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New seaweed farm off the Norwegian coast seeks to remove CO2 from the atmosphere

Kelp lines deployed offshore at the test-site.
A new seaweed farm have been established off the coast of Trøndelag. The project kicked off last year. This summer the cultivation license was granted and now the first seaweed seedlings have been deployed. The offshore facility will be used, among other purposes, to test how large-scale kelp cultivation can become a cost-effective and sustainable ocean-based carbon removal solution.

The search for effective and sustainable solutions for carbon capture and storage intensifies. Large-scale seaweed cultivation may present an opportunity to capture substantial amounts of carbon. Researchers and industry players are now collaborating on a three-year pilot project to investigate if kelp can assist in ocean-based carbon removal solutions.

If successful, it could contribute to substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions and thereby achieving climate goals, while also providing Norway with new industries and job opportunities.

Project results can become verified methodology for CO2 capture and storage

The pilot project is called JIP Seaweed Carbon Solutions and has a budget of NOK 50 million. The partners in the project include SINTEF, DNV, Equinor, Aker BP, Wintershall Dea and Ocean Rainforest.

“DNV’s research shows that in addition to a dramatic acceleration of renewable energy, carbon capture and removal technologies are essential to reach Net Zero, and seaweed biochar can potentially be one of these, says Ellen Skarsgård, Head of Sustainability Development and Climate at DNV.

“In this project, DNV will contribute towards developing a verified methodology for carbon capture and storage with seaweed, considering both the CO₂ removal potential and other environmental impacts and benefits.”

The seaweed seedlings grow fast in the beneficial conditions on the coast of Trøndelag, and are ready to be harvested in the spring/summer of 2024. Photo: SINTEF Ocean

Many initiatives focus on reducing emissions, whereas the goal of this project is to research how already emitted carbon dioxide (CO₂), can be removed from the atmosphere. Additionally, researchers will examine how the carbon dioxide can be stored.

“To remove CO₂ molecules from the Earth's natural cycle, we will explore the possibilities of using chemical processes to transform the seaweed into biochar, which can then be used for soil improvement,” says Senior Researcher Jorunn Skjermo at SINTEF.

Proof of concept is key before upscaling

The licensed aquaculture site, which covers 200 decares, is now ready to receive the first seaweed seedlings that have been cultivated in laboratories. The multi-functional demonstration site allows the researchers to test innovative aquaculture technologies, both for biomass and environmental monitoring, and cultivation strategies for yield optimization as well as technology for harvesting the biomass.

From November, the seedlings will grow in favourable conditions off the Trøndelag coast for eight to ten months. The first harvest will take place in the summer of 2024. Researchers estimate the seaweed yield will be approximately 150 tons in the first season.

"150 tonnes of biomass could potentially capture 15 tonnes of CO2 with today's technology. It may not sound like much, but the first goal of the project is proof of concept and to see how we can develop and demonstrate cultivation technologies and storage solutions, and after that will come the upscaling of the technology," says Skjermo.

"We believe that seaweed can become a very important resource for managing CO2, and it's urgent to get started."

Large-scale kelp cultivation can become a cost-effective and sustainable ocean-based carbon removal solution. Photo: Daniel Gløsen/SINTEF Ocean

"We are very pleased to have obtained our cultivation licence and we are happy with the positive process we have had together with local authorities and The Norwegian Fishermen’s Association to find a good solution for the location of the ocean cultivation unit.

The site allows us to design, build, operate, and evaluate offshore, large-scale kelp production, which we believe is a way to manage CO2," says Skjermo.

Facts about the seaweed farm
The seaweed farm is located off the coast of Mid-Norway, outside the island of Frøya, at Storflua in Frohavet.
The ocean cultivation unit is part of the Norwegian Seaweed Centre funded by the Norwegian Research Council.
The cultivation unit will be used by several major kelp research projects.
SINTEF Ocean obtained the aquaculture licence in the summer of 2023.
The facility covers 200 decares and the farm has currently a capacity of 55,000 meters of kelp lines.

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