Greenhouse gas removal with UK agriculture via enhanced rock weathering

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: School of Biosciences

Abstract

Meeting the UK's obligations for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 requires capturing and storing residual emissions of approximately 130 million tonnes of CO2e (CO2 equivalents) yr-1 with greenhouse gas removal (GGR) technologies within decades. The challenge is to achieve stringent mid-century emissions reductions without incurring major economic costs. Enhanced rock weathering (ERW) is a GGR technology based on amending soils with crushed calcium- and magnesium-rich silicate rocks to accelerate natural CO2 sequestration processes, whilst delivering co-benefits for crop production, food security and soil health.

This ERW-GGR Demonstrator will provide the first integrated whole system assessment of the science, societal and scalability opportunities and challenges of ERW deployment in UK agriculture. It will assess the potential of ERW to remove up to 10% of the UK's GGR net-zero target by testing its implementation on arable land and the types of grassland covering 74% of UK utilized agricultural area (~13 million ha). Potential co-benefits include improved productivity by reducing excess soil acidity, resupplying soils with depleted plant-essential mineral nutrients, increased crop resistance to pests and pathogens, via greater silica uptake, and reducing soil nitrous oxide fluxes. Quantification of these co-benefits will generate evidence for catalysing early adoption and accelerating development pathways into standard agricultural practices.

We will address the challenge of developing ERW-GGR with crushed silicate rock (basalt) through a creative, innovative and exciting cross-disciplinary collaborative programme comprising four interlinked Work Packages: WP1) large-scale sub-catchment, field or plot trials representing major UK land uses, including full GHG budgeting, WP2) public engagement, social acceptability and responsible innovation of ERW as a GGR technology, WP3) supply chain Life Cycle Assessment and scalability case studies road-mapping deployment scenarios 5 and 15-20 year post-Demonstrator, and WP4) development and application of an advanced modelling framework for realistic assessment of GGR with UK agriculture and its impact on farm economics.

The ERW Demonstrator will be developed across three nationally important flagship field sites with long-term baseline datasets. The Plynlimon Experimental Catchments (mid-Wales) form the UK's longest-running catchment research facility, with 40 years of monitoring data from two paired catchments dominated by upland grassland with sub-catchments on the same bedrock and soils. In England, we will utilize two core BBSRC facilities: Rothamsted Research's North Wyke grassland experimental platform, Devon, and their cutting-edge arable research facility in Harpenden. Our interdisciplinary programme integrates across the natural and social sciences, with the former identifying environmental benefits and risks of deployment on UK arable and pastureland, and the latter contributing in-depth knowledge of public perceptions and local community acceptance of ERW. Working across WPs, we will construct a social license for ERW to operate at-scale in UK agriculture and develop a Responsible Research and Innovation programme for the Demonstrator.

We are planning three Demonstrator-led events, Policy Briefings, and outreach events with the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, to facilitate academic, business and policy interactions and ensure regular contact with the wider stakeholder communities. Our work includes in situ work with stakeholders and gatekeepers to fill in the current cultural and social background of local rural communities, followed by in-depth deliberative research regarding ERW proposals with community members. The team will work with pre-existing community initiatives at each site, e.g., Welsh Government funding at Plynlimon and Defra funding of Rothamsted for linking conservation with land management changes.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description NAS consultation
Geographic Reach North America 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
Impact Provided a research framework for how to explore carbon storage strategies for the ocean.
URL https://www.nationalacademies.org/our-work/a-research-strategy-for-ocean-carbon-dioxide-removal-and-...
 
Description 39 Ways to Save the Planet 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Our work on Enhanced Rock Weathering featured as one of '39 Ways to Save the Planet', a BBC broadcast/podcast series and book by broadcaster Tom Heep. Episode was called 'Magical Rockdust' Tom also toured the country to promote the book, and the book's forward is by Arnold Schwarzenegger (ISBN: 9781473532793). Rachael James was interviewed for the episode and features in the book. The series has reached an audience of >10 million worldwide and we have had interest in applying rockdust from farmers, start-up companies and other entrepreneurs.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000qwt3
 
Description Dr Phil Renforth: Interview with The Future Forest Company 'Can Enhanced Weathering Combat Climate Change?' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Phil Renforth recorded an interview 'Can Enhanced Weathering Combat Climate Change?' with The Future Forest Company on 18 August 2021.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWPEz-s9wAg
 
Description Dr Phil Renforth: advised in the production of BBC Radio 4 broadcast '39 Ways to Save the Planet - Magical Rock dust' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Dr Phil Renforth advised in the production of BBC Radio 4 broadcast '39 Ways to Save the Planet - Magical Rock dust' - August 2021.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000z0k2
 
Description Dr. Christopher Pearce: COP26 attendance and engagement during 8-14 November 2021. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Dr. Christopher Pearce attendance at COP26 as part of the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) delegation during 8-14 November 2021. Observing panel discussions and attending other side events, many of which had an emphasis on Carbon Dioxide Removal approaches. Relevant engagement includes meeting representatives from Arup, who are conducting and Enhanced Weathering trial with Prof. David Manning (Newcastle University) and the Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Interview with Ashley Balzar for the Daily Beast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Interview with Ashley Balzar for the Daily Beast on enhanced weathering and unintended consequences.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Interview with a scientific journalist (Peter Yeung) for National Geographic 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact National Geographic Article published
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/could-crushed-rocks-absorb-enough-carbon-to-c...
 
Description Oxford COP conversations 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact As the UK gears up to host COP26, Oxford's researchers will be right at the heart of that international conversation and their work will be crucial in shaping global policy decisions, with the goal of a more sustainable society and a cleaner, greener future for everyone.

