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Pilot project in Port Angeles to use the power of the ocean for carbon removal

A view of Sequim Bay from the PNNL Labs, where Ebb Carbon has been testing its carbon removal technology using electrochemical processes and the natural dynamics of seawater
Ebb Carbon
A view of Sequim Bay from the PNNL Labs, where Ebb Carbon has been testing its carbon removal technology using electrochemical processes and the natural dynamics of seawater

A company partnering with the Port of Port Angeles aims to use the natural dynamics of the ocean to pull climate-warming carbon dioxide from the air, starting as soon as this summer. It has begun applying for permits for a two-year pilot project at the port, that said it could safely remove hundreds of tons of carbon a year from the air.

Ebb Carbon is a California startup that plans to use electrochemical processes to filter seawater through a series of tanks and shipping containers on shore into two streams: one alkaline and one acidic. It would then return just the alkaline water back to the ocean, triggering a natural chemical reaction.

Company spokeswoman Kyla Westphal said it would “accelerate the natural processes within the ocean that have been capturing and storing carbon dioxide from the air for millennia.”

How the Ebb carbo removal system works
Courtesy Ebb Carbon
Ebb Carbon
How the Ebb carbo removal system works

She said the pilot project would start small.

“But really, it's a stepping stone to scaling this technology in the future, so that we can ultimately be drawing down millions or even the billions of tons we need to, in order to prevent the worst impacts of climate change,” Westphal said.

Westphal said they would only do so safely and responsibly, with systems in place to monitor the environment closely and ensure that the higher alkaline discharge doesn’t harm local ecosystems.

“So that if we observe anything out of the ordinary, we can take the steps necessary to pause the operation, stop the operations, and really assess what's going on,” she said.

Anne Shaffer, lead scientist with the Coastal Watershed Institute in Port Angeles, said the project is moving too quickly and without proper safeguards.

“No matter what you do, you have to make sure that you do not harm these critical species and their habitats that we've worked for literally decades and invested hundreds of millions of dollars to conserve and restore,” Shaffer said.

She said the proposed state permit would allow the discharge of water that exceeds state limits for temperature and PH. This would be very close to the nearshore area off the mouth of the Elwha River, where multiple endangered species are still recovering after dam removal.

Additionally, she notes that Ebb Carbon is currently testing a smaller-scale method in Sequim in partnership with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The company outlines on its website how at that project, they used treatment systems to neutralize the water before they returned it to the ocean.

“So they know how to do that, and it can be done. They're not doing it in the Port Angeles project,” Shaffer said.

Westphal said its technology is not designed to work in tanks and that it needs the vast surface area of the ocean to maximize the amount of CO2 it can safely draw down.

Additionally, Westphal said Ebb Carbon is also aiming to address the ocean acidification that goes along with climate change (among other effects, it harms shellfish and is sometimes called the ’evil twin’ of climate change.)

By releasing alkaline water into the ocean, the company aims to counteract that.

“And we really can't address coastal acidification if we're releasing our alkalinity into tanks,” Westphal said.

Ebb Carbon still needs permits at the local, state and federal levels. A state water quality permit for the project is open for public comment through May 2. They hope to get those permits in quickly and be up and running by late this summer or early fall.

Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to