Climate experiment to dump minerals in Cornish sea to absorb carbon


By Paul Homewood

h/t Graham Worthington

From The Times:

A Canadian company plans to dump hundreds of tonnes of a mineral off the Cornish coast to slow climate change, despite calls by environmentalists to halt the trial.

The pioneering scheme by Planetary Technologies is designed to remove CO2 from the atmosphere by increasing the alkalinity of the water. The UN climate science panel said last year that removing billions of tonnes of CO2 from the air would be vital for the world to meet the Paris agreement’s goals.

Planetary Technologies will release between 200 and 300 tonnes of magnesium hydroxide in its mineral form, brucite, in St Ives Bay over three months this spring.

Magnesium hydroxide is probably better known as the compound Milk of Magnesia, used as a laxative. Senior company figures are attending public meetings in Hayle and Truro to assuage concerns about the project.

The approach is called ocean alkalinity enhancement, and uses an alkaline mineral to shift the pH value of the sea. Making the water more alkaline speeds up the natural way oceans lock CO2 away by neutralising dissolved CO2 and turning it into a salt.

The method has the bonus of reversing ocean acidification, a threat to marine life that has been caused by cars, power stations and factories releasing CO2.

“We’re trying to restore the ocean and restore the climate for generations,” said Peter Chargin, vice president of commercialisation and community relations at Planetary Technologies. “We’re transforming CO2 in the air into salt in the ocean. We think this can be a big arrow in the quiver of solutions for climate change,” he added.

The Nova Scotia-headquartered firm studied locations around the world for the test. It chose Cornwall’s waters because they are shallow, which is important for CO2 removal because the alkalinity-enhanced water needs to be in contact with the air for a long time. The water is also very well-mixed, or turbulent, which should help the process.

The experiment, which will operate under a licence issued by the regulator for England, the Environment Agency, marks a significant scaling up of previous tests.

Planetary Technologies released about four tonnes in the area last year, at a rate that Chargin calls “hysterically small”. While the increase to 200-300 tonnes over 90 days marks a big increase, Chargin said it was still relatively small, a “drop in the bucket”.

Brucite is the mineral form of magnesium hydroxide

Sue Sayer, director of the Cornwall Seal Research Trust, said she welcomed companies exploring such approaches but felt the release should be blocked until further research had been conducted.

She said: “I am all for the project in that we need to find some innovative solutions to climate change, and find them quickly. It’s a very exciting project, potentially.

“My main thoughts are that we need to make sure there are no unintended effects. My feeling is there isn’t sufficient data on this introduction [of the mineral] and therefore no release should be done until the data is available. It’s not me trying to do the nimby thing, St Ives Bay is a really vital bay for the Cornish economy and the environment.”

Sayer said it was not obvious what the negative side effects might be, but that she was concerned about possible impacts on the marine food web affecting mammals such as grey seals.

Ruth Williams, marine conservation manager at the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said the company’s approach was innovative and she welcomed its engagement with locals.

However, she said: “Whilst we support their ambition of trying to find a way to help tackle our current climate emergency, and agree that in principle the chemistry should work, we are very aware that there is potential for unintended consequences with new ideas such as this, and there has been very little environmental research done to mitigate concerns to date that we are aware of.”

Chargin said he hoped the public meetings would put people’s fears to rest. “We feel compelled to act, because the environment is at risk from ocean acidification and climate change. Cornwall is a great place to do it,” he said.

The company is also running trials in Canada and hopes to increase the concentration and duration of its brucite releases in future projects.

This is absolutely crazy. Maybe somebody would like to do the sums, but I would imagine the amount of CO2 sequestered in this way would be infinitesimal.

But as Sue Sayer points out, there could be unintended effects from messing around with the natural eco-systems.

One last question – who is paying for this nonsense?