Pilot Project for Coastal Carbon Capture - Duck, North Carolina
Vesta is planning a pilot placement of olivine sand in the nearshore waters off Duck, N.C. The project would 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 CO2. For detailed information, please see below.
Vesta’s affiliate, Vesta North Carolina, PBLLC, has submitted all the necessary permit applications to the regulatory authorities for review and public comment. You can find the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) public notice here. The permit application is publicly available here. A comprehensive environmental assessment prepared by Vesta is publicly available here.
Coastal Carbon Capture is a technique for removing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and reducing ocean acidity. 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). 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.
Olivine is a common, naturally occurring silicate mineral (Mg2SiO4) similar to quartz sand (SiO2). Quartz makes up the majority of Duck’s native sand. Like all rocks and minerals, olivine dissolves over decades in a natural process called mineral weathering.
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 including in western North Carolina, though there are no large-scale commercial olivine mines presently operating in NC. Hence, olivine for this project will come from a mine in Norway which will prepare olivine sand to be compatible with the native sand found along Duck’s coastline.
The objectives of this small-scale pilot project are to
Our monitoring program will operate for a minimum of two years and will provide critical information to determine the utility, viability, and suitability of large-scale olivine sand deployments in relation to the objectives above.
At present, the scope of the project consists of 6,150 cu yd of olivine sand placed as a nearshore berm at least 1,500 ft offshore from the Town of Duck coastline. Olivine would be placed on the seafloor and not be visible from shore nor expected to significantly migrate onto the beach. Modeling analysis of sand transport predicts that only trace amounts of the olivine will move onto the beach. The sand volume is ~1% the size of the 2022 Duck Shore Protection Project (494,000 cu yd). This proposed pilot is independent of the Shore Protection Project.
Upon receiving the permits, project construction is expected to begin in Spring 2023. Assuming no weather or construction delays, project construction will be completed in 7 to 14 days. No construction equipment or materials will be staged or operated from the beach at any time. There will be no restrictions on public beach use or access.
We are collaborating with researchers at UNC Greensboro and 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. Please see the Engineering with Nature Fact Sheet here.
We are also exploring academic collaborations with the nearby Coastal Studies Institute and UNC Wilmington.
This carbon-removing project is expected to remove more CO2 than it emits, meaning it will have an overall beneficial effect on the climate.
There are CO2 emissions associated with the project, for example transporting the olivine from its origin to the deployment site.
Through critical Life-Cycle-Assessments will be used to identify all carbon emissions involved in the project, we estimate that the project will remove approximately 10x more CO2 from the atmosphere than the emissions from the project. The specific amount will be determined through our science program.
• Project Scoping & Outreach
• First town council meeting (June)
• Second Town Council Presentation (February)
• Collaboration between scientists at Vesta and researchers at the US Army Corps begins
• Permit submitted and opened for public comment
• Vesta holds public information session with local community (November)
• Olivine Sand Placement
• Scientific Monitoring
• Project Closeout and reporting
The Vesta Monitoring Program (VMP) includes a suite of survey and sensor-based measurements to demonstrate both the suitability and carbon-removal efficiency of Coastal Carbon Capture through rigorous, multidisciplinary scientific study. Vesta personnel and collaborators will be on site performing surveys periodically throughout the project life cycle.
Low-profile, continuous monitoring sensors will be installed at several locations within the project site. An Aqualink Smart Buoy will provide real-time monitoring data, publicly accessible at aqualink.org. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please see the Project Site below
• Trace metals
• Dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC)
• Dissolved oxygen
• Grain size
• Olivine content
• Carbonate content
• Secondary minerals
• Organic content
• Lateral sediment transport
• Vertical sediment sorting
• Wave dynamics
• Species abundance
• Species distribution
• Tissue Trace Metal Content
• Chlorophyll A
Modeling suggests that this project is unlikely to have any significant impacts on the Duck beach by limiting its scale and carefully selecting the deployment zone 1,500 feet offshore. Our science team has conducted extensive sediment transport modeling for over a year under hurricane conditions and long-term normal conditions to ensure that no significant quantities of sand will migrate to the beach. We are happy to confirm that there will thus be no impact on beach color.
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 make Duck especially suitable for this pilot project.
Yes, Vesta has undertaken two small-scale olivine placement projects in the US and is monitoring those placements carefully. So far, Vesta has deployed olivine sand in Southampton, NY and in a small-scale marsh application in Massachusetts in collaboration with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, the US National Park Service, and the US Geological Survey. There are also natural olivine sand beaches around the world and Vesta has undertaken an extensive study of one located on the Big Island of Hawaii called Papakōlea in collaboration with the University of Antwerp, Whitman College, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Beyond these real world field studies, the use of olivine sand for carbon dioxide removal has been investigated in laboratory studies and models by university researchers for decades.
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.
Olivine is a natural silicate mineral, similar to the quartz and feldspar that comprise the majority of Duck’s native sand. It is commonly found in western North Carolina. Olivine reduces harmful ocean acidity and enhances natural removal of atmospheric CO2 by the ocean.
Olivine is found in coastal habitats around the world. Toxicity tests, conducted by a NELAP certified laboratory (National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program), found no significant impacts on key marine organisms such as amphipods and polychaete worms.
The proposed project will place olivine 1,500 feet offshore and is therefore not expected to meaningfully impact the Duck beach.
Yes. The State of NY permitted an olivine field pilot in 2022. Learn more at vesta.earth/southampton.
A ~6,000 cu yd pilot is projected to remove one year of CO2 emissions of ~1,000 cars.