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Seawater plant will capture 10 tons of CO2 and make 300 kg of H2 per day
Paul McClure

After successful pilot programs, UCLA has partnered with Singapore’s national water agency and others to build the world’s largest ocean-based carbon dioxide removal plant capable of removing 3,650 metric tons (8,046,873 lb) of the greenhouse gas per year while producing 105 metric tons (231,000 lb) of carbon-negative hydrogen.

According to the World Bank, average global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2020 were 4.3 metric tons (9,500 lb) per capita. With this figure in mind, researchers from the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering have been working to trap atmospheric CO2 from the oceans in an effort to reduce it.

Following the successful launch of two seawater-based CO2-removal pilot systems in Los Angeles and Singapore in 2023, UCLA and its start-up company Equatic, are eyeing the next phase of the project: a US$20-million full-scale demonstration plant called Equatic-1. They’re supported by Singapore’s national water agency, the Public Utilities Board (PUB), Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF), and UCLA’s Institute for Carbon Management (ICM).

“Scaling carbon removal solutions requires technology, bold and committed partners, and a focus on timely and measurable success,” said Gaurav Sant, Professor of Sustainability at UCLA Samueli and ICM director. “We have been very fortunate to create this shared vision with our partners in Singapore to scale Equatic’s solutions to the commercial scale and around the world.”

The Equatic process uses electrolysis, passing an electrical current through seawater from adjacent desalination plants. It causes chemical reactions that break water into its constituents, hydrogen and oxygen, while securely storing dissolved and atmospheric CO2 as solid calcium and magnesium-based materials for at least 10,000 years. The process activates and expands the ocean’s natural CO2-storing ability by removing dissolved CO2 while enabling it to absorb more of the greenhouse gas.

A team of researchers and tech-scaling experts from ICM and Equatic will head out to PUB’s research and development facility in Tuas, western Singapore, to begin building the world’s largest ocean-based CO2 removal plant over the next 18 months.

Equatic-1 will be built in two phases. Beginning in March, the first phase is designed to remove one metric ton (approximately 2,205 lb) of CO2 per day by late 2024. In early 2025, installing nine additional modules will complete phase two. With 10 modules in operation, it’s expected that Equatic-1 will be able to remove 10 metric tons of CO2 per day from seawater and the atmosphere. The Singapore pilot plant was deemed successful after removing 0.1 metric ton (220 lb) of CO2 per day; Equatic-1 could remove 100 times more. The technology could also simultaneously produce nearly 300 kg (660 lb) of carbon-negative hydrogen daily.

“The pilot system commissioned 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 and ICM’s associate director, 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.”

PUB has set a target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2045 by adopting a three-pronged approach: replacing fossil fuels with renewable solar energy, investing in research and development to reduce the energy required in water-treatment processes, and capturing and removing carbon released into the atmosphere.

“We are pleased to further our collaboration with UCLA and Equatic to develop a solution that has potential synergies with PUB’s desalination plant,” said PUB chief engineering and technology officer Chee Meng Pang. “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.”

Equatic-1’s modular design reduces the risks usually associated with scaling technological innovation. The system will also use selective anodes, newly developed with the support of the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), to produce oxygen while eliminating the unwanted chlorine byproduct created during seawater electrolysis. This opens a new pathway to carbon dioxide removal at the gigaton scale with the co-production of hydrogen – a clean fuel vital to decarbonizing transportation and industrial applications.

Source: UCLA Samueli School of Engineering






Before realising his writing passion, Paul worked as an intensive care nurse and a criminal defence lawyer for many years. He has a keen interest in mental health and addiction, chronic illness, and medical technology. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and creative writing in 2022, Paul joined New Atlas in 2023. Before starting with New Atlas, Paul had written for several online publications in the areas of health and well-being, parenting, entertainment, and popular culture.

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