Co-authored by John Buttrick
Of the world’s 2,000 largest public companies, at least 21% now have net-zero commitments. For most of these companies, even with significant emissions reduction, carbon offsetting will be essential to achieving their goals. In fact, all of the 1.5c IPCC scenarios feature annual carbon removal at the gigaton level — somewhere between 8 to 13 gigatons per year.
If removing 8-13 gigatons annually was not challenging enough, the varying quality of carbon removal options makes it even harder. Most of today’s carbon removal solutions, whether nature-based or technological, have drawbacks and trade-offs related to measurement, additionality, price, and permanence. In our view, responsible companies will seek more high-quality carbon removal technologies that are additional, durable, scalable, verifiable, and socially beneficial.1 This is exactly what Brilliant Planet offers. Brilliant Planet has developed a unique microalgae production process that can sequester CO2 at a fraction of the cost of comparable systems.
Microalgae have a photosynthesis conversion efficiency of 6-8%, while that of land plants is approximately 0.1%-0.3%. So it is no wonder that algae account for 50% of the photosynthesis process taking place on Earth. However, to date, microalgae have been used mostly in the production of biofuels, pharmaceuticals, or food ingredients with highly complex and expensive “scaled-up laboratory” systems. Those systems are sensitive to contamination or small changes to water quality, requiring expensive fertilizer and piped in concentrated CO2.
Brilliant Planet recreates natural algae blooms in outdoor ponds in unused areas of coastal deserts. This approach to capturing and sequestering carbon is simple and has a proven field-tested track record in Morocco. Inputs are primarily seawater and sunlight. After harvesting, the microalgae biomass is solar-dried and buried in the desert, where the conditions protect the biomass from biological degradation and result in stable and long-term storage. This “high science, low engineering” approach results in a highly scalable system that reduces cost, complexity, and land-use issues.
The team at Brilliant Planet is led by Raffael and Adam who have deep experience in the science, engineering, and operations of microalgae and aquaculture. We are excited to back Brilliant Planet alongside Toyota Ventures, with participation from AiiM Partners, Future Positive Capital, S2G Ventures, Hatch, Pegasus Tech Ventures, and other existing investors. If you want to be part of this amazing mission and team, Brilliant Planet is actively hiring.
1 These challenges around carbon removal have been outlined and explained at length by Microsoft, Carbon Plan, and Neil Hacker.