UCLA and Singapore Launch Seawater Plant to Snatch 10 Tons of CO2 Daily, Produces Clean Hydrogen Fuel

Nick Terran
By Nick Terran
A rendering of the Equatic carbon dioxide removal plant, to be built in Singapore. Credit: Equatic

UCLA has teamed up with Singapore’s national water agency to kickstart a groundbreaking project. They’re building the largest ocean-based plant to pull CO2 out of the air. This isn’t just any plant; it’s a giant leap in the battle against climate change, capable of capturing 3,650 metric tons of CO2 each year. That’s a lot of bad gas out of our atmosphere! Plus, it’s making hydrogen fuel in the process – about 105 metric tons annually. Imagine, clean energy straight from the sea.

The big brains behind this are from UCLA’s Samueli School of Engineering. They’ve been on a mission to snatch CO2 from the ocean air, helping dial down those global emission numbers. After two successful test runs in Los Angeles and Singapore, they’re moving on to something bigger: Equatic-1, a $20-million demo plant.

Gaurav Sant, a sustainability guru at UCLA, is all about making big moves fast. “Scaling carbon removal solutions requires technology, bold and committed partners, and a focus on timely and measurable success,” he says. They’ve got big plans to roll this out worldwide, with Singapore leading the charge.

Here’s how it works: the plant uses electrolysis, zapping seawater to split it into hydrogen and oxygen, while locking away CO2 as solid materials. This magic trick not only captures CO2, but also helps the ocean suck up even more greenhouse gases. It’s like giving the ocean a superpower to fight climate change.

The $20 million system will remove 3,650 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year while producing 105 metric tons of carbon-negative hydrogen to be used as an energy source. Credit: Equatic

The building phase kicks off in Singapore, set to wrap up in about 18 months. They’re starting small, aiming to capture one ton of CO2 a day by late 2024. But that’s just the warm-up. By 2025, they’ll ramp up to snag 10 tons of CO2 daily and produce nearly 300 kg of clean hydrogen fuel.

Dante Simonetti, co-founder of Equatic, is pumped about the pilot’s success. “The pilot system commissioned in 2023 provided critical performance data,” he notes, proving their system’s ready for the big leagues.

Singapore’s water agency, PUB, is eyeing a zero-emissions future by 2045. They’re betting on solar energy, smarter water treatment, and carbon capture tech to get there. Chee Meng Pang from PUB is all in on this collaboration, seeing it as a game-changer for their desalination plant and the planet.

Equatic-1’s smart design minimizes the usual scale-up risks. Plus, they’ve developed a nifty way to make oxygen without unwanted chlorine, thanks to some help from the US Department of Energy. This project isn’t just about capturing CO2; it’s paving the way for hydrogen fuel production, marking a significant stride towards a cleaner, greener world.

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