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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)… about our Autonomous Upwelling Pumps (AUPs) & Stock for Carbon (S4C)

FAQ Ocean-based Climate Solutions

Table of Contents

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SEAWATER DENSITY: The deep water is cold and, therefore, denser than surface water. Won’t it just sink back down?

In 2008, we commissioned a private study to assess the mixing of the cold deep water, which showed the upwelled water released from the top of the tube very efficiently mixes with the ambient warmer water. The upwelled water became neutrally buoyant in the sunlit upper ocean, typically at 25m to 50m depth (this depth being well-suited for growing phytoplankton).

Download Upwelling Mixing Study

EXCESS CO2. The deepwater brought upward by AUP’s contains more dissolved CO2 than the upper ocean. Will this extra CO2 outgas to the atmosphere, offsetting the CO2 absorbed by phytoplankton?

According to the 2008 landmark paper by Professors David Karl (University of Hawaii-Manoa) and Ricardo Letelier (Oregon State University), “Nitrogen fixation-enhanced carbon sequestration in low nitrate, low chlorophyll seascapes”2, in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre and many other ocean regions. Seawater upwelled from below about 250 meters will contain excess phosphate that helps trigger secondary blooms, absorbing the CO2 brought upward and in addition absorbing additional surface dissolved CO2, resulting in a net transfer of CO2 from the atmosphere into the ocean (“net export”).

RISKS. What are the risks of deploying AUP’s?

According to Professor Andreas Oschlies (GEOMAR-Kiel):
“There is essentially no environmental risk associated with small-scale field trials. For hypothetical large-scale deployment, local oxygenation of subsurface waters by translocation of surface waters and deeper waters will be accompanied with a translocation of nutrients and heat, likely leading to a cooling and enhanced biological productivity of surface waters. Enhanced productivity will eventually be followed by enhanced respiration and oxygen consumption that may to some extent offset the initial oxygen gain. Enhanced biological productivity will likely enhance the productivity of higher trophic levels including fish. There will be shifts in the ecosystem, the valuation of which is difficult, but with higher productivity in normally not over-productive waters, these will most likely be viewed positively. It cannot be ruled out that species of little commercial value or possibly even toxic algae may benefit more than others. Mechanisms of such ecological shifts are poorly understood, and based on current knowledge, there is little expectation that shifts will differ from natural shifts observed when moving from oligotrophic to more eutrophic conditions, such as usually found further onshore.”

OCEAN ACIDIFICATION and pH. Will ocean acidification worsen as more CO2 dissolves into the ocean from the atmosphere?

The critical element here is the time during which CO2 is moved out of the upper ocean into the mid and deep ocean. One assessment suggests the upper ocean pH will remain primarily unchanged given the relatively brief periods and low amounts of CO2 involved. However, the mid and deep ocean pH could change and somewhat worsen acidification, depending on mixing effects. The sheer volume of the mid and deep ocean implies small quantities of extra CO2 could have less impact on marine organisms living there.

VOLUME. How much CO2 can be sequestered by each AUP?

This primarily depends on the nutrient profile at depth, wave height and period, and upwelling tube diameter. For nutrient profiles at 500 meters depth in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, based on wave height and wave period data, each 1.9m diameter AUP could relocate up to 45 million cubic meters per year to the sunlit upper ocean, resulting in a biological net sequestration of about 250 tons CO2 per year.

COST. What is the cost per ton? 

Autonomous Upwelling Pump CostCost is primarily a function of the components, fabrication, assembly, shipping, ocean operations, and durability. Using industrial-grade off-the-shelf components, our cost is about $60,000 when produced in volume. Cost per ton removed is a function of total upfront cost divided by lifetime tons sequestered. Under current assumptions, we expect the direct cost per ton of CO2 sequestered to drop from $50 in 2022 to under $5 in 2100.

DURABILITY. How durable are the AUP’s?

Durability is enhanced by providing force-limiting protection against large waves. The net buoyancy of the entire device is calculated so that the buoy begins to submerge above 3m wave heights. This limits the stress imposed on structural components and extends the AUP operational life expectancy in the harsh ocean environment.

