With so many different types of carbon projects out there – from concrete mineralisation to reforestation, and more – it can be overwhelming to decide which to buy carbon credits from.
To make the evaluation process a little easier, we’re publishing a series of project deep dives.
Next up: ocean carbon removal – featuring Running Tide’s multi-pathway system as an example.
The deep dive explores:
The ocean is the biggest natural carbon sink we have.
Oceans cover 70% of the Earth, and they’re constantly absorbing carbon in a few different ways:
Carbon absorbed via these pathways is initially held in the fast carbon cycle, where it could still be reintroduced back into the atmosphere.
But, once the carbon is transported to the deep ocean, it can be safely stored for the long-term via the slow carbon cycle.
What does that look like in practice?
As an example: phytoplankton convert CO2 into sugars, and are often consumed by marine animals. When these animals die, their carcasses sink to the seafloor and take the trapped carbon with them to the depths of the ocean, where it is dissolved back into the deep waters or becomes buried in sediment on the ocean floor – either way, the carbon is locked away for hundreds of years (potentially much, much longer).
This moving of carbon from the fast cycle to storage in the deep ocean (into the slow cycle) also occurs with sources of terrestrial carbon (fallen trees, for example) as well as ocean plants that have drifted from coastal waters.
As humans have added more and more carbon to the fast carbon cycle by burning carbon-rich fossil fuels, the power of the natural carbon cycle is no longer enough to maintain the necessary balance.
This is where ocean carbon removal projects come into play – because if the natural processes of ocean carbon removal can be enhanced, there’s potential for much more carbon to be removed and safely stored for the long-term by the ocean.
There are many potential ways to enhance the ocean’s natural carbon removal – and we expect to see more and more innovative projects working in this area over the coming years. Existing examples of ocean carbon solutions include:
Let’s take a closer look at an example of an ocean carbon removal project: Running Tide, which features in Lune’s library of high-quality carbon projects.
Running Tide is an ocean health company on the mission to restore ocean health and rebalance the carbon cycle – including amplifying the ocean’s natural processes of carbon removal.
Running Tide deploys buoys which are around the size of a dinner plate, made of terrestrial biomass (e.g. forestry residues from the logging industry, which would otherwise be left to decompose or be burned, releasing the embodied carbon into the atmosphere). This buoy is coated with limestone (or another form of calcium carbonate), seeded with native macroalgae (such as kelp) and deployed into the open ocean. Once deployed, the buoys are distributed by ocean currents, the carbonates dissolve, and the kelp grows. After an optimised period of growth, the system loses buoyancy, and the whole assembly sinks into the deep ocean.
Running Tide’s system amplifies natural ocean carbon removal processes, moving carbon from the fast carbon cycle to long-term storage in the slow carbon cycle in the following manners:
Read more about Running Tide’s ocean carbon removal methods in their white paper: Sustainably Amplifying the Natural Carbon Cycle.
When evaluating carbon projects to buy carbon credits from, quality should always be your number 1 priority to ensure real impact is made for the planet.
So what makes Running Tide a high-quality project?
Well, there are many factors that contribute to the quality and integrity of Running Tide as a carbon removal project. 4 of the most important are:
All of these factors (amongst others!) contribute to the quality and integrity of Running Tide as a carbon removal project, creating durable and measurable carbon removal which has robust risk mitigation in place.
This is the kind of information you need to be looking for when you do your due diligence on quality – a high-quality project should always have this kind of information about their methodology and approach easily accessible to carbon buyers.
Running Tide uses the latest peer-reviewed science to inform their approaches to ocean carbon removal – and they’re constantly learning and iterating based on this scientific approach. As their Founder and CEO, Marty Odlin, puts it:
They’ve also partnered with Ocean Visions to convene an independent Scientific Advisory Board of leading subject matter experts, helping to ensure that everything they do uses a rigorous, scientific approach.
And they contribute to science themselves, with their team of internal scientists collecting and analysing data from the project, which can then be shared with the wider scientific community to inform knowledge on the topic.
They’re currently developing a protocol which will detail their approach for quantifying ocean carbon removal. This will be peer-reviewed and will be publicly available – opening their process to external feedback and comment, as well as enabling other similar projects to understand and build on their approach.
Running Tide’s carbon buoys are an inherently durable technique: removing carbon from the atmosphere and permanently storing it in the deep ocean for at least a thousand years – an example of an Oxford Offsetting Principles type 5 project – carbon removal with long-lived storage.
