Industrializing the Gyres to Reduce Pressure on Land Use. by Marine BECCS
The oceanic gyres are largely lifeless regions of vast scale and they offer an abundant/renewable supply of raw nutrients and energy.
The collective works by the 'Ocean Foresters' is the intellectual progenitor of this proposal. However, it is important that the two proposal be evaluated as being separate in all ways. This is not 'either this one or that one' but 'also'.
There is no debate as to the power of the marine environment in its' ability to support vast populations of simplistic and complex useful life forms. The use of protected littoral waters for mariculture has been a factor in our search for food/energy from the time of our emergence as a sentient species. And, the Ocean Foresters are proposing some of the most advanced/supportable concepts ever proposed on this subject.
However; (A) The use of the Gyres, which this proposal emphasizes, as concentrated regions of industrial scale mariculture, also offers promise. (B) The use of marine biomass/biochar as organic fertilizer ingredients opens up the potential to replace the use of chemical fertilizers and thus reduce ozone depletion and waterway nitrification.
Such use of the post oil extraction biomass 'waste' creates a carbon negative biofuel. The creation of carbon negative biofuels is also a strong part of the Ocean Foresters proposal, yet through a distinctly different carbon negative path.
This proposal suggests, unlike others, that the production of a marine biomass based formulated organic fertilizer may be the best use of the marine biomass post fuel extraction 'waste' as it can offer the following direct and indirect benefits:
1) The need to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and thus reduce water way nitrification and ozone depletion
2) Produces healthier soils/crops
3) Expansion of industrial crops into the gyres through aquaponics
The later point would allow all nations to produce their own food/fuel crops regardless of their own geo. location/limits. Large scale oceanic aquaponics is STEM supportable.
Please see the IMBECS Protocol
To be continued.
What actions do you propose?
The answer to this question is explored in the the IMBECS Draft and within the CoLab Global Plan challenge. In brief, this proposal is a call for greatly expanding mariculture and doing so within the gyres. At this time, there is no permitting needed at either the national or international levels. Thus, this project simply needs the funding to push forward with the physical deployment of the production equipment.
However, the profitability of such operations could stimulate an uncoordinated global rush to production which could potentially trigger environmental damage, even within the gyres, and significantly dilute the economic potential of an MBECS industry wide coordination of efforts.
Thus, the IMBECS Protocol proposes the creation of an intergovernmentally commissioned non-profit organization which would mirror the relative intergovernmental treaty language/concern and be the the primary responsible actor for standards and operational protocols. Once such foundational governance work is completed, the technology would be licensed to for-profit actors.
The below outline can also be found here.
1) Technology Brief:
The Marine Bio Energy and Carbon Sequestration (MBECS) technology can be viewed as a bio-mimic of both the marine 'microbial loop' and the 'biological pump'. The primary exception to those direct analogies is that the carbon/biomass is transferred to terrestrial uses (through production of food, feed, fuel, fertilizer etc.) as opposed to sending the carbon/biomass to the sea floor as does the natural loop/pump.
The use of low cost and durable enclosed reactors, within large scale reactor (tank) farms, allows for close control of the cultivation and thus maximizes the available on-site energy and nutrient use and thus maximizes biomass output. The nutrients are pulled into the system from the nutricline through ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) systems. The OTEC system provides multiple production functions beyond energy convertion. Some minerals, such as olivine, will need to be imported for use in the cultivation (and as a component within an organic fertilizer product). However, the cost of that import is reasonable.
Although the MBECS operations will produce a wide range of marine biomass derived products, the production and use of a well formulated marine biomass based organic fertilizer offers the most aggressive use of the the oceanic/atmospheric CO2 store of any proposal currently being considered by the global STEM community.
At the technical level, the fertilizer would incorporate biochar , as a soil/mycorrhizal/crop enhancer, which offers, under many conditions and combinations of soils/mycorrhizal/crops, carbon sequestration beyond simply sequestering the carbonized biochar into the soil (i.e. healthy soil/mycorrhizal/crops accumulate more carbon than the original biochar carbon volume).
