Sure you can run machines to decarbonize the air, but where’s the fun when you can invite Mother Nature to do the work for you? Brilliant Planet does just that: By using seawater and replicating the perfect growth conditions for algae blooms, the company has created what it believes are the perfect conditions for low-cost carbon capture.
“You may have seen the IPCC report that came out yesterday; if you read the IPCC report, you know we’ve missed the point where we can change their behaviors and just lower COtwo production. We have to remove carbon from the atmosphere, the carbon that we already deposit there. Other ways of keeping carbon in the atmosphere at manageable levels will be critical to limiting global warming. Ideally, we would just change our behaviors, completely electrify everything right away, but it just takes time,” laments Adam Taylor, CEO of Brilliant Planet, in a conversation with TechCrunch. “It takes time to change people, governments and companies. We have to do something about it.”
And that is precisely what Brilliant Planet is doing: using algae. The company believes that there are many parts to carbon reduction (protection of forests, etc.), but that there are also challenges around that; especially around the price. He wants the price of a ton of CO2 removed from the atmosphere to be below $50.
Brilliant Planet is unlocking the power of algae as an affordable method to permanently and measurably sequester carbon at the gigaton scale. The company’s innovative processes allow large amounts of microalgae to grow in open-air pond-based systems on coastal desert land. This is achieved without using fresh water, taking advantage of a natural process that contributes to the health of the oceans and the air.
The process itself is essentially solar powered, because the algae are effectively powered by the sun, but it also needs to run pumps to move the seawater. There are two advantages to his method; Unlike some other competitors, the CEO is very careful not to name it on the registry, the company doesn’t use fresh water in its process, and furthermore, the process helps de-acidify the ocean water it does use.
“We have to move large volumes of seawater, and that uses energy, but we’ve done a lot of design work to run the system extremely energy efficiently. So gravity feeds through most of the system from one pond to the next. We have a partnership with the University of Southampton to optimize all aspects of the paddlewheels and ponds. A lot of time and effort has gone into minimizing that energy cost, but fundamentally, we need to raise the water from ocean level to a few meters above sea level,” explains Taylor. “In the process we do, we de-acidify the ocean water. So for every unit of ocean water we put in, we deacidified the equivalent of five units of ocean water to pre-industrial levels.”
After four years of testing at its 3-hectare research facility in Morocco, Brilliant Planet will use proceeds from the Series A round to prepare for the construction of a 30-hectare commercial demonstration facility while continuing its pivotal R&D program. D based in London.
“By using empty sea and desert water that would not otherwise have come to the surface, our solution creates a ‘new’ Net Primary Productivity. In other words, we are using underutilized natural resources to grow new biomass and extract excess carbon dioxide,” says Raffael Jovine, chief scientist and co-founder of Brilliant Planet. “Per unit area, this approach sequesters up to 30 times more carbon per year than tropical rainforests, while also deacidifying local coastal seawater to pre-industrial levels.”
The company announced today that it has closed a $12 million Series A financing. The round was co-led by Union Square Ventures and Toyota Ventures. Additional and follow-on investors include Future Positive Capital, AiiM Partners, S2G Ventures, Hatch, and Pegasus Tech Ventures.