At the same time, the team is also constantly seeking ways to enhance this durability, such as:
Running Tide has technology at the heart of their processes, enabling them to gather accurate data about their carbon buoys even as they disperse across the open ocean. They use sensors to measure data during the duration of the deployment, validating models and testing data, as well as tracking the growth of the kelp.
The accuracy of data is important in any carbon project, because carbon credits are issued based on the estimations of the carbon benefit of the project – in this case, how much carbon Running Tide’s buoys remove once deployed. If this estimation is not accurate, then the actual impact of the carbon credits purchased could be much lower than assumed. Running Tide’s system is designed to gather data with each deployment, not only validating outcomes, but also feeding information back to the system, constantly improving models, and increasing certainty over time.
During deployments, Running Tide’s detailed monitoring systems track buoy locations, deployment dispersion, and a selection of other data points to quantify the carbon removed and build upon the company’s understanding and monitoring of ocean health.
It’s important that carbon projects also take the wider social and environmental impact of their actions into account – ensuring the project also benefits local communities, and doesn’t cause detrimental effect to local wildlife and ecosystems.
As highlighted previously, Running Tide isn’t just a carbon removal company, they’re focused on ocean health as a whole.
This is clear in how they’ve developed their carbon removal system – the addition of limestone to also combat ocean acidification, for instance.
And to make sure their initiatives never do more harm than good as they scale up operations, they always employ independently reviewed Environmental Impact Assessments to evaluate and assess the potential ecological, economic, and social impacts prior to any planned deployments or and change in the scope of their operations.
By the nature of their business, Running Tide is able to bring economic growth to areas that are often on the forefront of climate change - coastal communities. Much of the work the company does in these communities is applicable to existing marine and maritime skillsets, and Running Tide actively seeks opportunities to connect directly with the coastal communities in their areas of operation. This includes engaging with community leaders, organising town hall meetings, participating in local community events, and enabling feedback mechanisms throughout the cycle of their deployments.
Finally, it’s important to note that Running Tide is an innovative carbon removal project which is in the fairly early stages of development.
Their techniques have the potential to remove huge amounts of carbon from the fast carbon cycle, and store it safely in the ocean, which requires continual researching, iterating, improving, and scaling up their work. As mentioned, it also fits into the Oxford Offsetting Principles type 5 – a carbon removal project with long-lived storage – which is where the researchers suggest we need to shift our offsetting spending to in the long-term.
This, combined with the markers of quality outlined above, make Running Tide a high impact project to fund if you really want to make a difference on climate change.
Running Tide credits are currently listed on Lune’s dashboard at around $250 per ton. To understand this price, it’s important to keep in mind that moving carbon to long-term storage in the slow cycle is a fundamentally demanding mass-moving endeavor. In addition, Running Tide is investing heavily in research and development for their novel approach, which has the potential for gigaton-scale removal.
A higher price point can sometimes put businesses off buying carbon credits from innovative carbon removal projects. But omitting carbon removal from your portfolio can mean compromising on the positive impact your business can have.
That’s why we recommend that businesses create a portfolio of carbon projects that balance cost and impact, or explore contribution rather than compensation. Read more on this in our article: $500 vs $5 carbon credits – why does cost vary so much in carbon offsetting? and get in touch if you’d like to further discuss building an offsetting portfolio which includes Running Tide’s ocean carbon removal project.
To find out more about Running Tide, explore our full library of projects, and purchase high-quality carbon offsets, log-in or sign-up to the Lune dashboard. Or, if you’d like to discuss how to build an offsetting portfolio which includes Running Tide’s ocean carbon removal project, get in touch with the team first – we’d love to chat.
Plus, if you're curious about our own evaluation process for the carbon projects we include in our library at Lune, take a look at our guide.
Lune will offer trusted, high-quality carbon projects to Visa’s global network of merchants, banks, and partners – working together with a goal to scale climate action.
We’ve emitted billions of tonnes of carbon emissions and now (alongside drastically reducing those emissions) we need to get it out of the atmosphere. How do we do that? Well, Direct Air Capture is one solution – here’s everything you need to know about it.
Legislation requiring companies to report on sustainability – their environmental impact and the risks and opportunities facing the business – is upcoming across the globe, from the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive to the US proposed SEC climate disclosure rule.