Ebb Carbon is an ocean-powered carbon removal startup that’s removing CO2 from the sky to limit global warming
With global warming continuing at an alarming rate, addressing the urgent need to reduce carbon in the atmosphere has become a paramount concern for governments and institutions worldwide. In response, a growing array of technology startups has emerged, each committed to tackling this challenge head-on.
Now, climate-focused startup ventures like Captura, Equatic, and Running Tide are harnessing innovative carbon capture technologies to extract harmful carbon emissions from the atmosphere. Adding to these efforts is a new player in the space—Ebb Carbon, a California-based startup that is pioneering a new approach to carbon removal that removes acid from the oceans and carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air.
Operating from a Pacific Coast laboratory, the company is utilizing the ocean’s role as a natural carbon sink to not only restore ocean chemistry, but also speed up its natural abilities, and ultimately help reduce global warming.
For thousands of years, the ocean has served as a massive carbon sink, playing a crucial role in our planet’s carbon balance. However, the increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are disrupting this balance, leading to climate shifts and acidification of seawater. These changes pose significant threats to marine ecosystems and communities along coastlines. While climate change poses risks to the ocean, it also holds a potential solution within its depths.
Nature has its way of regulating ocean chemistry and gradually absorbing CO2 from the air through a natural process known as ocean alkalization, a phenomenon that unfolds over millions of years. To address the urgency of climate change and counteract its effects, Ebb Carbon is employing the power of electrochemistry to expedite this natural process. By doing so, the startup is able to remove atmospheric carbon at a pace that aligns with the challenge of climate change and actively works to restore the alkaline balance of seawater.
“We’re essentially accelerating a natural process. So instead of taking millions of years [to happen], it takes weeks to months,” said Ben Tarbell, co-founder and CEO of Ebb Carbon.
Tarbell added, “We’re restoring the balance in the ocean chemistry and enabling the ocean to absorb CO2 and convert it to a safe stable form.”
Since its inception two years ago, Ebb has raised a total of $27.75 million in combined seed and venture capital funding to advance and implement its electrochemical system, compact enough to fit within a standard 20-foot shipping container.
On Monday, the two-year-old startup unveiled its first-of-a-kind demonstration project, which is designed to remove 100 metric tons of CO2 per year at full capacity. Along with PNNL, Ebb is partnering with research institutions such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Washington to better predict how its system could work at scale — and how it could potentially affect ocean ecosystems.
This Monday, the startup introduced a unique pilot project aimed at eliminating 100 metric tons of CO2 annually at maximum capacity. In collaboration with PNNL and research institutions like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Washington, Ebb is working to forecast the broader implementation of its system and its potential impact on ocean ecosystems.
According to Tarbell, the company expects to remove over a million tons of CO2 annually in the next five years, primarily by enhancing the ocean’s natural capabilities.
How Ebb’s ocean-based carbon removal process works
Ebb situates its modules near ocean water, like the initial one near Sequim Bay in Washington state. Seawater flows through the Ebb system, which utilizes an electrochemical method to eliminate acidity. The purified water is then released back into the ocean, significantly enhancing its capacity to absorb CO2 and store it as natural bicarbonate.
“We can install our modules anywhere, and, as we scale, we’ll be installing systems at existing industrial facilities on the coast that process ocean water,” Tarbell added.
This approach holds the potential to substantially reduce costs. Ebb is marketing its carbon removal service to companies such as Stripe, who seek offsets to achieve their net-zero targets. This market potential has attracted investors like Prelude Ventures.
“Right now, there are very large voluntary carbon markets, large corporations willing to pay to remove carbon from the atmosphere to offset emissions in other parts of their business. Those markets alone are a multibillion-dollar market opportunity,” Gabriel Kra, managing director at Prelude Ventures, said in a statement.
For now, Tarbell said that the technology’s cost exceeds $100 per ton of removed CO2. However, with expanded implementation, he anticipates a significant cost reduction.
“Because we’re coupling our systems with existing infrastructure, like desalination plants and coastal power plants, we can leverage the cost of that existing infrastructure to enable benefits for them while also reducing our costs,” Tarbell said.