Project Vesta

FAQ / The Big Questions

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FAQ / The Science

Will this add to ocean acidification?

One of the things we're investigating is the potential for olivine dissolution to reduce ocean acidity, which is an ancillary benefit.

What are the impacts to marine animals and plants?

This is at the core of our scientific investigation. We want to completely understand the potential impacts before operating at large scale. Additionally, we have an external oversight committee to help us ensure scientific rigor.


There are naturally occurring olivine sand beaches around the world, with the most popular one being on the main island of Hawai'i and is known as Papakōlea or Mahana beach. Wildlife there thrives, as well as surrounding ecosystems. 


Additionally, our first ecotox experiments have come back with a 100% success rate.


Will wind and water wash away the olivine?

We know that olivine sand will be transported by wave action and ocean currents. Part of our project is focused on modeling how olivine sand will be transported and redistributed on beaches and coastal areas.

How will the impact be measured?

Scientists will instrument local waters to measure a wide range of markers of safety and efficacy.

Messing with natural ecosystems has a bad history, doesn’t it?

There are two key points here. First, we’ll be monitoring test marine ecosystems carefully to make sure we understand the impacts before we scale up. Second, we aren’t introducing living organisms, which once introduced can spread uncontrollably resulting in unintended consequences. Each load of sand we deploy will weather down and then be gone. The decision to place more sand on beaches is an ongoing one which can take into account the results from past activity.

Won’t the mining and transport emit CO2?

Yes, however the carbon captured is projected to be 20x the emissions. See our LCA for more information.

Why use olivine vs. other rocks or minerals?

Other rock types can also be used, but they are less effective or less available. We use the magnesium rich form of olivine, known as Forsterite (Mg2SiO4). Olivine makes up over 50% of the upper mantle and is present in huge kilometer wide and deep deposits near the surface. Olivine is the fastest-weathering volcanic rock. Weathering 1 tonne of olivine removes up to 1.25 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. 


What do we know about the contributing factors to the coastal weathering rate of olivine?

Current knowledge has mechanical action as the primary determining factor for olivine weathering on beaches and in shallow seas.  These rates are based on theoretical models and often overlook many other contributing factors. 

 

Project Vesta has a team of scientists working to better and more accurately model the weathering of olivine in coastal areas.  Factors we must consider and further understand the impact of include: temperature, wave action, tidal fluctuation, the role of sand-dwelling organisms, grain collision and optimal grain size.

For more information, see: R.D. Schuiling, Geoengineering Responses to Climate Change: Carbon Dioxide Sequestration, Weathering Approaches P157


How much olivine is needed for total yearly CO2 emission removal, what size and how would it be distributed?

Project Vesta’s science team estimates that we need 2% of shelf seas and 16km2 of Olivine to capture humanity’s yearly global emissions, which are at an all time high of 10Gt per year!

How much olivine has to be weathered to offset my CO2 footprint?

The average US person is responsible for putting out approximately 16.5 tons of CO2 (2014 World Bank). As for your individual carbon profile, there are many calculators out there that can help you decide how much to offset. For an in-depth calculation that you’ll need to pull out your electricity bills for, check the Resurgence one: https://www.resurgence.org/resources/carbon-calculator.html This one is good as well https://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx And you can always find activity specific ones, such as how to calculate cryptocurrency offsets: http://www.cleancoins.io

 

Once that is added up you would be able to purchase your CO2 equivalent output in olivine with this formula (CO2 output in tons)/1.25 (quantity of carbon sequestered per ton of olivine), which we would then multiply by our strike price of olivine at that time.


FAQ / The Logistics

What’s the origin story?

We were concerned about climate change and performed a review of all the possible solutions to this pressing problem. We came across the process of Coastal Carbon Capture (known in academic research as Coastal Enhanced Weathering), where there is a 30 year history of research that seemed to be stalled. We found that this promising solution to climate change was stuck in the lab. Project Vesta was founded to get this research moving again with the next step - a set of real-world pilot studies - to demonstrate that this is an affordable, scalable part of the solution to climate change.


How will this process work?

