Could Abandoned Oil Barges Help Remove Carbon from the Air?

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Could Abandoned Oil Barges Help Remove Carbon from the Air?
Photo: Captura

The world’s CO2 emissions hit a record high in 2021, leading to a slowdown in food harvests, extreme weather, and the mass extinction of coral reefs. Which is why some startups are developing methods to harness the ocean and use it to remove carbon at a more rapid rate.

Last week Pasadena-based Captura inked a deal with the Port of Los Angeles in May that will see it install its largest ocean carbon removal system ever. Capable of capturing 100 tons of carbon, Captura’s thesis is that we already have the largest possible carbon remover on the planet—the ocean. Their goal, according to CEO Steve Oldham, is to “use the ocean as a mechanism to remove carbon from the air.”

Captura launched in 2021 and began a smaller pilot program in Newport Beach in August 2022. It won a $1 million XPRIZE award last April and has raised $12 million to date, from backers including Caltech and some international funders, including Saudi Arabian fund Aramco Ventures, Norwegian VC Equinor Ventures and London-based Future Planet Capital. Oldham wouldn’t disclose future funding plans, but noted that the project is a costly endeavor and said he expects Captura to raise more capital in the near future.

A rendering of Captura's proposed at-sea carbon removal plant. Photo: Captura

Right now Captura’s projects are based on the shore, but Oldham said he envisions a future where the company maintains huge carbon removal plants on the ocean. “The advantage of using the ocean for carbon removal is it exists, and it's massive,” Oldham explained. “There’s the opportunity to build very large centers of carbon removal on the ocean, using ocean-based renewable electricity: solar power, wind power, and wave power.”

In addition, Oldham said the partnership with AltaSea (the Port’s 35-acre research facility) comes with the advantage of there being existing infrastructure. “What's nice about AltaSea is it’s an enclosed location, you're right next to the water on a barge, and you're able to pull and process the ocean water, take out its CO2, and then assess the ocean water coming out of our process,” he said. The first rounds of testing at AltaSea should begin by this June or July and will focus on making sure the system has minimal negative impacts on the ocean.

Oldham said he envisions a time when Captura can take over abandoned oil barges and repurpose them to be ocean carbon removal centers.

Currently, one of Captura’s backers is SoCalGas, the largest gas utility in the state. Which, Oldham admits, isn't exactly divesting from fossil fuels completely. But, “as a startup company, getting the funding to build your first system or two is extremely challenging. [SoCalGas] got very interested in our technology, understood the potential of using the ocean at lower cost and at a larger scale,” Oldham said. “This allows us to demonstrate this technology at quite a good scale.”

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LA Tech Week Day Two: Social Highlights
Evan Xie

L.A. Tech Week has brought venture capitalists, founders and entrepreneurs from around the world to the California coast. With so many tech nerds in one place, it's easy to laugh, joke and reminisce about the future of tech in SoCal.

Here's what people are saying about day two of L.A. Tech Week on social:

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LA Tech Week: Goldhirsh Foundation and the Positive Effects of Technology

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

LA Tech Week: Goldhirsh Foundation and the Positive Effects of Technology
Photo taken by Decerry Donato

On Monday, Los Angeles-based philanthropic organization Goldhirsh Foundation hosted the Technology and Storytelling For Social Good panel at Creative Visions studio to kick off LA Tech week.

Tara Roth, president of the foundation, moderated the panel and gathered nonprofit and tech leaders including Paul Lanctot, web developer of The Debt Collective; Alexis Cabrera, executive director of 9 Dots; Sabra Williams, co-founder of Creative Acts; and Laura Gonzalez, senior program manager of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI).

Each of the panelists are grantees of Goldhirsh Foundation’s LA2050, an initiative launched in 2011 that is continuously trying to drive and track progress toward a shared vision for the future of Los Angeles. Goldhirsh’s vision is to make Los Angeles better for all and in order to achieve their goal, the foundation makes investments into organizations, creates partnerships and utilizes social capital through community events.

The panelists shared how the work they are doing in each of their respective sectors uses technology to solve some of society's most pressing challenges and highlight the importance of tech literacy across every community.

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LA Tech Week Is Back! Here Are the Events We're Watching

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

LA Tech Week Is Back! Here Are the Events We're Watching
Evan Xie

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LA Hardtech: Local Talent Meets CEOs: Want to see robots in action? This hardtech event will showcase product demos and feature conversations about all things aircrafts, satellites, electric vehicles, robots and medical devices. June 5 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in El Segundo.

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