Vesta

Pilot Project for Coastal Carbon Capture - Duck, North Carolina

coastal carbon capture in Duck, NC.

Vesta plans to place olivine sand in the nearshore waters off Duck, N.C. between the beginning of May and the beginning of July, 2024. The project will implement Coastal Carbon CaptureTM (CCC) as a small-scale field pilot to advance climate science research. CCC is a new technique inspired by Coastal Enhanced Weathering (CEW), which accelerates the Earth’s natural process for removing atmospheric carbon dioxide - the pollutant driving unprecedented climate change. The project has been permitted under the federal Clean Water Act and North Carolina’s Coastal Area Management Act. The 18-month review of this project included extensive scrutiny, feedback, and discussion with state and federal resources and wildlife agencies. It also comes on the heels of our field pilot in Southampton, New York, where ongoing analyses of two years of monitoring work have to date indicated no significant ecological impact.

In Duck, we are planning 3 years of ecological monitoring, with the option for the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to approve shortening monitoring to two years if no impacts are identified.

Our monitoring program will be led by Hourglass Climate - an independent research non-profit - and supported by UNC Greensboro, UNC Wilmington, the ECU Coastal Studies Institute, and the US Army Corps (USACE) Field Research Facility (FRF) located in Duck. Monitoring results will be shared publicly, including with regulatory agencies, and published in peer-reviewed journals.

Project Logistics

Location, Area and Size

7,000 cubic yards of olivine sand will be placed in a 300-foot by 2200-foot corridor just north of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Field Research Facility pier. This corridor begins 1500 feet offshore in 25 feet of water and is inaccessible from shore without specialized equipment.

Deployment equipment and contractor

The olivine will be placed by a vessel known as a split-hull scow that will be pulled by a tugboat from Elizabeth River, Virginia. The vessel is operated by McClean Marine Contracting, a company with over a century of experience in coastal protection and restoration, beach nourishment, and infrastructure projects across North Carolina and the East Coast.

A ship in carrying olivine sand off the coast of North Carolina.

TIMING

Favorable weather is the greatest factor in determining the exact deployment timing. We will update the community when favorable conditions are forecasted and deployment timing becomes clear.

Once the deployment begins, we expect vessels will be on-site for less than four hours, with the actual deployment of sand taking only a few minutes. We expect it will take three trips, and the shortest turnaround we expect between barge loads is 5 days.

Safety and environmental protection

We expect no risks or impacts to swimmers or beachgoers as the deployment will occur 1500 feet offshore.  There will be no beach closures and no deployment equipment will be launched from the beach. As is a regular occurrence for Duck beach users, an amphibious vehicle from the Army Corps of Engineers may be used in monitoring the deployment and would be launched from the beach.

A marine mammal observer will be present on the tugboat. This professional observer is tasked with monitoring for whales and other marine mammals, and would temporarily halt sand placement should any protected marine species be present.

Similarly, a smaller vessel will be monitoring for the presence of Atlantic sturgeon, and would temporarily halt deployment should one be detected within the deployment area.

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faq

WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF THIS PROJECT?

This project is designed to help the world understand the role Coastal Carbon Capture could play in removing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to minimize impacts of climate change.

Our goals are to deploy olivine sand as a nearshore berm, monitor the effects to guide future projects and develop methods for tracking the movement of olivine sand.

Consistent with our commitment to transparency, our multi-year monitoring plan will be fully executed by independent third parties.  The results of this pilot project will be shared publicly, through publicly available reports to regulators, and peer-reviewed scientific journals.

HOW DO YOU KNOW THE PROJECT IS SAFE?

The project has been designed with safety in mind from the beginning. The project is less than 1.5% the size of the recent, unrelated beach nourishment undertaken by the Town of Duck. Previous field trials and laboratory studies strongly indicate there will be no significant or long-lasting negative impacts of olivine sand deployment to the environment. After deployment, we have an extensive multi-year monitoring plan to track potential environmental changes. 

