Fighting Climate Change with Toxic Algae

October 20, 2022

“Water is the world's biggest natural carbon sink and the natural regulator of carbon in the atmosphere. By capturing and sinking huge volumes of algal bloom biomass, we now have a real fighting chance for humanity against global warming.”

Fighting Climate Change with Toxic Algae 

In the global fight against climate change, actively removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere must be accelerated if we are to avoid irreversible damage to our climate. 

Let’s briefly recap what’s at stake: The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in April, 2022 delivered yet another dire warning for the planet:  humankind is failing to take the urgent, dramatic, necessary action to prevent Earth from warming to dangerous levels.  As United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said, the IPCC’s report is a “code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.” 

IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Jim Skea declared: “It’s now or never…Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors it will be impossible” to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius.

Talk about a wake up call. Yet the siren has been sounding for decades and only now, it seems, are leaders getting serious about heeding the warning.

But what we also heard from the IPCC, for the first time, was a declaration that carbon capture and removal must be part of the solution. The panel estimates that up to 10 gigatons of carbon will need to be removed every year by 2050 to stave off warming.  To put that into perspective,  just 1 gigaton is roughly the mass of all land mammals on earth, other than humans. It’s enough elephants -some 200 million– to stretch from the Earth to the moon. It’s the equivalent of 5.5 million blue whales. Now multiply that times 10.

The promise of carbon capture to help nudge us off the dire course we are on is not earth-shattering news to the many green-tech startups that have been quietly working to raise capital and develop the technologies and innovations necessary to make it happen. And that includes BlueGreen Water Technologies (BlueGreen).

“By capturing and sinking huge volumes of algal bloom biomass, we now have a real fighting chance for humanity against global warming.”

After successfully pushing the boundaries of large-scale algal remediation, BlueGreen is now at the forefront of setting new standards for carbon capture and removal by accelerating natural processes, sinking toxic algal biomass, and rejuvenating natural aquatic ecosystems.

Scientists have been studying the carbon sucking powers of algae for years. 

Cyanobacteria, commonly called blue-green algae, play an important role in removing atmospheric CO2 through their natural process of biomineralization. They absorb carbon dioxide at a phenomenal rate. 

By mimicking their biomineralization process at scale, BlueGreen has found a way to remove large volumes of CO2 from the air. How much, exactly? Well, that’s hard to quantify at this point;  some of the best minds in science are working to pin down the answer. A conservative guess? BlueGreen’s technologies are removing hundreds of thousands of tons of harmful CO2 from our atmosphere every year. 

When cyanobacteria are killed, they sink to the bottom of the water body along with the carbon they have sequestered. It is estimated that one acre of algae can remove more than two tons of CO2 a day.

“Water is the world's biggest natural carbon sink and the natural regulator of carbon in the atmosphere. By capturing and sinking huge volumes of algal bloom biomass, we now have a real fighting chance for humanity against global warming,” said Eyal Harel, CEO, BlueGreen.

One analysis by Rystad Energy projects carbon capture, utilization, and storage projects will remove more than 550 million tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere every year by 2030. That’s a huge, huge increase over the current 45 million tons being captured every year.  Yet it’s still not enough to reach net zero goals by 2050. 

“The future of carbon removal from the atmosphere is-and has always been-in water,” said Harel. 

In Sweden, a cement factory has been using algae to capture CO2 before it’s released into the atmosphere. The Algoland project pumps water from the Baltic Sea into large 800 gallon bags, adding nutrients to help naturally-occurring algae multiply. The factory’s gas waste product is piped in and the algae go to work, soaking up the CO2 and preventing its release into the air.

Photographer: Martin Olofsson
Copyrights: ALGOLAND, Lnu

Toxic algae grow rapidly in warm, nutrient-rich water bodies and float on the surface, often appearing as blankets of scum. Climate change is worsening outbreaks, creating conditions where toxic algae thrive and multiply even more rapidly, releasing toxins that can sicken people and kill wildlife and pets who come into contact with infected water.

“There is no single solution to the urgent climate crisis we are grappling with,” said Harel. “We must use all available tools and tactics. We need to pursue efforts to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and accelerate the transition to clean energy while actively pursuing efforts to remove carbon from the atmosphere.”

BlueGreen has successfully treated thousands of algae-choked water bodies on multiple continents, restoring the health and biodiversity of the aquatic environment. From Chippewa Lake in Ohio and Lake Minneola in Florida, to Roodeplaat Dam in South Africa and Nanhu Lake in China, BlueGreen’s water science team and its unique, EPA certified floating algaecide are healing water bodies and making water safe again.

Mountains above a clear lake

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