Meta’s former CTO has a new $50 million project: ocean-based carbon removal

A nonprofit formed by Mike Schroepfer, Meta’s former chief technology officer, is spinning out a new organization dedicated to accelerating research into ocean alkalinity enhancement—one potential means of leveraging the seas to suck up and store away even more carbon dioxide. Additional Ventures, co-founded by Schroepfer, and a group of other foundations have committed $50…
Meta’s former CTO has a new  million project: ocean-based carbon removal

He said that improving systems for monitoring, reporting and verification of the carbon actually removed through these processes will also be a “major, major focus,” including the development, testing and refinement of sensors and models. Finally, Carbon to Sea will also prioritize “community building” in the nascent field, striving to draw in more researchers across disciplines and encourage collaborations through conferences, workshops and fellowships.

The funding will likely go to a mix of both research groups and startups emerging in the space.

A variety of companies are already exploring a handful of approaches. Project Vesta has been studying the potential for spreading fine olivine along beaches. A UCLA spinout, Equatic, is pairing alkaline materials and electricity to strip carbon dioxide from seawater and produce a clean form of hydrogen in the process. Ebb Carbon says it’s using electricity and membranes to produce an alkaline solution from the wastewater generated by desalination plants and industrial sites, which it can then return to the ocean.

In addition, alkaline substances don’t necessarily have to make it to the oceans for carbon removal to occur. There’s also growing research and commercial interest in a broader category known as enhanced weathering. One startup, Lithos, is encouraging farmers to add crushed basalt rock to their fields, to increase crop yields and sequester carbon. Meanwhile, a University of California, Berkeley spin-out, Travertine, is developing ways of using mining waste to suck down and store away CO2. 

Other funders of Carbon to Sea include the Builders Initiative, Catalyst for Impact, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Kissick Family Foundation, OceanKind and Thistledown Foundation. 

Additional Ventures provides funding to accelerate research and development across three major areas: climate change, biomedical research and community and democracy. Schroepfer also recently established a climate-focused venture capital investment firm, Gigascale Capital.

He says it’s crucial to kickstart ocean alkalinity research now because it can take years to build momentum behind a substantial, multifaceted scientific program and do the community engagement necessary to move the field forward.

“We should have started a long time ago, but here we are,” he says. “We’re starting now, so that if we need this as a technique, and it is promising, in the future years, we’ve laid the groundwork for it to be a possible tool for humanity.”