So far, Vesta has deployed olivine sand in Southampton, NY, where ongoing analyses of two years of monitoring work have to date indicated no significant ecological impact. Olivine is found in coastal habitats worldwide. For example, there are natural olivine sand beaches around the world. Vesta completed an extensive study of Papakōlea Beach, the most significant of these, located on the Big Island of Hawaii. The study was conducted in collaboration with the University of Antwerp, Whitman College, and California Polytechnical State University  San Luis Obispo. Results from that study also indicate no negative environmental impacts from naturally occurring olivine beaches.

In addition, we have done laboratory toxicity tests, conducted in collaboration with a National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program certified laboratory, and found no significant impacts on key marine organisms such as amphipods and polychaete worms.

Last, but not least, this project has undergone an 18-month review by numerous state and federal agencies, with permits being granted by the Army Corps of Engineers under the Clean Water Act, and North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality under the Coastal Area Management Act.  The Army Corps Clean Water Act review resulted in a “Finding of No Significant Impact”.  

why duck?

Vesta chose to undertake this project offshore of Duck, N.C. because the Duck coastal region is one of the most studied and best-understood American coastlines, making it an excellent location to conduct a careful, small-scale olivine placement pilot project. The presence of the USACE Field Research Facility and efforts by Dare County and the Town of Duck to study and manage the beach make it an invaluable location for scientific research. Additionally, the opportunity to work cooperatively with the USACE and the local community makes Duck especially suitable for this project.

WHAT IS COASTAL CARBON CAPTURE?

Coastal Carbon Capture is a technique for removing atmospheric carbon dioxide and reducing ocean acidity that could also be used to add sand to coastal protection projects. It consists of placing carbon-removing sand made of the natural mineral olivine in coastal waters. The dissolution of the carbon-removing sand in seawater accelerates the natural process of CO2 removal and storage by mineral weathering, which has regulated the Earth’s climate for billions of years (see figure below).

CCC

The scientific basis for CCC is called Coastal Enhanced Weathering in the academic literature and has been studied for over a decade. CCC is one form of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) that falls under an umbrella of CDR strategies called “Ocean Alkalinity Enhancement” (OAE). In its 2021 ocean report, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, & Medicine highlighted that OAE has the potential to be one of the world’s most effective and scalable climate solutions.

WHAT IS OLIVINE SAND?

Olivine is a common, naturally occurring mineral that is similar to the quartz sand that makes up the majority of Duck’s beaches. Like all rocks and minerals, olivine dissolves over decades in a natural process called mineral weathering.

However, unlike many other minerals, olivine removes atmospheric CO2 as it dissolves in water and permanently stores it in the ocean. This process also counteracts the harmful effects of ocean acidification.

For billions of years, olivine has been naturally and slowly removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Coastal Carbon Capture accelerates this process.

Olivine mineral deposits are found worldwide. Olivine for the Duck project will come from Norway, which is home to one of the few active mines worldwide, and is 100% powered by renewable energy.  The olivine sand will be milled to be compatible with the native sand found along Duck’s coastline.

WILL THE OLIVINE SAND IMPACT THE BEACH?

By limiting the project’s scale and carefully selecting the deployment zone at least 1,500 feet offshore, modeling suggests the project is unlikely to have any significant impacts on the Duck beach. Our science team has conducted extensive sediment transport modeling for over a year under long-term normal and storm (including hurricanes) conditions which demonstrates that no significant quantities of sand should migrate to the beach.

How is the US Army Corps involved?

We are collaborating with researchers at the US Army Corps (USACE) Field Research Facility (FRF) located in Duck on this project, and the USACE Engineering with Nature (EWN) program is partially funding this work.

How MUCH CLIMATE BENEFIT WILL THE PROJECT HAVE?

This 7,000 cubic yard pilot is projected to remove the equivalent of one year of carbon dioxide pollution from more than 1,000 cars. We estimate the project will remove 10 times more pollution than it creates.

A tool known as a “life cycle assessment” has been used to identify all carbon added or removed during the project. Verifying our predictions with real-world conditions is a key part of what we want to understand from this project.

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Vesta's hybrid structure enables philanthropic donations to fund open research in the field of Coastal Carbon Capture. For all large gift enquiries, PLEASE EMAIL OUR Development team