USG Leadership on BECS Governance, Demand, Conversion and Within Intergovernmental Treaties

1) Technology Brief:

The Marine Bio Energy and Carbon Sequestration (MBECS) technology can be viewed as a bio-mimic of both the marine 'microbial loop' and the 'biological pump'. The primary exception to those direct analogies is that the carbon/biomass is transferred to terrestrial uses (through production of food, feed, fuel, fertilizer etc.) as opposed to sending the carbon/biomass to the sea floor as does the natural loop/pump.

The use of low cost and durable enclosed reactors, within large scale reactor (tank) farms, allows for close control of the cultivation and thus maximizes the available on-site energy and nutrient use and thus maximizes biomass output. The nutrients are pulled into the system from the nutricline through ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) systems. The OTEC system provides multiple production functions beyond energy conversion. Some minerals, such as olivine, will need to be imported for use in the cultivation (and as a component within an organic fertilizer product). However, the cost of that import is reasonable.

Although the MBECS operations will produce a wide range of marine biomass derived products, the production and use of a well formulated marine biomass based organic fertilizer offers the most aggressive use of the the oceanic/atmospheric CO2 store of any proposal currently being considered by the global STEM community.

At the technical level, the fertilizer would incorporate biochar , as a soil/mycorrhizal/crop enhancer, which offers, under many conditions and combinations of soils/mycorrhizal/crops, carbon sequestration beyond simply sequestering the carbonized biochar into the soil (i.e. healthy soil/mycorrhizal/crops accumulate more carbon than the original biochar carbon volume).

Beyond the biochar carbon sequestration factor, the MBECS operation will be able to employ other carbon sequestration methods such as electro-geochemistry, electro-mineral accretion, and/or sub-sea floor storage. In general, however, the MBECS technology attempts to maximize the use of, not storage of, the oceanic/atmospheric CO2 store. Yet, the in-house use of the more simplistic storage methods are possible and would be acceptable as carbon sequestration augmentation means and methods.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that the primary and overriding global warming mitigation goal of the IMBECS Protocol/Technology is to replace the use of fossil fuels on a global scale. The annual volume of CO2 sequestration (and all other environmental benefits of the technology) represents secondary priorities.

2) The Value of the EPA to the IMBECS Protocol:

2.1) At the Intergovernmental Treaty Level:

Within the relevant working groups a nation/state party typically turns to their most relevant national agencies for guidance on technical issues. Thus, the relevant agencies play an important supportive role to their respective policy makers. At the treaty working group level (i.e. UNFCCC/IMO/CBD etc.), the EPA's evaluation of the MBECS technology and subsequent EPA promotion of such within the treaty working groups, could greatly encourage other treaty members to support an IMBECS Protocol like treaty structure.  

2.2) At the National Level:

The EPA has Congressional guidance on the propagation of biofuel mandates through the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (specifically, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)). However, the current real-world production limitations of biofuel restrict the mandated target volumes from being achieved. The MBECS technology offers the nation a pathway to meeting and or exceeding the current biofuel use targets.

Yet, getting to that mandated volume will require rethinking the biomass factor within the biofuel equation. Simply establishing littoral water biomass production 'fields' within US jurisdiction is highly problematic from both the environmental and the regulatory view. The MBECS concept recognizes the importance of protecting the littoral regions and thus calls for the use of the mid-oceanic gyres.

The gyre based MBECS operations will be flagged as 'ships' and thus will come under the relevant nation/state rules and regulations, along with intergovernmental treaty requirements. Thus, the EPA’s jurisdiction would be expanded out to the US flagged MBECS 'fleet'.

2.3) Brief Summation on the EPA Factor:

The close involvement of the EPA, in the STEM evaluation of the technology, can potentially help establish a high level of STEM consensus at both the national and the intergovernmental treaty levels, as well as, pave the way for increasing the national level biofuel use mandated by Congress through providing regulatory support for and guidance to MBECS like operations.

3) The Value of NOAA to the IMBECS Protocol:

As with the EPA, the value of NOAA to the IMBECS Protocol/Technology, can be foundational on multiple levels. The primary relevant program within NOAA is the International Research and Applications Project (IRAP) which attempts to "support activities that link climate research and assessments to practical risk management, development and adaptation challenges in key regions throughout the world.". In the context of the IMBECS proposal, expansion of the IRAP mission/budget would be needed to a modest degree.

Beyond the IRAP program, NOAA can also provide in-depth relevant knowledge of the oceanic/atmospheric sciences which would provide the EPA/State Dept. with guidance in their evaluations of the potential impacts/benefits of the MBECS technology, as well as, assist in the development and operational guidance of the MBECS technology.

In brief, NOAA can be supportive of the State Dept./EPA's evaluation of the relevant MBECS STEM, as well as, play a key role in vetting the MBECS method(s) at the intergovernmental climate change governance decision making level while contributing to the advancement of the MBECS technology and production output.

