
Yes, but using fresh water would significantly reduce the scaling potential of our solution because it is a relatively limited and sensitive resource.
Other companies have grown algae by scaling up test tubes of engineered organisms, as opposed to “scaling down the ocean” with unmodified, local species of algae. In the 2000’s, significant investment went into capital-intensive, artificial bioreactors and similar biofuel production schemes.
Many of these systems failed because they were expensive and fragile/unstable as a result of their design complexity and dependency on resources like supplemental CO2, artificial light and large quantities of nutrients. We’ve taken the opposite approach: we grow local organisms in simple outdoor ponds that mimic nature. Light comes from the sun, carbon comes from the atmosphere, and nutrients come from the ocean.
There are several reasons:
1) Deserts have very low "net primary productivity” (meaning they are not already capturing carbon, unlike fields or forests). This makes our activity additive and the impact straightforward to measure.
2) We avoid competing for space with agriculture, forestry or other economic activities.
3) The heat and dryness of the desert allow us to dry the biomass and keep it stable over time.
4) It’s hugely scalable, there is a lot of empty desert land available around the world.
5) Its affordable: using prime land would be much too expensive.
There are hundreds of thousands of species of algae. At each site we select dominant local, wild species because they have evolved to thrive in that specific environment.
Our bioprospecting program allows us to identify resilient species that utilize nutrients efficiently, have high growth rates, and which can be harvested easily.
They are not. Local species are very well adapted to local conditions because they have evolved over millions of years.
GM/GE species of algae developed in the lab look good on paper, but they struggle in the real world. Working with GM/GE algae would also be a regulatory nightmare.
Our open ponds are continuously subject to contamination. By design, the species cultivated is the dominant strain within our environment and outcompetes or outgrows the contaminating strains.
Some presence of untargeted strains is acceptable since the carbon content of all most algae strains is similar, and since all the CO2 comes from the atmosphere, burying these achieves same goal.
We have operated successfully with many different species of algae. They tend to be locally isolated strains of quite common diatom species.
Algae are highly efficient at photosynthesis; the process that biological organisms use to absorb and convert CO2 into biomass.
Beneficial coastal algae blooms are responsible for 20% of the global carbon cycle (more than all forests combined) and 10-50x more efficient at CO2 fixation than terrestrial plants per unit area. This makes them an inherently effective option for CO2 sequestration.
Yes, the ocean acts as a significant sink for atmospheric CO2. When CO2 dissolves in seawater, it undergoes chemical reactions to form carbonic acid, leading to an increase in ocean acidity.
The absorption of CO2 by the ocean helps mitigate the impacts of increased greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and is an important component of the global carbon cycle. The ocean currently absorbs ~48% of atmospheric CO2 every year.
We have performed a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) to ISO 14040-14044 standards which shows that, for every tonne of CO2 sequestered, we emit 0.13 tonnes of CO2. This factors in Scope 1-3 emissions across the production system, accounting for cradle-to-grave emissions for both infrastructure and process-related emissions.
Although this is highly competitive compared to other CO2 removal solutions, we expect this to decrease further as other industries decarbonize and as we become more efficient at resource utilization.
Our discharge water reabsorbs atmospheric CO2 within a matter of days after leaving the facility. This is largely because this de-acidification accelerates the process of atmospheric CO2 absorption and the water is slightly warmer than the surrounding ocean, meaning it floats at the surface and has maximum exposure to the atmosphere as the prevailing current pushes it along the shallow shoreline.
We actively track reabsorption using active measurements coupled with a single point oceanographic discharge model.
Ocean upwelling refers to the process in which cold, nutrient-rich waters from the deep ocean rise to the surface. These deeper waters are typically rich in nutrients, such as nitrates and phosphates, which are essential for the growth of marine organisms like phytoplankton.
Our team have developed a model which is able to forecast upwelling parameters throughout the year, allowing us to predict algae behaviour across seasons.
Our operations only use upwelling water that would not have otherwise come to the surface, meaning we do not deplete surface nutrients required by coastal ecosystems. Natural upwelling processes continue unabated and simply flow around our seawater intake system.
Even at gigaton-scale, the reservoir of nutrients within the deep ocean will be unencumbered by our process given the sheer volume of nutrient-rich seawater available.
Our single point discharge model is verified using physical sample measurements which are continuously taken via a mooring located downstream of our discharge plume. It is also actively compared to historical remote sensing data to ensure the discharge distribution is correctly predicted.
We take additional sample measurements further down the coastline (periodically) to ensure that longer-term mixing and CO2 absorption parameters are in-line with modelled values.
We verify our upwelling model by physically sampling the water that enters the production site. Parameters such as nutrient content, temperature, pH level, and the concentration of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) impact the way the algae respond to sunlight.
It is also validated with a mooring that measures the 3D water structure and compared to historical remote sensing data.
Our harvesters produce a biomass slurry, which is a concentration of algae cells suspended in water. We pump this to a drying tower, which sprays the slurry into the warm, windy desert air.
The mist particles dry as they float back to earth in the hot desert sun and land on a collection pad. The dry biomass is then collected, weighed, and transported to a nearby burial site for storage.
The biomass dries within minutes of being sprayed by our drying system and is well-aerated as it falls back down to earth.
