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Electrolysis-driven weathering of basic minerals for long-term ocean buffering and CO2 reduction

Breaking wave in sunlight. Credit: NOAA Ocean Service

Why we care
Ocean alkalinity enhancement has the potential to capture carbon and mitigate ocean acidification. While ocean alkalinity enhancement is a promising approach for removing carbon from the atmosphere, there are important questions about its impacts on the marine environment. A strategic roadmap identifying and addressing concerns about deployment of ocean alkalinity enhancement is an important step for developing this marine carbon dioxide removal approach. This project will use laboratory studies and ocean models to investigate the risks, limitations, and benefits of ocean alkalinity enhancement to inform a Regulatory Strategic Roadmap.  

What we will do
Environmental risks could result from releasing too much alkalinity into ocean waters, as well as releasing harmful byproducts. In order for this method to successfully remove carbon from the atmosphere, it will also need to be powered almost exclusively by renewable energy. To address these risks, the team will develop an alkalinization system for seawater that is simple to control, limits the simultaneous release of harmful byproducts like chlorine, and operates on wave energy. Researchers will design components and procedures that minimize the generation and release of these byproducts while carefully controlling the alkalinity of the effluent. To address sustainably powering the system, the team will test how much power the alkalinization system requires and build a wave-energy power system that can support its operation. Once the technical specifications are established, the team will use circulation and ecosystem models to simulate the addition of alkalinity across a variety of seawater conditions representing real-life Oregon coastal waters where this type of system may be deployed. Modeling will identify the best local conditions for alkalinity enhancement and identify local ecosystem sensitivities to alkalinization actions. Subsequent laboratory experiments will help identify ways to limit impacts of alkalinity enhancement on sensitive life stages of commercially and culturally sensitive species, including California mussels, Olympia oysters, Dungeness crab, and eelgrass. 

Benefits of our work 
Overall, the project will demonstrate proof-of-concept alkalinity addition and wave power systems that could be used in tandem. This project also informs a regulatory roadmap to highlight existing research gaps needed for the regulatory decision making process. This project will use laboratory studies and ocean models to investigate the risks, limitations, and benefits of ocean alkalinity enhancement to inform a Regulatory Strategic Roadmap.

Award amount: $2,000,000
Funding source(s):
Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, Water Power Technologies Office
Project duration: 3 years

Burke Hales, Oregon State University
Yvette Spitz, Oregon State University
Kelsey Stoerzinger, Oregon State University
George Waldbusser, Oregon State University
Simone Alin, NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory
Dick Feely, NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory

Read the press release by Oregon State University

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The NOAA Ocean Acidification Program (OAP) works to prepare society to adapt to the consequences of ocean acidification and conserve marine ecosystems as acidification occurs. Learn more about the human connections and adaptation strategies from these efforts.

Adaptation approaches fostered by the OAP include:


Using models and research to understand the sensitivity of organisms and ecosystems to ocean acidification to make predictions about the future, allowing communities and industries to prepare


Using these models and predictions as tools to facilitate management strategies that will protect marine resources and communities from future changes


Developing innovative tools to help monitor ocean acidification and mitigate changing ocean chemistry locally


On the Road

Drive fuel-efficient vehicles or choose public transportation. Choose your bike or walk! Don't sit idle for more than 30 seconds. Keep your tires properly inflated.

With your Food Choices

Eat local- this helps cut down on production and transport! Reduce your meat and dairy. Compost to avoid food waste ending up in the landfill

With your Food Choices

Make energy-efficient choices for your appliances and lighting. Heat and cool efficiently! Change your air filters and program your thermostat, seal and insulate your home, and support clean energy sources

By Reducing Coastal Acidification

Reduce your use of fertilizers, Improve sewage treatment and run off, and Protect and restore coastal habitats

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You've taken the first step to learn more about ocean acidification - why not spread this knowledge to your community?

Every community has their unique culture, economy and ecology and what’s at stake from ocean acidification may be different depending on where you live.  As a community member, you can take a larger role in educating the public about ocean acidification. Creating awareness is the first step to taking action.  As communities gain traction, neighboring regions that share marine resources can build larger coalitions to address ocean acidification.  Here are some ideas to get started:

  1. Work with informal educators, such as aquarium outreach programs and local non-profits, to teach the public about ocean acidification. Visit our Education & Outreach page to find the newest tools!
  2. Participate in habitat restoration efforts to restore habitats that help mitigate the effects of coastal acidification
  3. Facilitate conversations with local businesses that might be affected by ocean acidification, building a plan for the future.
  4. Partner with local community efforts to mitigate the driver behind ocean acidification  – excess CO2 – such as community supported agriculture, bike & car shares and other public transportation options.
  5. Contact your regional Coastal Acidification Network (CAN) to learn how OA is affecting your region and more ideas about how you can get involved in your community
       More for Taking Community Action