Sea Technology

SEP 2017

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Page 65 of 68 September 2017 / st 65 are sequestered. Eighty-eight percent of the sequestered carbon is transport- ed and sequestered in the deep sea. The European Union has identi- fied the need for development of sea- weed farming as a means of utilizing the northern European marine envi- ronment and providing good jobs for coastal villages. The EU funded a pro- gram to examine advanced textiles for open-sea cultivation of seaweed, specifically looking at 2D seaweed cultivation substrates. The result was a spin-off technology company, AT~SEA Technologies in Belgium. AT~SEA, with support from textile giant Sioen Industries, has developed sheets of ad- vanced textile at 2 by 10 m. The sheets can be seeded with algal spores and set on buoy lines for a growth season of four to six months. A consortium of companies with expertise in spin- ning, weaving and applying coatings to textiles, cables for anchoring, and chemical dispersant of fertilizer via mi- crocapsules joined the effort. The tech- nology won the New Materials cat- egory at Techtextil 2015. AT~SEA now offers turnkey seaweed farm systems to supply food and food additives and biomaterials for cosmetic and pharma- ceutical markets, and will eventually produce biomass for biofuels. This is the first attempt at offering a solution for industrial-scale cultivation of seaweed for the European Market. Labor costs need to be considered in designing cost-effective and economi- cally feasible operations. If the sheets can be wound on rollers with the floa- tation incorporated into the sheets, then the cultivation sheets could be deployed by aerial or marine drones and harvested remotely by robots. Such innovation bodes well for sea- weed as an ocean solution. We should stay tuned for the role of seaweed in the coming years in improving coastal water health and providing local jobs. The oceans are important for the health and security of any water-bound country. As VAdm. Paul Gaffney II (U.S. Navy, retired) wrote in an editorial in USA Today in June, the new presiden- tial administration must not "forget the oceans" as it builds a policy framework for the nation. ST tion; and development of advanced breeding tools. The program's goal is to meet 10 percent of domestic energy need from biofuels derived from sea- weed in three decades. That ambition represents 200 million dry tons annu- ally. Costs targets are under $80 per dry ton. Mark Capron, a wastewater treat- ment engineer from Ventura, Califor- nia, and his team at Ocean Foresters has a vision of creating massive sea- weed-based ecosystems that produce biofuels for energy, expand food sup- ply and sequester carbon dioxide. This vision won in the Most Innovative Busi- ness Model and Technology category at the 2017 American Society of Civil Engineers' Grand Challenge to adopt innovation to reduce infrastructure life cycle costs by 50 percent by 2025. Seaweed plantations are envi- sioned to total the size of Nebraska in the Gulf of Mexico, reusing nutrients from the Mississippi River and waste- water treatment plants, significantly reducing wastewater treatment costs, eliminating dead zones and restoring the health of the ocean. This is based on seaweed's conversion of carbon via photosynthesis that yields production of food and biofuels. Revenue of $50 billion per year in seaweed for biofuel, $50 billion per year in fish and shellfish (25 times the current U.S. seafood con- sumption) and savings in the hundreds of millions for disposal costs at waste- water treatment facilities are projected. Benefits also include restored biodiver- sity and rectifying dead zones by uti- lizing a greater portion of the nutrients in agricultural runoff. Offshore oil and gas structures in the Gulf of Mexico can serve as existing assets to construct and build out massive seaweed farms. Newer technologies related to automa- tion of tasks associated with the culti- vation, harvesting and processing of seaweed are in development. An important aspect of the growth of ocean forests is the role macroalgae have in pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Macroalgae cover 3.5 million sq. km in coastal areas and have net primary production on the or- der of 1,520 terragrams of carbon per year, of which 173 terragrams per year Oceanographer Dr. Anthony T. Jones uses his deep knowledge of ocean processes to solve ocean challeng- es. Jones founded Intake Works LLC in Sacramento, Califor- nia, to deliver clear, sterile saltwater to de- salination facilities while "leaving the fish in the sea." The company comprises oceanog- raphers, marine and coastal geologists, and experts in horizontal directional drilling and marine construction. T he U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) forecasts that by 2050 the energy portfolio will have a large bio- fuel component. Current biofuels from subsidized corn for ethanol produc- tion is unsustainable; besides, corn has higher value as a food and animal feed supply. Terrestrial sources of biomass compete for arable land, freshwater and fertilizer with conventional agri- cultural demands. DOE recognizes the extensive underutilized space avail- able in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which is one of the world's largest and exceeds the terrestrial space of the U.S. In the EEZ, there is plenty of water and space for marine biomass cultivation, plus a reservoir of nutrients below the thermocline. This year, DOE's Advanced Re- search Projects Agency (ARPA-E) launched the research program Mac- roalgae Research Inspiring Novel En- ergy Resources (MARINER) to fund projects to advance disruptive culti- vation and harvesting techniques to enable profitable and energy-efficient production of marine biomass with seaweeds or macroalgae in the oceans. Traditionally, seaweed cultivation is la- bor intensive in sheltered embayments, primarily in Asia, not in open ocean or offshore environments. The challenge is to develop industrial-size economies of scale to supply biofuels or chemi- cals at costs below comparative terres- trial biomass production. The four areas of interest of ARPA- E MARINER are: the design and field testing of integrated cultivation and harvest systems; models to support operations; sensors to monitor growth, composition and nutrient concentra- soap box Cultivating Marine Biomass as an Ocean Solution—Dr. Anthony T. Jones

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