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At the Sahara's edge, Brilliant Planet is building a climate solution to rival Earth's forests

Brilliant Planet's light green, oval-shaped algae farm  is depicted beside the ocean. Steel structures stand between the ocean and the farm and are used to pipe seawater into the algae pond.
Brilliant Planet's carbon dioxide capture facility in Morocco. Image Credit: Brilliant Planet
  • Brilliant Planet captures carbon dioxide (the largest contributor to global warming) by growing algae ponds in seawater.

  • Algae from Brilliant Planet's ponds is then dried and buried underground.

  • The solution has attracted its first big corporate buyer in Block, the parent company behind payment businesses Cash App and Square

  • Block will buy 1,500 tons of offsets from Brilliant Planet -- roughly equivalent to one second of the world's greenhouse gas emissions

Can one of the world's largest deserts provide a solution for global warming?

In a small coastal town in Morocco on the edge of the Sahara, Brilliant Planet, a greenhouse gas removal startup, is trying to find out.

The company just inked its first major contract with the U.S.-based payments company Block -- the business behind Cash app and Square -- to permanently remove carbon dioxide (the gas that's the largest contributor to global warming) from the atmosphere.

For Block, the deal is a way to offset the emissions associated with its operations, and for Brilliant Planet its the first validation of the company's approach to solving the climate crisis.

Headed by Adam Taylor*, a serial entrepreneur who previously created a multi-million dollar fish-farming business on the African continent, Brilliant Planet takes the lessons Taylor learned with fish and applies them to carbon farming.

Instead of creating giant fish ponds on land, Brilliant Planet uses seawater pumped from the ocean to create algae ponds that can capture carbon dioxide. The algae is then dried and buried underground.

It's an elegant solution to the sequestration problem and one that is easy to verify. In some ways, it's a corollary to the work that Charm Industrial is doing in the U.S.

That company collects agricultural waste that stores carbon and converts that waste into a bio-oil that it stores underground.

Brilliant Planet claims that its method for greenhouse gas storage method can hold thirty times more emissions than an equivalently sized forest -- making it a truly game-changing approach to removing warming gases from the atmosphere, according to the company.

The multi-billion dollar financial services company Block seems to agree. Their 1,500 ton carbon removal purchase is part of a broader strategy at the company to address the threats caused by global warming.

“Providing support in the early days of these innovative projects is crucial to helping collectively secure a livable planet," said Neil Jorgensen, Global ESG Lead at Block, Inc. in a statement.

Taylor, the chief executive at Brilliant Planet, emphasized how critical this kind of support was for the industry.

"Early contracts with Block and other pioneering environmental leaders are important in the development of the high-integrity carbon removal sector and demonstrate to like-minded firms that solutions are actionable today,” Taylor said in a statement.

Taylor's company has operated a pilot project in Southern Morocco since 2018, and had set up previous removal sites in South Africa and Oman.

The company's demonstration site is going to begin construction in the spring of 2024 and start operating by the summer or fall.

Brilliant Planet is aiming to remove 1 million tons of carbon dioxide per year while supporting the economies in countries hardest hit by global warming.

That's a lofty goal and a far cry from the 1,500 tons it will remove through 2030 with its first Block contract. That's equivalent to about one second of global greenhouse gas emissions.

*This article was corrected to note that Adam Taylor runs Brilliant Planet, but did not found the startup.


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