4) The US Navy:

The USN Green Fleet program could potentially benefit substantially by establishing mid-oceanic biofuel production/ storage depots and thus providing substantial funding support for US flagged MBECS operational development, through pre-purchasing biofuel and providing developmental assistance at the STEM level, is justifiable.

5) The State Department:

 Beyond supporting the IMBECS Protocol at the intergovernmental level as a stand alone initiative, the US negotiators can champion acceptance of MBECS like technology within the context of the UN Green Climate Fund. 

6) The White House:

Under the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) (GlobalChange.Gov.) the Administration has an ability to bring a strong focus to carbon negative biofuels (CNB) in general and marine based CNB in particular.      

The IPCC (WG3) has recently recognized the production of 'bio-energy with carbon capture and sequestration' (BECCS or BECS i.e. CNB) as a priority potential global warming mitigation method. It is universally recognized, however, that the limiting factors for the terrestrial forms of BECCS/BECS are numerous and substantial. Yet, those same limiting factors simply become moot when transposed onto the marine environment. Marine based BECCS (MBECS) is scaleable to global needs within a relative, and environmentally appropriate, short time frame (20yrs).

6) Recommendation:

Establish a fast track/high priority MBECS program, at the USGCRP level and with EPA/NOAA leadership, with the mandated to push through the relevant STEM development/evaluation(s) and the deployment of a 10 km2 IMBECS Marine Resources Conversion Research Platform equipped with a Marine Covective Tower.  

Action requests concerning USG Agency actors:

• White House:

1) Approve the IMBECS Foundations’ 501 (c) (3) mission statement (Private Operating Foundation);

2) Fast track the below through the Biofuel Interagency Working Group as well as within the USGCRP;

• DoD: Funding support for MBECS pilot program ($30M) through the Operational Energy Plans and Programs per DoD Energy Policy.

• DoE/ARPA-E/NREL: Develop a common MBECS (marine based carbon negative biofuel) focused funding/R&D program within the US Climate Change Technology Program (please see: Strategic Plan, Chapter 3.5 “CCTP Goals for Advanced Technology” for the rationale of advancing new biomass production means and methods.)

The above list is not exhaustive.

 

7) Opposition Management:

7.1) Political/Economic Opposition:

The primary disruptive aspect of the IMBECS Protocol/Technology will be the decoupling of energy importing nations from energy exporting nations as all nations will be able to achieve energy independence through operating their own MBECS operations within the oceanic commons. This potential global energy paradigm shift can be accomplished, with the least amount of disruption, through encompassing the vested interests of the FF industry, at all levels, within the IMBECS strategy.

7.2) Bartering Biofuel for FFs:

The potential vast scale of MBECS operations can absorb the entirety of the FF workforce and provide the energy market investors with an equivalent and sustainable alternative to investing in fossil fuel reserves/production.

This leaves the FF reserve owners as the only sector which would not be folded directly into the the IMBECS Protocol/Technology paradigm. However, the combined market value of the non-biofuel commodities, which the MBECS technology can produce, potentially will dwarf the global market value of the biofuel (and FF) production. Thus, the IMBECS Protocol/Technology has the potential to allow for the bartering of the biofuel for fossil fuels and do so in the reserve owners numerical (profit) favor.

The non-fuel commodities profit potentials are so vast that MBECS operations will eventually be developed regardless of the fuel issue. And, a (subsidized) <$30 bbl biofuel market is possible using partial profits from the non-biofuel MBECS commodities as the biofuel subsidy.

The fossil fuel reserve owners can support the IMBECS Protocol/Technology development effort early and gain a profitable position within the IMBECS Protocol paradigm, through accepting an early barter offer and supporting initial production deployment, or resist and adjust to a potential <$30 bbl market.

Clearly, keeping fossil fuels in the ground would be to the overwhelming advantage to the .. vast.. majority of our global population, as well as, to the planetary ecosystem. The fossil fuel reserves, that the IMBECS Protocol can potentially sequester in the ground, would represent a World Heritage Natural Resource Reserve for the generations that come after us.

7.3) STEM Opposition:

The use of the mid oceanic gyres (subtropical convergence zones), as the primary operation areas, isolates the MBECS operations both spatially and, to a large degree, biologically. Using the gyres eliminates the vast majority of the environmental STEM reasons for opposition. In fact, the gyres are heating up at such a rate that providing passive surface cooling, over wide areas, can be viewed as a leading environmental benefit/reason for deploying MBECS like operations in those regions.

Further, there are a small number of marine based BECCS/BECS proposals being championed by others and all of those competing proposals can be accommodated, in concert, by the IMBECS Protocol/Technology platform(s).

Link to up to date version titled: USG; Lead the way to Marine Bio-Energy and Carbon Sequestration (MBECS)