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March 13, 2023

A Portland company becomes Microsoft’s first open ocean-based carbon removal supplier

File photo / Fred Field Josh Hardy, fabrication lead at Running Tide Technologies, uses the space at TechPlace to create systems for kelp production and oyster growing.

Microsoft has a long way to go to achieve its goal of being a “carbon negative” company by 2030, and it’s turning to a Maine carbon removal company to help it get there.

Portland-based Running Tide will be the international tech giant’s first open ocean-based carbon removal supplier, the companies stated in a March 10 announcement, and will remove the equivalent of 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide over the next two years on behalf of Microsoft. 

Running Tide practices carbon removal by essentially deploying small, algae-seeded buoys into the open ocean that eventually sink to the ocean floor to be either buried or consumed by marine life.

The announcement comes as Microsoft stares down an ambitious climate mitigation goal, which it describes on its pledge webpage as “reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by more than half, removing the rest, and then removing the equivalent of our historical emissions by 2050.”

To detail progress on its carbon negative-by-2030 goal, Microsoft noted in a March 2022 blog post that two categories of its emissions were declining: direct emissions, known as Scope 1, and indirect emissions related to heating, cooling, and power generation, known as Scope 2. However, Microsoft’s Scope 3 emissions, which are indirect emissions that are inextricably tied to a company’s overall carbon footprint because of supply chain needs, had shot up.

“We saw [an] overall reduction in our Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions of about 17% year over year, through our purchasing of renewable energy,” the company explained. “At the same time, we saw a rise in our Scope 3 emissions, which increased about 23% year over year.”

Microsoft sees the partnership as a boost to “help scale the carbon removal market” and improve the quality of measuring, reporting and verifying such efforts through essentially bulk purchases.

“As the ocean-based [carbon dioxide removal] market is nascent, and lacking third-party certifications, Microsoft has utilized its expertise as a leading buyer of carbon removal to build into the agreement stage gates that enable quality assurance,” according to the news release.

Running Tide, which bills itself as an ocean health company, has operational sites elsewhere in Maine, as well as an agronomy and genetics laboratory in St. Louis, Mo. The company’s largest carbon removal project is based in Iceland. 

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