Replace, Reduce and Remove.

The 3Rs that constitute the three-pronged approach espoused by PUB, the national water agency of Singapore, in its hefty goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2045. The strategy by PUB focuses on replacing fossil fuels with renewable solar energy, investing in research and development to reduce the energy required in water-treatment processes, and capturing and removing carbon released into the atmosphere.

In an ambitious move to combat climate change and attain its lofty aim of achieving net zero emissions by 2045, PUB unveiled on 27 February 2024 its upcoming plans for Singapore to host the world’s largest ocean-based carbon removal plant. This ground-breaking initiative, known as “Equatic-1”, represents a collaboration between the carbon removal company, Equatic, the national water agency PUB, and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The announcement details plans to construct a US$20 million facility capable of removing 3,650 metric tons of CO2 from the ocean annually while simultaneously generating 300kg of carbon-negative hydrogen per day.

Equatic-1 leverages a novel method dubbed the “Equatic process” to enhance the ocean’s natural capacity for carbon sequestration. This technique involves the electrolysis of seawater to precipitate carbon dioxide into solid calcium and magnesium-based materials, akin to natural seashell formation. These materials are designed to safely sequester CO2 for over 10,000 years, effectively turning the ocean into a more potent carbon sink. The process also yields carbon-negative hydrogen, a promising clean energy source.

This initiative is a part of Singapore’s broader strategy to reach net zero emissions by 2045, outlined by PUB. The strategy focuses on replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, reducing energy consumption in water treatment, and employing innovative technologies like Equatic-1 to capture and store atmospheric CO2. The project builds on the success of two pilot plants in Los Angeles and Singapore, which began operations in March 2023 and have demonstrated the feasibility of the technology at a smaller scale.

Equatic-1 is set to be commissioned in Tuas, western Singapore, and is expected to begin operations in the last quarter of 2024, starting with the capacity to remove one tonne of CO2 per day. This capacity will be scaled up to 10 tonnes per day by the second quarter of 2025. The project is co-funded by PUB, the National Research Foundation (NRF) Singapore, and UCLA’s Institute for Carbon Management (ICM), with significant contributions from a multidisciplinary team of researchers and technology experts.

The commercial implications of this technology are also significant, with the operation of Equatic-1 expected to generate carbon credits. These credits will be distributed among the project partners according to their funding contributions. Moreover, Equatic has already signed agreements with various companies, including Boeing, to purchase these carbon credits, underscoring the commercial viability and environmental potential of the technology.

In addition to mitigating climate change, the Equatic process presents opportunities for integration with Singapore’s desalination operations, enhancing water security while reducing carbon emissions. The solid carbonates produced can potentially be used in the construction industry, while the hydrogen byproduct may serve as a clean energy source for various industrial applications.

This initiative not only marks a significant step toward Singapore’s climate goals but also represents a scalable solution for global carbon reduction efforts. With its innovative approach to carbon sequestration and clean hydrogen production, Equatic-1 embodies the intersection of technology, sustainability, and industry collaboration, poised to make a significant impact on the fight against climate change.

Other Author: Maria Chang