Methanogens require hours to convert biological matter into methane and operate in anaerobic conditions, meaning no methanogenesis occurs during and after our drying process.
We measure the biomass in the slurry and weigh the biomass collected using a simple set of accurate scales. The carbon content within this biomass is determined with physical sampling.
Since we know that all the carbon within the biomass was atmospheric CO2, we know exactly how much CO2 is being buried.
The dryness, acidity, and high salinity of the buried biomass make it highly resistant to degradation. However, we ensure it remains stable through physical sampling and with highly sensitive sensors able to continuously track decay parameters.
We have not detected any decay within buried biomass that has these characteristics to date.
Our burial sites are specifically selected so that they are at elevations above projected sea level rise in areas that are protected from water intrusion.
We bury the biomass a few meters deep to mitigate the risks that wind and surface moisture (caused by dew or light rain) may pose to the durability of the storage site.
The layer of sand and gravel above our biomass and surrounding geomembrane liner acts as a barrier between it and the elements.
The biomass that is buried is very dry, salty, and acidic. These properties prevent microbial decay.
The storage sites are also lined with a geomembrane liner which prevents water from entering above the biomass while keeping the biomass well aerated.
Every 100,000-tonnes of CO2 that is buried requires the same amount of space as a 47m x 47m x 47m cube.
For reference, even if we were only able to cover the Sahara Desert in a 1m thick layer of dry biomass, we would be able to sequester roughly 7.4 trillion tonnes of CO2 before running out of burial space.
There are multiple regulatory requirements associated with operating in Morocco, including an approved Environmental
Impact Assessment (EIA), investment approvals, and other regulatory sign-off. We already possess all permits relevant to our operations.
Our project is located on desert land with low NPP (carbon absorption) and does not remove nutrients from the surface layer of the ocean, therefore no other biomass or potential biomass is displaced.
In contrast, we de-acidify large volumes of seawater restoring these to their pre-industrial condition.
Albedo is a measure of the surface reflectivity of the area in which we operate. Areas with high albedo reflect more sunlight than those with low reflectivity, meaning they contribute less to atmospheric warming.
Our ponds are lined in highly reflective, white geomembrane and the algae only absorb a portion of incident radiation from sunlight, therefore our facilities increase the albedo of the surrounding environment, further cooling the atmosphere.
We have developed a positive relationship with the government and maintain continuous dialogue with authorities at local, regional, and national levels.
Our activities in Morocco align closely with government priorities, particularly the blue economy (coastal development), green economy (including climate change mitigation) and rural job creation.
We have an open dialogue with the local community by holding monthly meetings wherein we gather feedback from residents. Company updates and job opportunities are advertised on notice boards placed around Akhfennir (the town nearby).
All engagements are tracked with a robust stakeholder management system. Grievances are logged in a register so that they can be addressed by the appropriate company representative.
The seawater that we discharge is de-acidified; this promotes the growth of marine, shell-forming organisms in our discharge.
These organisms attract fish and other animals further up the food chain, increasing biodiversity.
We have not identified any significant ecological risks associated with the process.
We continuously monitor environmental parameters around our site to ensure this remains true as we scale and are using remote sensing to create a baseline to measure against.
The core social benefit that we offer is equitable, high-quality employment in areas where there are few other economic opportunities.
The primary social risks faced relate to managing expectations regarding employment practices, CSR activities and cultural sensitivities.
This is mitigated by our leadership team’s deep experience in implementing management systems and building teams able to pre-empt and mitigate these issues.
We use the IFC Performance Standards as a framework for managing social and environmental risk.
This is a well-respected standard that our senior leadership team is familiar with due to their historical experience building companies in developing countries.
We directly measure the amount of CO2 that we remove from the atmosphere.
This is readily calculated by monitoring carbon flows across system boundaries throughout the process. Models are used to further substantiate these measurements.
We directly measure the amount of carbon in the seawater entering the system and the amount of carbon in what is produced by the system (algae and deacidified seawater).
We therefore know exactly how much carbon is being removed by the system, as well as when it was absorbed and where it came from.
Water intrusion in the burial sites is the key reversal risk that we manage. Site selection is the main way this can be mitigated.
We bury the biomass in dry climates, above projected sea level rise, and in covered chambers specifically designed to prevent moisture build-up over long periods of time.
We use a robust monitoring protocol which measures carbon flow across all elements of the system, including production, harvest, drying, and burial.
Sensors at each process step collect a stream of data which is collected in a centralized repository. This data is used to validate existing models, as well as ensure that everything that has been produced is net negative.
Key data points relating to carbon removal are consolidated in a data storage centre.
We are working with Isometric (an independent verifier) to develop a platform where this information can be accessed by buyers, customers, and other 3rd parties involved in the CO2 removal sector. It is important to be as transparent as possible.
Periodically, independent verifiers will audit our removal reports and perform site visits to validate our process.
Yes – roughly 50% of the carbon within the biomass that we bury originates from the seawater itself. However, unlike many other ocean-based approaches to CO2 removal, our discharge water reabsorbs that atmospheric carbon in days (rather than months) and stays at the surface during that time.
This rapid reabsorption is tracked, and it means that all the carbon we bury comes straight from the atmosphere.
All emissions associated with operations, infrastructure, and maintenance are considered within the 30-year project lifetime.
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