We will take rocks (specifically olivine, which is an abundant green mineral), grind them into sand, transport them to beaches, and then nature does the rest, capturing CO2 for millions of years. It works because when the olivine breaks down it triggers a chemical reaction that converts carbon dioxide into bicarbonate. Marine organisms actually use this in their skeletons and shells, and eventually when they die it and sink to the bottom of the ocean this sediment becomes limestone. That’s how the CO2 is locked up for millions of years - it is stored permanently in rock!

Who worked out that this was possible?

There are several decades of scientific research and insights that for us to this point where we believe it is possible. Like all scientific progress, it is built on the efforts of previous generations of scientists, going back to the Enlightenment and beyond. The first recognition of using mineral carbonation to store CO2 was by W. Seifritz in 1990. Some of the important insights along the way have come from Olaf Schuiling, Poppe de Beor, and more recently Francesc Monstserrat. Francesc, our Chief Scientific Advisor, has been working on carbon capture with olivine for a decade, and has published seminal papers in the field. We are engaged in an international collaboration effort to further the science of coastal carbon capture.

Why is this solution effective?

First, it’s simple. We don’t need to develop clever new technologies that may or may not work. There's enough beaches, rock and the technology already exists to acquire and distribute olivine. The technology and systems to mine and transport the rocks already exist, and once the rocks hit the beach, it’s set it and forget it. Nature does the rest. Second, it’s cheap. At scale, we estimate we can capture CO2 at under $21 per tonne, which is less than a tenth of where other carbon capture technologies are trying to get to. Third, it’s scalable: there’s plenty of olivine and coastal areas and we don’t compete for land use with other economic activities or need to build large industrial plants. We can get big without rocking too many boats. Fourth, the warmer the planet gets, the better our process works.

Where are you at in your plan?

At the end of 2020 we hit our fundraising goals for Phase 1, with $2.5M. This means that with our first test beach, we can start experiments in 2021 to prove 30+ years of lab research in the real world.

How much CO2 can you capture?

Scaling this up globally, it is possible we could capture all human emissions. We estimate that a single small beach will capture about 200 tonnes of CO2 over the course of a few years. For context, the same amount of land planted as a forest captures less than 10 tonnes of CO2.

Isn’t it too late/hopeless?

Absolutely not. We believe in creating the future we want to inhabit and bequeath to our descendants. Because humanity has not been successful in reducing emissions, we need to capture large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere in order to buy time for reductions in emissions. Project Vesta can capture CO2 from the atmosphere for decades, buying us the precious time we need.

Why hasn’t this been done yet?

Like any innovation, it hasn’t been done until it has. Research in this field has been going on for decades, but what has recently changed is an increased interest in deploying this solution in the field.


How long will each part of the process take?

Our first priority is the science - and while we hope to stick to this timeline, our primary consideration is ensuring a rigorous scientific process. We plan to increase the size of our experiments over time, and if everything goes well, we will have solid scientific evidence by 2023, published in 2024, at which point we would consider to be in rollout phase (phase 3), scaling up aggressively. It’s hard to put hard dates on a project this big, with so much dependent on large-scale scientific experiments.

Is there enough coastline?

Yes, Project Vesta would need just 0.1%-0.25% of the world’s shelf seas to potentially capture up to 100% of human emissions.

Will this impact beach use?

No, we deploy in coastal areas rather than directly on beaches. Additionally, the rocks are milled down to sand first, so they can be used by humans and wildlife as normal.

How do you select coastal areas?

A wide range of coastal areas and beaches are potentially suitable ranging from cold climates to the tropics. Warm climates slightly favor faster dissolution of olivine. We would obviously avoid marine protected areas and areas where there is a strong desire to maintain the current beach conditions. In many areas, however, beach nourishment is already occurring!

Can we scale mining enough?

There are existing olivine quarries with billions of tonnes of proven reserves, which supply millions of tonnes per year. They are located on every continent and our goal is to use the source closest to a given project. We will also utilize only sites that have low energy footprints and robust environmental standards and restoration plans.

We could reverse climate change.

Help us advance the science of CCC today.

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