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Startup Capture6 aims to tackle climate change and water scarcity through a pioneering technology merging carbon capture with seawater desalination.

In a significant stride towards addressing climate change and water scarcity, a California and New Zealand-based climate tech startup, Capture6, has embarked on an ambitious journey to combine carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere with seawater desalination. This innovative venture has been brought to life through a collaboration with South Korea's state-owned water utility, K-water, and wastewater treatment company, BKT, marking a groundbreaking approach to environmental preservation and resource management.

The partnership seeks to establish the world's first fully integrated facility that not only addresses the urgent need for fresh water through seawater desalination but also contributes to the fight against climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Dubbed 'Project Octopus,' the initiative represents a bold step in the realm of climate technology, aiming to eventually remove hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide annually, thereby setting a precedent for similar endeavors globally.

Project Octopus stands out with its unique method of operation, particularly in how it addresses one of the major drawbacks of desalination plants – the production of salty brine, which poses environmental hazards when discharged into the surrounding ecosystem. Instead of following the conventional path, Capture6 innovatively utilizes this brine in its carbon removal process. The company extracts salt from the wastewater, employing it as a crucial component in a liquid sorbent that effectively captures atmospheric CO2. This interaction results in the formation of a stable, limestone-like mineral, effectively sequestering the greenhouse gas and preventing its re-entry into the atmosphere. Moreover, the process yields fresh water as a valuable byproduct, offering a potential solution to regions grappling with water scarcity.

What’s unique about Project Octopus is how it’s expected to work in tandem with a plant that turns seawater into fresh water. One downside with desalination plants is that they produce salty brine that can be harmful when released into the surrounding environment. Capture6 instead uses that wastewater in its carbon removal process, extracting salt that it then uses as a feedstock for a liquid sorbent that reacts with CO2 in the air.

Despite the promise and innovative nature of Project Octopus, the technology is not without its challenges and criticisms. According to The Verge, both direct air capture (DAC) and desalination plants are energy-intensive, raising concerns about their environmental footprint, especially considering that the pilot facility will rely on the grid, predominantly powered by fossil fuels. This reliance underscores a paradox wherein the very project designed to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions may inadvertently contribute to them, albeit to a lesser extent than the industries it aims to serve.

The pilot project, set to commence construction within the year, is expected to initially capture 500 metric tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide annually, with plans to scale up significantly if the technology proves successful and commercially viable. However, the ambitions of Project Octopus extend beyond mere carbon capture. It also aspires to filter an additional 500 metric tons of CO2 directly from industrial smokestacks before its release into the atmosphere, showcasing a multifaceted approach to tackling emissions.

While the project's potential impact is noteworthy, it is essential to recognize that it addresses only a fraction of the carbon emissions attributed to South Korea's Daesan Industrial Complex, a major petrochemical hub responsible for 40 percent of the nation's petrochemical output. As global efforts intensify to halve CO2 emissions by the end of this decade, as stipulated by the Paris Agreement, ventures like Project Octopus highlight the complex interplay between innovation, industry, and environmental stewardship, offering a glimpse into the multifaceted strategies required to navigate the challenges of climate change and resource scarcity.

Eunice is a sustainability writer whose passion is sharing accessible eco-friendly practices with GreenCitizen's global readership. She enjoys birdwatching during her downtime, often deriving inspiration from nature's resilience. An enthusiastic cyclist, she is also an ardent advocate of eco-friendly transport.

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