The Science

Scientific Background and Research

Plants affect Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations

90% of the coal on earth originated from the Carboniferous Epoch of Geologic History. Carboniferous means means "Coal Bearing" and the era lasted from 360 to 298 Million Years Ago. Land was covered by large woody plants, trees, and ferns. However, bacteria and fungi had not yet evolved the ability to break down lignin - the woody fiber that makes up trees. As a result trees were buried on top of each other in massive wetland 'coal-forest' and did not decompose. Millions of years later, these trees resulted in the the coal-seams mined today.

Today, we’re working to recreate this process using the naturally occurring properties of anoxic basins. We seek to reproduce a geologic process on a human time-scale.

Types of Plants We Use

In order to keep carbon out of the atmosphere for a thousand years or more, we use terrestrial materials that are rich in hard-to-break-down molecules like lignin and cellulose. Agricultural byproducts are an ideal source of this type of organic carbon because the leftover plant stalks, and the infrastructure to sustainably harvest and transport them, already exist. Our research program includes sugarcane bagasse, corn stalks and leaves, and wheat straw as potential biomass types.

What do we still need to learn? 

Our interdisciplinary team conducts research to assess the effectiveness and environmental impacts of large-scale anoxic basin carbon storage for climate mitigation, relying on rigorous and transparent methods to guide our sequestration efforts.

Current research projects

Deep Dive into More Information

Our science collaborators at the University of California Santa Barbara recently published a study estimating the sequestration capacity of three important anoxic basins: Orca Basin in the Gulf of Mexico, Cariaco Basin, and the Black Sea. Read the pre-print here: doi:10.22541essoar.168276141.13056479/v1
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