Tune in to our COP Conversations series to watch our academics present on a huge variety of themes, from extreme weather patterns to ecosystems, and from why we need to get to Net Zero, to what countries need to agree to this November.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.research.ox.ac.uk/article/2021-09-14-cop-conversations
 
Description Oxford Net Zero Online Discussions 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Ros Rickaby, Sophie Gill, Roxana Shafiee and Myles Allen in conversation: "CO2 solutions: ocean carbon storage options"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/videos/ocean-carbon-storage-options/
 
Description Prof Nicholas Pidgeon: Memorandum submitted to House of Lords Environmental Audit (EA) Committee 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Co-I Professor Nicholas Pidgeon was invited to submit a Memorandum entitled 'Public Acceptability and Governance of Negative Emissions Technologies at Scale' to the House of Lords Environmental Audit (EA) Committee.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Prof Rachael James: COP26 participation in side events, during 1-7 November 2021, in the role of agriculture in delivering net zero. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Prof Rachael James: COP26 participation in side events, during 1-7 November 2021, in the role of agriculture in delivering net zero.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Prof. David Beerling - Interview with New Scientist Podcast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Professor David Beerling was invited to an interview with Rowan Hooper, New Scientist Podcast Editor on 17th February 2022.
Enhanced weathering - using ground-up rocks to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere - is one of a number of technological carbon capture solutions being tested to try and mitigate against global warming. The team speaks to Professor David Beerling of the University of Sheffield, one of the scientists in the UK leading the development of this technique.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.newscientist.com/podcasts/106-saving-children-from-cancer-new-ways-to-remove-greenhouse-...
 
Description Prof. David Beerling: Invited Panel Guest on Royal Society Webinar 'You and the Planet: Tomorrow's Earth' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Prof. David Beerling: Invited Panel Guest on Royal Society Webinar 'You and the Planet: Tomorrow's Earth' on 27th January 2022.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://youtu.be/NaEiv9FMXKA
 
Description Prof. Nicholas Pidgeon: Talk at Energy Ethics 2021 Conference, St Andrews University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Prof. Nicholas Pidgeon: Talk at Energy Ethics 2021 Conference, St Andrews University on 26th October 2021
EE2021: ENERGY TRANSITIONS & PLANETARY TRANSFORMATIONS
Session: Innovation: Knowledge & Technology.
Talk title: 'Deliberating The Climate Emergency: Closing Off, Opening Up and the Collingridge Dilemma.'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://energyethics.st-andrews.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/EE2021-Programme.pdf
 
Description Prof. Pete Smith: COP26 attendance during 01-14 November 2021, including side events on GGR technologies. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Prof. Pete Smith attended COP26 during 01-14 November 2021, including side events on Greenhouse Gas Removal technologies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Prof. Pete Smith: Carbon Commentary 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact 23 November 2021: Prof. Pete Smith engaged with Chris Goodall at The Carbon Commentary advising on basalt application to agricultural land.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Prof. Pete Smith: Specialist Adviser to House of Lords Science & Technology Committee Inquiry on Nature-based Solutions 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Co-I Professor Pete Smith is an invited Specialist Advisor to the House of Lords Science & Technology Committee Inquiry on Nature-based Solutions, attending weekly meetings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Professor Nick Pidgeon took part in the US National Academies series of Climate Conversations in a one hour webcast panel on Ocean Carbon Removal, 20th January 2022. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Invited panellist (1 of 3) to a 1 hour debate under the US National Academies series of Climate Conversations in a panel on Ocean Carbon Removal, 20th January 2022. Over 800 discrete views of the webinar were recorded, spanning North America and International audiences.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.nationalacademies.org/event/01-20-2022/climate-conversations-ocean-carbon-dioxide-remova...
 
Description Profs David Beerling and Pete Smith: The Carbon Community Science Advisory Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Professor David Beerling and Professor Pete Smith are invited members of the Science Advisory Group to advising on basalt application to new woodland. The study by The Carbon Community will look at the combinatorial impact of forest microbiome inoculation and enhanced rock weathering. Over the first two years, the project will measure the carbon stored in the trees and soil, and the results will identify the combination of treatments where the most carbon has been sequestered. The Carbon Community aims to scale up this reforestation method to accelerate and enhance carbon removal from the atmosphere.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021,2022
URL https://www.carboncommunity.org/about-the-mission
 
Description Profs Steve McGrath and Pete Smith: National Farmers Union Net Zero Science Advisory Panel 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Co-Is, Professor Steve McGrath and Professor Pete Smith are invited members of the National Farmers Union Net Zero Science Advisory Panel (NZSAP).
NZSAP visited our Rothamsted Research, Harpenden arable demonstration site on 20th July 2021 and discussed the technology and Net Zero. They will visit again in the future when the demonstrator field site is more mature and results are available.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Sabah Climate Change International Conference 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The conference, held in Sabah Malaysia, bought together officials from government, private sector, research, civil society and indigenous organisations, youth and community groups in Sabah to:
1. Create awareness on the impacts of climate change.
2. Share knowledge and experiences on the awareness approaches and initiatives that strengthen resilience to climate change at global and local scales.
3. Facilitate networking and enhance cooperation amongst a broad base of stakeholder groups and promote public participation in both the climate change and conservation agendas.
4. Provide a platform for youths to participate and raise voices on climate change action.
The Conference sparked much discussion from the various parties, and interest in work that we are doing on enhanced rock weathering in the region.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Springer Nature Symposium: Technology for a sustainable future: climate change and the quest to actively reduce atmospheric CO2 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Gave a talk entitled to the Symposium:
How to manipulate the ocean to absorb more CO2
And partook in the panel discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.fundacionareces.es/fundacionareces/en/events/atmospheric-co2-capture-technologies-for-a-...