After over 2 years of foundational research, Vesta is conducting its first field pilots
Our pilots aim to address the urgent call in The National Academy of Sciences Report for field pilots of Coastal Carbon Capture. Three major pillars form each field pilot.
1. Stakeholder engagement
Vesta works with local communities in both public and private sectors to inform, plan, and design field pilots. Our participatory governance integrates input from local and regional stakeholders into the implementation and permitting of Coastal Carbon Capture.
2. Environmental Impact Assessment
Vesta conducts extensive ecosystem monitoring before and after olivine placement including ecological and ecotoxicological assessments of local fauna.
3. Quantification of CO₂ removal
Vesta assesses CO₂ removal through numerous approaches including monitoring changes in carbonate chemistry, alkalinity, secondary minerals, nutrients, sediment transport, and other biogeochemical and physical parameters.
In July 2022, the North Sea Beach Colony (NSBC) in Southampton, NY became home to the world's first field pilot of Coastal Carbon Capture when they incorporated olivine sand into Phase 2 of their beach restoration project. The Town of Southampton, in collaboration with the NSBC, Vesta, and First Coastal, deployed 500 cu yd of olivine sand such that it comprised ~5% of the total sand volume that was placed.
The pilot project at NSBC has two main goals: 1) quantify the rate at which olivine sand dissolves and the efficiency of carbon removal in a natural setting, and 2) document any environmental impacts, positive or negative. Vesta is meeting these goals through a comprehensive, multi-year science monitoring program with collaborators at Stony Brook University and the Cornell Cooperative Extension, which includes frequent sampling and testing of water, sediment, and marine organisms.
Assessing environmental safety is at the forefront of Vesta’s mission. Vesta has been continuously monitoring water quality through the deployment of a sonde. Sonde measurements include seawater pH, dissolved oxygen concentrations, turbidity, and chlorophyll A (an indicator for algae). After our first year of data collection, we have observed no statistically significant impacts to these parameters.
In collaboration with the Cornell Cooperative Extension, Vesta conducted a baseline survey of benthic organisms at NSBC before and post-placement. Samples for benthic community structure were collected five times throughout 2022 and the results show no effect of olivine placement on abundances and species richness. Samples for ecotoxicological study on benthic organisms were collected three times in 2022 and the post-placement results show lack of elevated concentrations of trace metals (Ni, Cr and Co) in organisms tissue at the NSBC.Vesta and the Cornell Cooperative Extension also conducted two experiments assessing the impact of olivine sand on horseshoe crab eggs and oysters. Oysters are a sensitive species often used in ecotoxicological studies and horseshoe crabs, although not naturally nesting at the NSBC, spawn along the entire US East Coast. Thus, NSBC provides a great opportunity to study olivine effects on nesting habitats without risk of affecting the natural nests. Bags of horseshoe crab eggs and oysters were manually placed in the sand and sampled throughout the summer. Sand properties such as temperature, which can impact horseshoe crab nesting success, were measured concurrently. The oyster significantly grew over summer 2022 and the analysis shows lack of trace metals accumulation in their tissue (Ni, Cr and Co). The measurement will be conducted again in 2023 to confirm those results. The team is currently processing the horseshoe crab eggs samples from 2022 and plan to repeat the experiments in the summer of 2023.
Vesta has also been trailing multiple approaches to measure carbon removal. Some of our methods are outlined below:
Sippers extract water samples from between grains of sand (porewater) at various depths in the sediment. Due to their close proximity to the olivine sand, these water samples have concentrated dissolved carbon.
Microprofiling is an approach where small, thin electrodes that measure parameters such as pH, are inserted directly into the sediment to measure the porewater chemistry in the field. Benthic Flux Chambers capture a volume of seawater directly at the sediment-seawater boundary. They are left in the ocean for a few days, allowing dissolved carbon to accumulate without being diluted by seawater circulation.
Sediment Cores are also essential for documenting carbon removal. Our team pushes rigid cylinders into the ground capturing the sediment inside. This style of sampling preserves the layers that are formed in the beach profile. We can then test the sand for change in solid carbon and mineral reservoirs, such as organic matter and carbonate (e.g. shell content).