Beyond the biochar carbon sequestration factor, the MBECS operation will be able to employ other carbon sequestration methods such as electro-geochemistry, electro-mineral accretion, and/or sub-sea floor storage. In general, however, the MBECS technology attempts to maximize the use of, not storage of, the oceanic/atmospheric CO2 store. Yet, the in-house use of the more simplistic storage methods are possible and would be acceptable as carbon sequestration augmentation means and methods.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that the primary and overriding global warming mitigation goal of the IMBECS Protocol/Technology is to replace the use of fossil fuels on a global scale. The annual volume of CO2 sequestration (and all other environmental benefits of the technology) represents secondary priorities.
2) The Value of the EPA to the IMBECS Protocol:
2.1) At the Intergovernmental Treaty Level:
Within the relevant working groups a nation/state party typically turns to their most relevant national agencies for guidance on technical issues. Thus, the relevant agencies play an important supportive role to their respective policy makers. At the treaty working group level (i.e. UNFCCC/IMO/CBD etc.), the EPA's evaluation of the MBECS technology and subsequent EPA promotion of such within the treaty working groups, could greatly encourage other treaty members to support an IMBECS Protocol like treaty structure.
2.2) At the National Level:
The EPA has Congressional guidance on the propagation of biofuel mandates through the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (specifically, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)). However, the current real-world production limitations of biofuel restrict the mandated target volumes from being achieved. The MBECS technology offers the nation a pathway to meeting and or exceeding the current biofuel use targets.
Yet, getting to that mandated volume will require rethinking the biomass factor within the biofuel equation. Simply establishing littoral water biomass production 'fields' within US jurisdiction is highly problematic from both the environmental and the regulatory view. The MBECS concept recognizes the importance of protecting the littoral regions and thus calls for the use of the mid-oceanic gyres.
The gyre based MBECS operations will be flagged as 'ships' and thus will come under the relevant nation/state rules and regulations, along with intergovernmental treaty requirements. Thus, the EPA’s jurisdiction would be expanded out to the US flagged MBECS 'fleet'.
2.3) Brief Summation on the EPA Factor:
The close involvement of the EPA, in the STEM evaluation of the technology, can potentially help establish a high level of STEM consensus at both the national and the intergovernmental treaty levels, as well as, pave the way for increasing the national level biofuel use mandated by Congress through providing regulatory support for and guidance to MBECS like operations.
3) The Value of NOAA to the IMBECS Protocol:
As with the EPA, the value of NOAA to the IMBECS Protocol/Technology, can be foundational on multiple levels. The primary relevant program within NOAA is the International Research and Applications Project (IRAP) which attempts to "support activities that link climate research and assessments to practical risk management, development and adaptation challenges in key regions throughout the world.". In the context of the IMBECS proposal, expansion of the IRAP mission/budget would be needed to a modest degree.
Beyond the IRAP program, NOAA can also provide in-depth relevant knowledge of the oceanic/atmospheric sciences which would provide the EPA/State Dept. with guidance in their evaluations of the potential impacts/benefits of the MBECS technology, as well as, assist in the development and operational guidance of the MBECS technology.
In brief, NOAA can be supportive of the State Dept./EPA's evaluation of the relevant MBECS STEM, as well as, play a key role in vetting the MBECS method(s) at the intergovernmental climate change governance decision making level while contributing to the advancement of the MBECS technology and production output.
4) The US Navy:
The USN Green Fleet program could potentially benefit substantially by establishing mid-oceanic biofuel production/ storage depots and thus providing substantial funding support for US flagged MBECS operational development, through pre-purchasing biofuel and providing developmental assistance at the STEM level, is justifiable.
5) The State Department:
Beyond supporting the IMBECS Protocol at the intergovernmental level as a stand alone initiative, the US negotiators can champion acceptance of MBECS like technology within the context of the UNGreen Climate Fund.
6) The White House:
Under the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) (GlobalChange.Gov.) the Administration has an ability to bring a strong focus to carbon negative biofuels (CNB) in general and marine based CNB in particular.
