Modified grass offers possible solution to global CO² problemHENGELO, Netherlands
Dutch company Carbon-Alert is working in Colombia to solve the world’s carbon problem by creating artificial peat. A new plant species is thought to be able to speed up this process to a very high degree, resulting in the storage of millions of tons of CO² underground.
How does it work?
Carbon-Alert plants so-called Juncao grass in Colombia. This plant, also called giant grass, comes from the African tropics and was modified in China. It grows very quickly under warm conditions, up to 5 metres in 2 months. More importantly, it absorbs an extreme amount of CO², as discovered by Chinese researcher Lei Xuejun, director of the Carbon Cycle Research Centre at the Central South University of Forestry & Technology in Hunan. Carbon-Alert wants to partially liquefy the plant and inject it under the groundwater. As a result, all the CO² the plant takes from the air disappears into the soil. This is an accelerated form of peat formation, as the Earth has purportedly been doing for 200 million years.
Carbon-Alert is kicking off its project with 4000 hectares of land in Colombia. There is an important reason for this: the giant grass requires night temperatures of at least 20 degrees. This represents a huge opportunity for innovation in tropical regions. Trees were to be planted on the site, which in the long run would store about 0.5 to 1 ton of root carbon in the soil. However, the giant grass absorbs about 200 to 300 times more CO², according to research by Lei Xuejun*. Moreover, the plant does not bear seeds and is therefore not invasive.
What does it produce?
Carbon-Alert calculated that 1 million km² of grass offsets all CO² emissions worldwide**. ‘An area the size of half of Europe’, explains initiator Jacobus van Merksteijn. ‘A huge area, but also a natural alternative for all the solar panels, wind turbines and electric cars in the world. The process provides CO² storage, but it can also help fertilise desert areas, produce biomass, bioethanol and green plastic, and offset oil, coal and gas.’
The injected CO² is seen as so-called CO² SINK, which can be converted into Certificates. These can be purchased by companies to offset their emissions. The Netherlands currently sells about €1 billion worth of CO² certificates, without compensation. By converting the giant grass CO² storage in tropical areas into certificates, we are able to actually convert these amounts into valuable CO² reductions. This generates revenue for governments and opportunities for business.
About the project
Carbon-Alert was founded by entrepreneur Jacobus van Merksteijn and aims to effectively tackle the global climate problem by harnessing the power of nature. Albert van den Berg, director of the nano-institute MESA+ at the University of Twente, which is part of a consortium looking for solutions to the CO² problem, says: ‘Van Merkstein’s plan for negative-emission technology is worth studying. We have to check the calculations, but the plan is certainly an original idea. It could indeed be an option.’
Carbon-Alert works with partners such as the Swiss company aXedras and several investors including VerdorCapital. The entire process is carried out in accordance with internationally recognised standards such as UNFCCC-CDM, VCS and Gold Standard and is audited and verified by independent external organisations.
For presentations and images, please visit: www.carbon-alert.com
*Source: (source: http://www.china.org.cn/environment/2015-12/02/content_37212397.htm)
** Source calculation in presentation on https://carbon-alert.com/
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SOURCE: Carbon Alert BV