An artist's rendering of an ocean-based carbon dioxide removal plant. (Photo: Equatic) -
Voinews, Singapore - Over the next 18 months, the world’s largest ocean-based carbon dioxide removal plant will be built in Singapore, following a successful pilot of the technology, project backers announced on Tuesday (Feb 27).
The US$20 million (S$26.9 million) full-scale demonstration plant, dubbed the Equatic-1, is a collaboration between Singapore’s national water agency PUB, UCLA and Equatic, a startup founded by UCLA scientists.
Equatic-1, to be co-funded by PUB, the National Research Foundation (NRF), Singapore, and UCLA’s Institute for Carbon Management (ICM), is the result of the successful launch and operation of two pilots in Los Angeles and Singapore in 2023.
When fully completed at PUB’s research and development facility in Tuas, Equatic-1 will be equipped to remove 10 metric tons of carbon dioxide per day from seawater and the atmosphere.
This is more than 100 times the 100kg of carbon dioxide removal per day at Equatic’s existing plant in Singapore.
"The pilot plant commissioned in Singapore in 2023 provided critical performance data to substantiate our carbon dioxide-removal efficiencies, hydrogen-production rates and energy requirements for the process," said Equatic co-founder Dante Simonetti.
"The findings helped define the pathway for the design and engineering of Equatic-1 based on scaling performance confirmed by the pilot system."
The Equatic process, formerly known as Project SeaChange, expands upon the ocean’s natural ability to store carbon dioxide by removing dissolved CO2 and enhancing its capacity to absorb more of the greenhouse gas.
Utilising electrolysis, an electrical current is passed through seawater brought in from the adjacent PUB desalination plants to break down water into its carbon-negative hydrogen and oxygen constituents.
The process allows atmospheric carbon dioxide, as well as CO2 dissolved in seawater, to be trapped in the form of solid calcium and magnesium-based materials for at least 10,000 years. These carbon byproducts could potentially be used in the construction industry for land restoration, cement, or concrete.
"We are pleased to further our collaboration with UCLA and Equatic, to develop a solution that has potential synergies with PUB’s desalination plants," said PUB chief engineering and technology officer Pang Chee Meng.
For PUB, which has set a target to achieve net zero emissions by 2045, the collaboration with UCLA and Equatic is part of Singapore’s broader efforts to source for novel technologies, such as carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), which could contribute to mitigating the impacts of climate change.
"At PUB, we firmly believe that technological advancements, delivered in partnership with academia and the private sector, hold the key to addressing the complex challenges posed by climate change," said Dr Pang.
If Equatic-1 is successful, the technology would allow for the greenhouse gas to be removed and durably stored, while simultaneously producing nearly 300kg of carbon-negative hydrogen daily.
According to the World Bank, the average global annual carbon emissions per capita in 2020 was about 4.3 metric tons.
At full scale, Equatic-1 can remove as much carbon dioxide as what almost 850 people produce annually.
If the plant hits its goals, Equatic plans to commercialise the technology to launch commercial plants that can remove nearly 110,000 metric tones of carbon dioxide per year, equivalent to the amount produced by 25,000 people.
"We are very grateful for the catalytic support of PUB and NRF, which have helped us create a world-class partnership in our joint efforts to mitigate climate change," said Equatic co-founder and ICM director Gaurav N Sant.
"Scaling carbon dioxide removal solutions requires technology, bold and committed partners, and a focus on timely and measurable success. We have been very fortunate to create this shared vision with our partners in Singapore to pilot and scale Equatic’s solutions."
Equatic-1 also utilises newly developed selective anodes from the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to produce oxygen while also eliminating the unwanted byproduct of chlorine during seawater electrolysis.
This achieves circularity because it creates hydrogen, a clean source of energy, while simultaneously removing carbon dioxide emissions.
Carbon credits from Equatic-1 are allocated to the project’s partners, and Equatic has entered into agreements with companies such as Boeing for the purchase of carbon credits from future commercial plants//CNA-VOI