TheIPCC (WG3) has recently recognized the production of 'bio-energy with carbon capture and sequestration' (BECCS or BECS i.e. CNB) as a priority potential global warming mitigation method. It is universally recognized, however, that the limiting factors for the terrestrial forms of BECCS/BECS are numerous and substantial. Yet, those same limiting factors simply become moot when transposed onto the marine environment. Marine based BECCS (MBECS) is scaleable to global needs within a relative, and environmentally appropriate, short time frame (20yrs).
Establish a fast track/high priority MBECS program, at the USGCRP level and with EPA/NOAA leadership, with the mandated to push through the relevant STEM development/evaluation(s) and the deployment of a Marine Resources Conversion Research Platform equipped with a Marine Covective Tower.
7) Opposition Management:
7.1) Political/Economic Opposition:
The primary disruptive aspect of the IMBECS Protocol/Technology will be the decoupling of energy importing nations from energy exporting nations as all nations will be able to achieve energy independence through operating their own MBECS operations within the oceanic commons. This potential global energy paradigm shift can be accomplished, with the least amount of disruption, through encompassing the vested interests of the FF industry, at all levels, within the IMBECS strategy.
7.2) Bartering Biofuel for FFs:
The potential vast scale of MBECS operations can absorb the entirety of the FF workforce and provide the energy market investors with an equivalent and sustainable alternative to investing in fossil fuel reserves/production.
This leaves the FF reserve owners as the only sector which would not be folded directly into the the IMBECS Protocol/Technology paradigm. However, the combined market value of the non-biofuel commodities, which the MBECS technology can produce, potentially will dwarf the global market value of the biofuel (and FF) production. Thus, the IMBECS Protocol/Technology has the potential to allow for the bartering of the biofuel for fossil fuels and do so in the reserve owners numerical (profit) favor.
The non-fuel commodities profit potentials are so vast that MBECS operations will eventually be developed regardless of the fuel issue. And, a (subsidized) <$30 bbl biofuel market is possible using partial profits from the non-biofuel MBECS commodities as the biofuel subsidy.
The fossil fuel reserve owners can support the IMBECS Protocol/Technology development effort early and gain a profitable position within the IMBECS Protocol paradigm, through accepting an early barter offer and supporting initial production deployment, or resist and adjust to a potential <$30 bbl market.
Clearly, keeping fossil fuels in the ground would be to the overwhelming advantage to the .. vast.. majority of our global population, as well as, to the planetary ecosystem. The fossil fuel reserves, that the IMBECS Protocol can potentially sequester in the ground, would represent a World Heritage Natural Resource Reserve for the generations that come after us.
7.2) STEM Opposition:
The use of the mid oceanic gyres isolates the MBECS operations both spatially and, to a large degree, biologically. Using the gyres eliminates the vast majority of the environmental STEM reasons for opposition.
Who will take these actions?
An international team would be recruited to carry out the creation of the IMBECS Foundation and begin detailed design/engineering/testing of the core technology. This phase is detailed in the IMBECS Protocol Draft.
Once the IMBECS Foundation has completed its' preliminary work of establishing standards, all nations and their for-profit actors would be welcomed to begin their own IMBECS operations within the Gyre of their choosing.
Also, a call would be put out for interested parties which can bring to the project expert level STEM knowledge in the areas of:
1) Marine engineering
2) Marine cultivation
4) Benthic science
5) Biochar production
6) Electro Mineral Accretion
There is a small but growing group of individuals which have conceptual/academic work in this overall STEM field of study. As this is an early stage proposal the use of the names/organizations would not be appropriate at this time.
Further, this call for collaboration would include international participants to support technology transfer and governance cooperation. Civil society level participation in the evaluation of the science/governance would be welcomed. Working with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission would be recommended as the IOC is, to a large extent, the template for the IMBECS Foundation concept.
At the organizational level, a number of actors will be needed to fill a wide range of positions. The organizational chart below gives a basic view of the scope of positions which will need recruited for.
Where will these actions be taken?
How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?
The concept of carbon negative biofuel offers up something of a counter intuitive view of global energy production/use. Under a global carbon negative biofuel scenario, the more energy produced/used the greater the carbon sequestration levels becomes.
