As we talk about in our climate courses, the oceans are already an important carbon sink capturing billions of tonnes of humans' excess carbon dioxide emissions, and they hold a lot of potential to do more.
We’ve been so impressed with Running Tide’s focus on research and development prior to rolling out their plans to grow. Not only are they science-first, but their nature-inspired, technology-enabled and open approach makes them natural partners for us here at Zopeful.
Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have moved 2.4 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the slow carbon cycle (geological reservoirs and the deep ocean) to the fast cycle (the atmosphere, the ocean surface, and organic materials), primarily through the burning of fossil fuels.
Running Tide is focused on moving carbon in the fast cycle, like in the atmosphere and upper ocean, to the slow cycle - the deep ocean - where it’s locked away for centuries to millennia so it can’t contribute to climate change.
We’re thrilled to be working with Running Tide and including their ocean-based solutions in our .
Type: Ocean-based Carbon Removal
Permanence of carbon removal: Centuries to millenia (research studies underway)
Locations: USA, Iceland
Running Tide is a global ocean health company, whose primary focus is ocean carbon removal.
Their nature-based, multi-pathway carbon removal system utilizes responsibly sourced, carbon-rich terrestrial biomass (forestry residues / wood) and carbonate materials (such as limestone or calcium carbonate) to create “Carbon Buoys,” which are deployed in the surface ocean and broadly dispersed by ocean currents.
As the Carbon Buoys float, the carbonate minerals dissolve, sequestering carbon and combatting ocean acidification via ocean alkalinity enhancement (OAE). When the buoys have absorbed sufficient seawater, they will flip from positive to negative buoyancy and sink to the deep ocean (or slow carbon cycle) for safe, long-term storage.
In future deployments, as part of Running Tide’s incrementally scaled progression, Carbon Buoys will be seeded with macroalgae, which biologically sequesters (locks away) carbon as it grows over a period of weeks to months, and carries the embodied fast carbon down to the slow carbon cycle as the buoys sink.
Once biomass has sunk and the carbonates have dissolved, the risk of reversal of the carbon removed is close to non-existent. Running Tide’s system design includes selecting only sinking locations that allow for durable storage of accumulated biomass based on depth and local ocean conditions. Selection of sinking locations has a significant impact on mitigating potential reversal risks and is a key component of Running Tide's deployment design.
Like the 38,000 gigatons (billion tons) of carbon already stored in deep ocean reservoirs, this carbon is removed from the fast carbon cycle for hundreds - up to millions - of years.
As well as growing algae on the buoys, there’s also limestone which dissolves to increase ocean alkalinity. This not only stores carbon, but also benefits sealife by combating harmful ocean acidification. It's a double win and great efficiency by adding both forms of carbon removal to a single platform.
In addition to carbon removal, Running Tide is also developing cutting-edge diagnostics and interventions to restore ocean health - something we need much more of.
Since its founding in 2017, Running Tide has been developing, testing, and optimizing multiple nature-based pathways for improving ocean health, including coastal restoration solutions like nutrient abatement and biodiversity enhancement, as well as carbon removal.
Running Tide’s multidisciplinary team, including STEM experts and PhD scientists, takes a full systems approach in the research and development of positive ocean interventions. Engineers, marine operators, and fishing captains work alongside biologists, geneticists, and scientists from a range of disciplines, all working towards rebalancing the carbon cycle and restoring ocean health.
They have developed an integrated platform to diagnose ocean health, deploy nature-based solutions at scale, and quantify and verify impacts. In addition to its Carbon Buoys, the company develops and deploys cutting-edge sensor systems, which not only monitor Carbon Buoy deployments, but provide critical in-situ data to enhance Running Tide’s ocean modeling and lab-based testing, and inform its carbon removal quantification and verification work.
We love this cross-discipline vision, as it’s clear to us that it takes all of us to create the solutions our world needs.
The company employs over 120 people in the USA and Iceland.
High-quality ocean-based solutions and projects can play a key role in combating climate change as well as crucial co-benefits for ocean health.
Running Tide works across disciplines including global carbon cycling and sequestration, oceanography, marine ecology, forestry, systems-engineering, logistics, carbon accounting, and monitoring and verification.
Running Tide work to restore the health of ocean ecosystems. To that end, they are actively studying how carbon removal and ecosystem restoration interventions interact with complex and dynamic ocean ecosystems.
Running Tide operates macroalgae nurseries in North America and Europe to grow biomass, like algae, on automated buoys out at sea and then sink it to the bottom, thousands of meters down.
The ocean's biological carbon pump - moving CO₂ from the upper ocean where it interacts with the atmosphere to the deep ocean - is the world's most powerful carbon removal system. It moves 2 billion tons of carbon from the fast to slow cycle every year.
Spanning more than two-thirds of the Earth’s surface, the ocean is the center of our climate system and our most powerful ally in removing carbon durably and at scale.
Running Tide's system is inherently scalable because it is based on natural existing phenomena - gravity, ocean currents, and photosynthesis. Their impressive customer roster of industry leaders includes Microsoft – with whom they recently signed a monumental carbon removal purchase agreement – Stripe, Shopify, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, among others. We can’t wait to see what comes next for them!
To achieve net zero (& beyond) we need to grow global carbon removal capacity to somewhere between 5 to 10 gigatonnes per year by 2050. Oceans are already a key carbon sink and we think they have the potential - from a carbon storage permanence, additionality and scaling - to contribute even more to help us all combat climate change.
As you may know from our climate courses, we're very conscious of climate justice issues alongside permanence, additionality and verifiability. There can be no full transition to a zero emissions world that isn't just. We're including carbon dioxide removal (CDR) partners in the portfolios that engage and include local communities in the countries they operate in.
A key element of Running Tide’s work is engagement and collaboration with coastal communities, who are often hit hardest by changing ocean conditions due to climate change.
By basing their headquarters and deployment operations in coastal communities, Running Tide creates opportunities for these communities to be part of the solution for climate change, while providing good-paying jobs, investments in un- or underutilized coastal and port infrastructure, high revenue streams for local and regional industries, and tax revenue to local municipal and provincial governments.
As you’ll be aware from our climate courses, slowing and reversing climate change not only requires us to reduce emissions from the current levels, we also need to remove hundreds of billions of tonnes we’ve already added to the atmosphere and fast carbon cycle over the last 200 years.
The ocean already plays a pivotal role in removing CO₂ from the fast carbon cycle every year. It makes sense to invest to both enhance its carbon removal capability while also nurturing its long-term health as a crucial, and irreplaceable, ecosystem.
Running Tide is a leader in making this a reality and we can’t wait to see what they do next as they continue to research, develop, and deploy their solutions. Go team!
Read more about Ocean Biomass Sinking & Alkalinity Enhancement and why we include Running Tide in our Carbon Removal Portfolio 👇
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