A guide to frontier carbon removal and the technology behind it - Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

A guide to frontier carbon removal and the technology behind it

May 4, 2022

In this article:


What are frontier carbon removal projects?

Over the last decade, amazing strides have been made in the development of new and innovative carbon removal processes. Many of these newer (frontier) technologies are still in their infancy stages; however they provide unparalleled durability and scale over the more traditional methods. 

In fact, these technologies are so durable that they allow for carbon to be safely removed and stored for thousands of years (crazy right?). Yes, you read that correctly. Thanks to innovative sequestration methods, and modern technology, the carbon that is absorbed can be rendered effectively harmless. 

Why is this a big deal? Well, up until the last 10 or so years the majority of carbon removal measures (like forestation) guaranteed carbon storage for roughly 50 years before releasing it back into the atmosphere. Simply put, we can’t plant enough trees to combat the climate change we are causing. 


Why does carbon need to be removed?

As you learned in our article about retail's impact on our climate, our everyday living has a heavy toll on the environment. Now we don’t want to scare you (but perhaps we should), but if we don’t act soon, it will be too late.  

Global warming is real, and we are already feeling its effects in disastrous ways. From rising sea levels, to uncontrollable wildfires, our earth is literally screaming at us to change. Luckily, the masses finally understand the negative effects of CO2


What are the different types of carbon?

Categories of carbon removal are categorized by different colors that represent where the carbon is removed from and the method and resources that are used. Each type of carbon has different effects on the climate. 

Let’s take a look! 

Types of Carbon

Carbon Type About
Black Carbon Carbon that is produced by the burning of fossil fuels and released into the atmosphere.
Brown Carbon Carbon that originates primarily during the burning of organic biomass.
Blue Carbon Blue Carbon refers to carbon that is absorbed in coastal, aquatic, and marine carbon sinks and held by the indicative vegetation, marine organisms, and sediments.
Green Carbon Carbon absorbed through photosynthesis and stored in plants and soil in natural ecosystems.

What are the different CO2 removal technologies?

Various carbon removal technologies and how they capture and store CO2.

Direct Air Capture:

A technology called direct air capture (DAC) removes CO2 from the air by filtering it out leveraging a fan-like machine—and then converting the CO2 that is removed into concentrated carbon that can then be sequestered.  

Pyrolysis:

The process of heating organic material in a controlled, limited-oxygen environment that creates what is known as Biochar, a black, fine-grain, porous substance that contains stable carbon.

By capturing the CO2 absorbed by plants and turning it into a substance that can be added to soil, Biochar allows for CO2 to be permanently sequestered, rather than releasing it back out into the environment during decomposition. 

Here's what the final product looks like:

Mineralization:

During mineralization, which occurs when carbon mixes with other minerals, carbon takes on a new form—which means it cannot escape. There are two basic categories of mineralization, which are based on where the process takes place. 

  • Underground mineralization: where liquid carbonate mixes into rocks like basalt, olivine, and others deep underground.
  • Above ground mineralization: Also known as Enhanced mineralization, is a carbon removal technology by which weathering is sped up via industrial processes in order to sequester carbon. 

Biological storage:

Biological carbon sequestration occurs naturally when plants photosynthesize. During the process, plants store carbon they don’t use for growth in the soil they’re planted in. 

“Wait… this happens naturally? So it isn't a problem then.”

Not so fast. Although plants naturally store and use carbon, the rate in which we burn and create greenhouse gasses (GHG) far outpaces the carbon removal effects plants have. To put it plainly… we don’t have enough trees to even begin to fix the problem.  

There are several ways carbon is biologically stored:

Types of Carbon Storage

Storage Type About Example Project
Sequestration in soil Carbon naturally occurs in soil, and can be stored there via regenerative. Ecoera
Sequestration in the seas Types of ocean-related carbon sequestration methods include encouraging the growth of plankton and seaweed. Ocean-based Climate Solutions
Sequestration in forests Reforestation (or planting more trees) coupled with forest management can be a major contributor to natural carbon storage. NCX


Here are a few carbon removal projects

At Neutrl, we fund some of the world's leading carbon removal technologies. Here are a few we wanted to highlight! 

NCX 

NCX connects corporations to the landowners, habitats, and communities they impact through our carbon marketplace. By drawing on our years of precision forest management, we enable net-zero pioneers to purchase carbon credits with immediate, verifiable impact and landowners to quantify the full value of their forests.

Ocean-based climate solutions

Uses infinite ocean wave energy to grow phytoplankton, that like trees absorb carbon dioxide, but much faster and feed fish in the sea. When these plankton die they sink to the mid & deep ocean where the carbon is stored for centuries.

greenSand

A Dutch company called greenSand is putting an innovative spin on surface mineralization. They collect green sand, crushed bits of rock rich in olivine that show up on beaches in countries like Spain, Norway, Cyprus, Turkey, Iran, Greece, and the United States; and then package them for use in soil, gardens, and construction projects.

Ecoera

ECOERA uses an industrial symbiosis solution starting with using agricultural residues rich in carbon and creating a balanced pellet out of them. The pellets are then carbonized where heat is released and utilized. 

Climeworks

Climeworks develops, builds and operates direct air capture machines using a technology which captures carbon dioxide directly from the air; removing unavoidable and historic CO2 emissions.

FAQ

Want to learn more?
FAQs Frontier Carbon Removal

What are frontier carbon removal projects?

Frontier carbon removal projects is simply a term used to define current, and often still evolving, carbon removal methods.


What are the different types of carbon?

There are four main types of carbon: Black (Carbon that is produced by the burning of fossil fuels), Brown (Carbon that originates primarily during the burning of organic biomass), Blue (coastal, aquatic, and marine carbon sinks), and Green (Carbon removed through photosynthesis and stored in plants and soil in natural ecosystems).


Is carbon removed by frontier technologies permanent?

It is very difficult to say whether or not these methods allow for permanent removal. What we do know however, is that these frontier removal methods allow for carbon to be safely stored for tens of thousands of years.


Why does carbon need to be removed?

Carbon is a naturally occurring substance; however, as we all know, too much of anything is a bad thing. Too much carbon in our atmosphere is a leading cause of global warming and the current climate crisis.

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