FABRICATION. Where are the AUP’s produced?

Fabrication is by semi-skilled labor operating standard equipment. AUP’s fit in shipping containers for low-cost transport by truck, rail, or containership.

DEPLOYMENT. How do you get a 500 meter tube off the boat and aligned vertically in the ocean? 

The tube made from high-strength woven polyester fabric is spooled onto the cylindrical buoy, with a weight attached to the free end. When dropped off the boat, the weight sinks, unspooling the fabric tube while filling it with water. Once the tube is fully unspooled, the buoy begins rising and falling on passing waves, lifting then lowering the weight containing the one-way valve. On the lifting action, water inside the tube exerts pressure on the one-way valve, causing it to close, which moves the water upward. As the buoy descends off a wave, the tube and weight sink, opening the one-way valve to replenish deep water while releasing water from the open top of the tube.

MEASUREMENT/VERIFICATION. How do you measure and verify the tons of CO2?

We will attach a biogeochemical Argo (BGC-ARGO) robotic float to one of every 20 AUP’s (5% sample) to measure the ocean chemistry from below 1,000m to the surface. Research by Professor Fei Chai (University of Maine) demonstrates that programming these BGC-ARGO floats to sample the water column every 24 hours, rather than the more typical 120-hour or 240-hour intervals, is far more accurate in measuring net CO2 sequestered. Standard BGC-ARGO’s are powered by internal batteries limited to about 200 samples. We overcome this battery limitation and achieve nearly unlimited daily samples by utilizing the ocean thermal recharging technology developed by Seatrec Inc

MOORINGS. Are the AUP’s moored or free-drifting?

Given the substantial depth of the open oceans, it is impractical to provide moorings for the AUP’s. Instead, each AUP will drift with the current velocity averaged over its depth. This ensures the nutrient plume slowly advances with surface currents as it mixes into the top 25-50m of the ocean.

OCEAN INTERFERENCE. How do you avoid interfering with large containerships, commercial fishing vessels, or other users of the oceans?

The AUP’s surface buoy footprint is tiny (2.5m by 4m) compared to most ocean-going vessels, and therefore in the unlikely case of potential direct “hit,” the vessel’s bow wake will push the AUP buoy off to one side, so it slides by the passing boat.

LONG-TERM IMPACT. Can the widespread deployment of AUP’s help restore the climate? How many AUP’s would make a difference, and what is the ocean area needed?

Very-large-scale deployment of AUP’s at the planned spacing of two per square kilometer could reduce atmospheric CO2 to about 300ppm by 2100. The total number needed to achieve this “silver bullet” outcome is around 125 million AUP’s, helping restore 62.5 million square kilometers of open ocean, about 20% of the total ocean area.

For perspective, 1.4 billion cars are operating worldwide today (so one AUP per 11 cars)!

FAQ about Stock For Carbon (S4C)

HOW EXPENSIVE IS S4C COMPARED TO A CARBON TAX?

S4C is a zero-cash payment method so there is no impact on a business’s bank account, whereas a tax imposed on CO2 directly increases costs and ultimately this is passed along in the form of higher prices.

WHAT PRICE PER TON IS USED BY S4C?

S4C assigns a stock-market-based value to the corporation’s tons of CO2, specific to the corporation’s CO2 footprint and to its “market capitalization” (shares issued multiplied by the price per share, this being its valuation). We think this is more appropriate than an arbitrary economy-wide government-imposed value of CO2, which treats small emitters and big emitters and low-value versus high-value companies the same (they are not!).

WHAT ABOUT MULTI-NATIONAL CORPORATIONS?

S4C has the same impact regardless of where the company’s operations are located. This avoids issues with different CO2 tax rates across political jurisdictions that often result in “CO2 transfer” – emissions simply moving to the lower-tax-rate jurisdiction.

HOW DOES S4C TREAT HISTORIC EMISSIONS?

Until now, CO2 emissions have been free – meaning business balance sheets are overstated by this CO2 “free ride.” Paying in stock using S4C “rebalances the balance sheet,” CO2-wise.

