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The Water, Energy, Nutrient Nexus (WENN) Protocolattempts to outline a suite of existing technologies which can support, to a substantial degree, the need for net negative global emissions of greenhouse gasses, through the production of carbon negative energy and biochar, as well as support the critical needs of water and nutrient management.

The understanding that these three critical needs are fundamentally linked is not new (Bazilian et al. 2011, Alex Smajgl et al. 2012, Tony Allan, Martin Keulertz, Eckart Woertz 2015).  Attempting to addressing all three critical needs through the use of one core set of existing technologies is, however, rather novel. proposing that such technology be universally adopted as a primary climate change mitigation method first present here.

Fig 1. (CPWF Mekong)

Although this proposal attempts to offer the science/technology minded reader ample scientific/technical information, this author will attempt to keep the non-technical reader in mind as it is important that this information be accessible to all levels of stakeholders.   

Key Scientific and Market Rationale for the WENN Protocol:

A) Within the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the working group of experts reviewing the sciences and technologies which may prove useful in mitigating climate change, known as Working Group 3 (WG3), has recommended that scientific and industry level work be focused upon the production of carbon negative energy to help mitigate the massive amounts of carbon we emit.   

IPCC (WG3)-"[...] the combination of bio-energy, carbon capture and..storage (BECCS) [...] if biomass is grown sustainably, this combination may lead to negative emissions".The WENN Protocol is a BECCS class proposal. In that, the dark (chemosynthetic) cultivation of biomass, which is described below in section B, represents a highly sustainable and low cost form of biomass cultivation due to a number of advantages which are also described in section B. It is plausible that this dark cultivation of sustainable low cost biomass can provide for a global scale production of both biofuels and biochar. In turn, that combination of sustainably produced biofuel and biochar represents a carbon negative energy scenario a.k.a. BECCS.

Fig. 2 (exchangemagazine.com)

B) The science describing the dark cultivation of microalgae biomass dates back to the 1940s (Graffon 1942) and is well accepted within the field of plant physiology. Dr. Graffon’s seminal paper “Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Coupled with the Oxyhydrogen Reaction in Algae: explains that “Several species of algae have the capacity to include molecular hydrogen in their metabolism. This capacity becomes apparent only after anaerobic incubation and is lost again in contact with oxygen. While traces of oxygen are sufficient to prevent the appearance of the reactions with hydrogen, measurable amounts of oxygen are tolerated after adaptation to the hydrogen metabolism. This tolerance is due to the fact that the oxygen is rapidly reduced to water. The present investigation of this reduction, the oxyhydrogen reaction, in algae was undertaken when it was found that carbon dioxide is reduced in the dark simultaneously with the formation of water from oxygen. (My highlight)

In simple terms, the reaction Dr. Graffon describes can provide us with:

  • - water

  • - bioenergy derived from the algae

  • - the algae also provides us with a basic nutrient which organic food, feed, fertilizer etc. can be made from

This method of dark cultivation requires the use of water which has little to no oxygen content (anoxic water) and molecular hydrogen. Both are available in volumes and at a cost which makes this form of biomass cultivation highly competitive with virtually all other forms of biomass cultivation known on this planet.

Dark cultivation of biomass can be lower in cost due to:

  • the lack of need for the use of light which reduces the mechanical complexities of using grow lights or the limiting use of daylight

  • the availability of low or no cost raw nutrients needed for dark cultivation is widely available and can be sustainably harvested at little to no costs through the use of Perpetual Salt Fountains which is described in section C.

  • the universal flexibility of siting dark cultivation installations including most land and marine environments. All nations can use this method regardless of their climate limitations

  • the dark cultivation installations can be sited where there is an abundance of renewable energy for dark cultivation and refinement of the biomass such as Dead Zones, deep marine waters and some large scale lakes. Or, this method can use human sewage/animal manure as nutrient feedstocks which typically have anoxic waters.

C) The Perpetual Salt Fountain is another useful technology which is decades old and well understood by the experts in its relevant field.  


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