If key 'hard to de-carbonize' industries, such as aviation, electrical production and marine transport, were brought in at an early stage (at the industrial customer level), the volume of carbon sequestration would rapidly increase due to the high demand and corresponding rapid expansion of IMBECS production.
A transformative level of global carbon management can be achieved within 10-20 years. In a 'business as usual' scenario and a scenario in which takes into account the Arctic Methane Tipping Point, business as usual seems suicidal.
What are other key benefits?
- Oceanic/Atmospheric CO2 Store Reduction Through Large Scale Cultivation of Marine Biomass and Marine Biochar production
- Wide Area Surface Cooling of Thermally Critical Oceanic Regions
- Global Scale Production of Organic Food/Feed/Fertilizer/Polymers
- Vast Scale Production of Freshwater
- Creation of Mid-Oceanic Wildlife Preserves Supporting Biodiversity and the Protection of Endangered Marine Species
- Global Energy Independence Resulting in a Trans-generational Global Economic Stimulus
- Accommodations for Environmental/Economic Induced Migration; IMBECS Physical Operations Represent a New Form of 'Real Estate' (with jobs) Usable by Displaced Persons
- Establishes the First Intergovernmentally Governed Form of Global Carbon Management
- Reduces Pressure on Wild Catch Fisheries through Significant Expansion of Global Aquaculture
- Reduces Pressure on Food Crop Conversion to Fuel Crops
What are the proposal’s costs?
The IMBECS operations are self funding through profits once they begin operations. An initial R&D funding level of $750M is proposed, within the IMBECS Protocol Draft (pg. 17, Sec. 12), as a means to carry out:
1) Routine engineering testing required for establishing engineering and production standards
2) Establishing the IMBECS Foundation and thus national and global governance administration
3) Construction and deployment of a 10 km2 Marine Resources Conversion Research Platform equipped with a Marine Covective Tower (the MBECS commercial scale production platform prototype).
Any self funding (profitable) mitigation effort can largely immune itself from the variances in political based (ie. governmental) funding. The IMBECS operation will be profitable within the first initial phase of deployment. Expansion will be supported through profits.
The 'bitcoin' like trading platform would be supported, to the fullest degree possible, by the IMBECS Foundation.
With robust initial funding a high degree of global warming mitigation can be achieved within 20 years. The current high levels of atmospheric black carbon and sulfur will need to be reduced over a time frame which would prevent a spike in the atmospheric temperature. That time frame maybe 10-20 years.
Preparations for off shore deployment operations can start immediately as there are no governance issues regarding off shore mariculture operations.
Global replacement of FFs will require up to 20 years of robust construction of IMBECS operations. This time frame is limited only by the scope of the initial financial investment. A robust starting budget, which is here proposed, would reduce the time to global FF replacement by years compared to a minimal level financial start.
Further, replacing FFs needs to be done in a time frame which allows the FF industry time to adjust from being an extractive industry to one of cultivation. Also, sudden and substantial reduction in atmospheric black carbon/sulfur would increase planetary temperatures due to the expected increase in atmospheric moisture resulting from the BC/S reduction (Fools Atmosphere). Thus, a 20 year time frame for replacing FFs should be considered for planetary environmental and industrial sector adaptation reasons.
In 30 years, IMBECS should be globally mainstreamed with the thermal flux resolved. At that time, the IMBECS Protocol can be viewed as a form of adaptation as opposed to mitigation.
4) US Government:
5) US Carbon Price:
10) Global Plan:
For a brief overview of how the above proposal fit together, please see the 'Global Plan' section on 'Sub-proposals' and 'How do these sub-proposals fit together?'. The explanation simply needs more room than available here.
The IMBECS Protocol is conceptually related to the work found in the following documents/links. This list is not exhaustive:
PodEnergy Ocean Agronomy development leaders and progenitor of this proposal.
NASAs’ OMEGA study.
Cool Planet; Land based and cellulose based version of a carbon negative biofuel concept.
Cellana; Leading developer of algae based bioproducts.