WILL S4C DRIVE REAL CHANGE?

We enable each corporate subscriber to select its own desired level of ambition – the year by which it intends to become net-zero CO2. In practice, this will set up a competitive arena in which corporate subscribers compete to be more ambitious – a “race to the top” to gain bragging rights as the most sustainable within their peer group. To solve the climate crisis, ambition matters!

WHAT ARE THE LEGAL REQUIREMENTS, AND ARE THESE SUBJECT TO GOVERNMENTAL REVIEW?

The contract is directly between the CO2 emitter and Ocean-based Climate Solutions, Inc., as “remover” of their CO2 emissions. This will be identical to most other contracts the corporation negotiates with other suppliers of goods or services. As a direct contract, it eliminates intermediaries and reduces transaction costs. We do not think governmental approval is required.

HOW QUICKLY CAN S4C BE IMPLEMENTED?

As a direct contract, S4C can be implemented as soon as the CO2 emitter and Ocean-based Climate Solutions reach an agreement. There is no need to wait for a global political deal.

ARE THE TONS OF CO2 RESELLABLE ON A CARBON MARKET? 

The tons sequestered by our AUP’s under an S4C contract are owned and “retired” by the subscribing corporation. They are not fungible (tradeable) on any carbon market. This further reduces transaction complexity by eliminating double-counting, overstatement of climate benefits, etc.

HOW DO YOU CALCULATE THE TONS OF CO2 TO BE REMOVED GOING FORWARD; HOW DO YOU MEASURE THE ACTUAL TONS REMOVED, AND HOW DO YOU ACCOUNT FOR SHORTFALLS OR OVERAGES?

The S4C arithmetic is straightforward: a) the company determines its ambition level (year to become net-zero) b) it then estimates the total tons it expects to emit from now until that future year; c) Ocean-based Climate Solutions determines how many AUP’s must be deployed each year to achieve the net-zero goal (tons per year and number of years); d) at the start of each year we invoice the company for the number of AUP’s needed to achieve the target PLUS add or subtract the number of AUP’s needed to make up for cumulative shortfall or overage CO2 tons removed. Once this number of AUP’s is known, we divide by the current stock price to determine how many shares are issued. We then sell these shares as our expenses are incurred. Each year the process repeats, ensuring the company is always on track to achieve its ambition.

DO VOTERS HAVE ANY INFLUENCE ON S4C?

S4C solves the political dilemma posed by carbon taxes: namely, when the price per ton of CO2 is high enough to reduce carbon emissions significantly, the economic outcome is reduced income, loss of jobs, and backlash against the increased tax resulting in those politicians who supported the tax being voted out of office and replaced with low-carbon-tax proponents. That outcome is unpredictable, oscillating, politicized tax rates, whereas S4C is predictable and relatively immune to political manipulation.

HOW BIG CAN S4C BECOME – CAN IT TAP INTO ENOUGH MONEY TO MOVE THE NEEDLE ON OUR CLIMATE CRISIS?

S4C takes advantage of the enormous value found in the public stock markets. The top ten stock markets comprise 30,000 corporations with a market cap of over $75 trillion.

DOES S4C ALLOW LARGE CORPORATIONS TO CONTINUE BUSINESS AS USUAL? 

The opposite! S4C directly engages shareholders and the Board of Directors to achieve net-zero by the date selected. Remember, if they are less ambitious than their competitors, their stock price will be lower, and their return on investment (ROI) will suffer. This is different from a carbon tax, which merely motivates the corporation to raise prices equal to a tax, thereby continuing the free ride!

WHAT IMPACT, IF ANY, CAN S4C HAVE ON EXCESS CONSUMPTION?

Optionally we can include excess per capita CO2 emissions of corporate employees (and their dependents) to achieve true global sustainability. The arithmetic is adjusted to account for the employees’ excess personal CO2 emissions above sustainable consumption. In the USA, annual per capita CO2 emissions are about 16 tons, whereas a sustainable lifestyle is barely three tons. It is unrealistic to expect people to reduce their standard of living by 80%, achieves de-consumerization without scaling back lifestyles.

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