Learn about MRV from Dr. Clarkson on Nori Podcast


minute read

Our Head of Carbon, Dr. Matthew Clarkson, was recently featured on Carbon Removal Newsroom, a podcast by Nori, shedding light on the advancements in Enhanced Rock Weathering (ERW) and Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV). The conversation offers a deep dive into InPlanet’s pioneering research, summarizing decades of research in the field and evaluating various methods of measuring CO₂ removal from rock weathering.

Here, Dr. Clarkson explains the basics of ERW in an accessible way, using analogies and uncomplicated language so that everyone can understand the science behind this innovative carbon removal technology.

One thing is evident throughout the discussion—InPlanet is dedicated to developing the most robust MRV solutions for ERW in the market. Matthew goes into detail about InPlanet’s approach, emphasizing the importance of bridging the gap between established methods and applied research to make a real impact on climate mitigation.

Listen to the full podcast to learn more about ERW measurement and its pivotal role in combating climate change.

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Highlights of this insightful conversation with Dr. Matthew Clarkson:

(0:23) – Introductions

Introduction to InPlanet, highlighting the challenge of accurately measuring carbon dioxide removal in real-world conditions. Introduction of Matthew Clarkson, Head of Carbon at InPlanet. Matthew’s Academic Background and Transition to Carbon Removal.

(3:50) – About the Research Paper on Enhanced Weathering Measurement:

The paper aimed to demystify the science behind measuring Enhanced Weathering. Collaboration with co-authors from InPlanet, Yale, and other institutions to provide the best scientific basis for measurement techniques. Two fundamental approaches for measuring carbon removal: tracing carbon and tracing rock dissolution.

(6:09) – The coffee analogy 

Dr. Clarkson explains the difference between solid and liquid phase measurements, comparing MRV to assessing how much sugar is in a cup of coffee. Matthew emphasizes the importance of integrating both methods for the most accurate CDR estimation.

(7:17) – When Solids and Liquids need to be measured:

Academia has been discussing this, and Cascade Climate is helping develop MRV methodologies for open-system CDR technologies. The manuscript focuses on what we can measure at the weathering zone in the field environment. Explains the process of how the carbon removed moves down the river to the ocean, and states that estimating how much is lost, is the challenge of an open-system pathway.

(8:22) — About Liquids Measurements

Liquid measurements are less common due to the effort required for sampling; field visits must occur after each rain event, typically weekly to biweekly. The benefit is that measuring carbon after each rain event provides a record of carbon export over time, providing more accurate data. Solid phase approaches involve taking samples once a year to measure dissolved rock powder; therefore, many assumptions and calculations are necessary for understanding other processes involved.

(9:26) – What the future brings – scaling ERW

It would be an understatement to say we are operating on a small scale. We are performing on multiple thousand hectares already. But we are absolutely a long way from the scale that we need to reach for the IPCC targets. The industry can speed up academic research; right now, it’s about taking more measurements than we need to help get a clearer picture of the weathering cycle. Research grants, such as the one that was facilitated by one of our partners through CarbonX, are fundamental to developing research projects.

(12:20) – Collaboration and Data Sharing in the Industry:

ERW companies are growing, with about 20 in the market now. The Enhanced Weathering Alliance (EWA) launched recently is a coalition of about 90% of current suppliers plus support from organizations like Frontier and Carbon Future, the Carbon Drawdown Initiative. We have created a common voice when it comes to policy, but from the more technical side as well, the EWA creates a framework in which we can hopefully work together more closely. Data sharing and transparency are absolutely key. Referring back to Cascade Climate’s work. They’re creating a framework to combine all those data and learning to ensure that knowledge is shared.

(17:00) Discussion on Industry Funding Dynamics:

Question about how VC funding dynamics cope with the pace of scientific trials. VCs invest in Enhanced Rock Weathering with an understanding of the technology. They understand that it takes time for rocks to dissolve. It takes time to gather that data. And it takes time to deliver the carbon. A lot of them understand the situation, and they’re essentially betting on CDR as a whole and on a whole market moving forward. Let’s not forget where we are right now. This is 2024. We’re establishing an industry that has to be fully fledged by 2040 to hit targets in 2050. So this is a long-term investment. Frontier is enabling these early purchases from Microsoft, for example. CarbonX is facilitating these transactions with other customers. We have people who are interested. They want to try this out and help move the industry forward. 

(20:00) – Working with Brazilian Farmers:

Almost 50% or more of our team are Brazilian. We’re establishing an on-the-ground presence, strengthening relations with the community, and developing something in the country; this is key — creating this relationship and partnership. We have a focus on creating partnerships and educating farmers about all the benefits of ERW, like soil health improvement and climate mitigation benefits. Additionally, comes into this practice – we need carbon finance to overcome the existing barriers to help people make the transition into more sustainable practices. Responsible communication is key. Partners need to understand the potential of CDR and be given information that allows them to make a judgment that is fair, robust, and viable.

(25:50) Sourcing Rock Dust:

Research about Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) shows that transport is one of the biggest factors in terms of making this efficient for actual carbon removal. We work at a local scale to minimize transportation emissions. Those are mostly family-owned above-ground mines, generally at small scales, and they produce rock-based materials for the domestic aggregate industry. Brazil has a forward-thinking legislation for rock powders. There is a certification in place, so we can guarantee that they have gone through all the tests needed to classify it for agricultural use. Still, rock powder is only used in about 1% of the total agronomic area of Brazil that has actually tried rock powders. It’s still not common practice to use these at all, and this is where the power of carbon financing comes in.

(29:48) InPlanet scaling plans:

InPlanet has announced a plan to remove a million metric tons by 2026. This is an ambitious target, but if we look at where we need to be in 2050, if we need to get the industry going, that’s the pace and the urgency required to fight the climate problem. ERW is growing fast. If you look at the number of startups, entering the field.

(31:00) Challenges ERW faces as an industry

One of the challenges is that there are so many moving pieces in this new industry. Regulations and policy frameworks change by the month. They might be ready by 2027/28, but we need to operate now before they exist. We have to guess what’s happening and do our best scientific efforts to make it robust. But these pieces are always changing, and that’s one of the big challenges. We had the first standards from Pure Earth for in-house rock weathering in 2022. Now, in 2024, we’ve just had the isometric do the first public consultation on their standards. We also have the Cascade hood to develop community standards. Everything changes very quickly. So we have to be very agile.

(31:50) Exciting future for ERW

We are seeing good results, and, as a scientist, looking at the data excites me. High weathering rates and excellent rock powder in tropical regions contribute to these good results. Enhanced Weathering is not something in the experimental scale. It is something working in the field, and we are seeing evidence of it. Unlike other Carbon Removal technologies, such as DAC, we don’t need to build huge facilities for this to work. Enhanced Weathering requires no land use change or energy diversion, and it integrates seamlessly into farming practices, making it advantageous for ecosystem preservation. Enhanced Weathering has the potential to cover 100% of Brazil’s NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions), and in Europe, we could cover 20, 30% of NDCs. There’s an enormous potential, and seeing the emergence of the data backing it up is fantastic.