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GAIA FIRST – fuel for ships from marine litter.

Atualizado: 16 de jul. de 2022

How many Kg of plastic garbage takes you

from New York to London?

Nearly ten years ago The Guardian published a story reporting the volume of Carbon emissions by the three main pollutants: cars, ships, and airplanes, being these two laters the greatest aggressors to the environment, namely the oceans and the problem hasn´t stopped to grow.

The vital importance of the oceans to the health of all living beings and the whole planet starts with being the cradle of the food chain and the climate sounding board of the planet – and that's not all, by far. In a nutshell, the situation has worsened exponentially in recent decades, according to official United Nations data.

In the current worldwide scenario, plastics are identified as the worst villains. It is enough to put in perspective one fact, among many: the oceans absorb the Carbon and that is a positive point, to a certain point but, the volume of marine littering has been growing contributing to the raising the dead zones in the oceans. Plastics and large amounts of Carbon absorbed acidify the oceans as well as contribute to the deoxygenation of waters making underwater life unsustainable. Thus one of the 17 Goals of the Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2015, the SDG 14 states briefly:

"Life underwater", conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development”.

We called the Non-Governmental Organization GAIA FIRST, based in Paris and with branches in many countries to hear from its founder and CEO Mr. Gianni Valenti about its ambitious project of cleaning the plastic garbage from the oceans, transforming it into green H2 to feed ships while the very ship produces itself the fuel so ina self-sustainable way.

Gianni has for years been courageously hunting for investors for his innovative project. To start he won two key partners, the companies Breeze Ship Design and RINA, both renowned in the industrial field of design and projects of ships respectively, and all are ready to jump-start the first generator unit of fuel green Hydrogen based in ships that collect plastic garbage from great ocean areas while producing from that waste their own energy to navigate. As a target Gianni has set on the world map the no less dramatic area known worldwide as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.”

To the question of the subtitle of this article Gianni has answered the following: - “to fly a 747 from New York to London you would need about 73 tons of fuel, which would be the equivalent to 24 tons of Hydrogen produced by 158 tons of plastics.”

That article by The Guardian compares airplanes to ships and ships' consumption of fuel is just a little less but a comparative projection leaves all of us an invite to serious reflection: a cruising ship of the size of a street block length, wide five buildings of 10 floors high demands more energy than an entire city.

oPONTO NEWS: The NGO GAIA FIRST was founded in 2020, so basically a little more than one year old, please elaborate on why and how you decided to face such a bold project, was it BREEZE and RINA the big push and leverage for the H2 vessels´ project? How you would assess your own performance so far?

Gianni: Yes, GAIA FIRST was founded in May 2020, so exactly 2 years ago. I have always been some kind of inventor or innovator, applying well-working technologies to other market areas, but it was in 2016 that I had the opportunity to talk to some ex-NASA engineers, who were working with gasification systems to recover energy from waste in space. This sparked my elaborations, and my love for nature directed me to focus on the Oceans. The issue was not to solve one problem with one solution but to solve several problems with an optimized version.

In the ocean we have several issues due to the presence of the garbage patches: loss of biodiversity, climate change, plastic, and microplastic pollution, blocked c-sinks. At the same time, the sea industry is facing the following issues: needing to find zero-carbon transport solutions, need to produce Hydrogen in a sustainable way, and need to tackle maritime-derived waste in a sustainable way.

Gaia First ship project will tackle all of these issues in a functional and measurable way.

Yes Breeze Ship Design and RINA were a major advancement as they are both renowned names in their industry sector, but I had already designed the whole project on Hydrogen production and usage, so they both aligned to the initial project bringing knowledge and research power to the table.

I believe results are coming quite fast, but I will be more reassured when I will secure the 750K€ needed to complete the R&D phase we are currently in.

oPONTO NEWS: If I understood well GAIA´s project can be summarized as "converting garbage (plastic only?) into energy and the target place is the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch". Can you explain please how the system works, does the system/vessels produce energy enough to run the vessels, and na extra stock for future use including other purposes/vessels or any other machine? For instance, if there is not enough garbage on the horizon, would the vessels be able to carry on their journey to whatever is the final destination? Even if the project is set only to "clean some areas" of the ocean; or it is set also as an alternative for any kind of shipping venue?

Gianni: Currently the focus of all developments will be the conversion without combustion of C-rich materials (such as plastic but not only) to zero-carbon fuel, such as Hydrogen (or Ammonia). This will be done through an optimized gasification system (or chemical electrolysis) and some form of pyrolysis. Details at this stage cannot be disclosed, but the final outcomes will essentially be Hydrogen gas and solid Carbon.

The aim is to produce enough energy at the end of the system, to balance the energy requirements for the conversion system and the vessel's needs too. An excess fuel also must be produced to sustain operations by moving from one "garbage cumulation area" to the other, or refueling needing ships/coastal areas.

The project is designed to open up a new system for waste management at sea, whether this is done through our vessels or through a system that could be deployed for all shipping operations (transport/cruise/observation). In addition, our mobile units could not only tackle the great garbage patches but also assist isolated communities (island), pollution emergencies (oil spills, coastal plastic pollution degradations), or simply be used as a waste to green energy mobile plant for coastal areas that need important plastic waste management and require green hydrogen production.

The continuous operations at sea will also open opportunities to welcome onboard researchers and observers, and we will dedicate a special part of the ship to these operations.

Finally, my vision is also to host international inter-governmental meetings on climate change and on the Ocean, onboard the Gaia First vessel, as well as other international events.

oPONTO NEWS: - How much money and how long would it take to have the first vessels starting to clean the GPGP?

Gianni: The first milestone is the completion of the R&D phase. This will be done in December 2022 if the needed funds are received (750k€) this month. Following this stage, it will be the realization stage, which will require an additional 15-18 months and several million, depending on the identification of the vessels to be adapted and modified. This second stage will be done through a for-profit company, in order to accept VC and raise the needed funds.

oPONTO NEWS: Have you tried to implement a brunch of GayaFirst in Portugal? How it is your experience down here in relation to GayaFirst's current projects, the clean-up actions, and the H2 project?

Gianni: Currently Gaia First is not so much implemented in Portugal, but it is definitely important to do so.

We need to be showcased as broad and wide as possible, and we need supporters because we need financial support to advance rapidly as the environmental clock is ticking.

Since we are an official registered NGO (Registered in France), all participation at this stage will be classified as donations and will benefit from tax advantages.

At the same time who will participate in the funding of operations at this stage will benefit a priority access to VC participation in the second phase of operations.




“Hydrogen is presented as a key option for the energetic transition. However, as of today, 95% of hydrogen comes from fossil fuels. Innovators around the world are figuring out solutions to increase green hydrogen produced from renewable sources. by Luís Peazê


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