Top 5 Carbon Capture Competitions

Top 5 Carbon Capture Competitions - Carbon Herald

Although Elon musk stole the show with his $100 million XPrize competition for carbon tech, there are actually several more races across the world that also plan to award money to those that come with innovative carbon capture solutions. Here’s the list of top 5 compeitititons!

1. Elon Musk’ Carbon Capture Competition – $100 million

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. Photo Daniel Oberhaus 2018.

On Jan 22nd, Elon Musk tweeted: “Am donating $100M towards a prize for best carbon capture technology”. He launched a $100 million prize- the largest of all carbon capture competitions. In fact, it the largest incentive prize in history for a device that could remove 1 gigaton of CO2 per year. 

The biggest of all carbon capture competitions is a huge milestone for the CCS industry as it receives the stamp of approval from one of the richest and most influential men, famous for transforming industries and picking winners. According to the XPrize Foundation, the non-profit organization chosen by Musk to manage the carbon capture competition: “This $100 million competition is the largest incentive prize in history, an extraordinary milestone.”

The aim of the largest of all carbon capture competitions would be to find the best carbon capture technology, capable of removing 1 gigaton per year of CO2 in order to keep up with climate goals of the Paris Agreement, i.e. to remove six gigatons of CO2 per year by 2030 and 10 gigatons per year by 2050. 

The competitors that are eligible can offer any carbon-negative solution like nature-based, direct air capture, oceans, mineralization, or anything else that sequesters CO2 permanently. After 18 months, the 15 top teams chosen by judges will receive $1 million each. The competition will run for four years with the overall winner receiving $50 million, second place $20 million and third $10 million. 

2. The Virgin Earth Challenge – $25 million

The Virgin Earth Challenge is a competition started in London in Feb 2007 conceived by Richard Branson and announced by him and former US Vice President Al Gore. The contest was offering a $25 million prize for the team that could demonstrate a commercially viable design that results in the permanent removal of greenhouse gases out of the Earth’s atmosphere.

The aim of the competition was to award a technology that can achieve a net removal of significant volumes of anthropogenic, atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs) each year for at least 10 years. That is in order to meet the informal removal target of 1 billion tonnes of carbon equivalent per year. The panel of judges, leaders in their field, including Richard Branson were Al Gore, Crispin Tickell (British diplomat), scientists James E. Hansen, James Lovelock and Tim Flannery. 

However, the contest took 13 years to roll out and the prize was never awarded to the finalists. Among the 2600 applications, 11 finalists were selected on Nov 2nd 2011 including Biochar Solutions, US; Biorecro, Sweden; Black Carbon, Denmark; Carbon Engineering, Canada; Climeworks, Switzerland; COAWAY, US; Full Circle Biochar, US; Global Thermostat, US; Kilimanjaro Energy, US; Smartstones – Olivine Foundation, Netherlands, and The Savory Institute, US. The contestants criticized Virgin, saying they never received any funding or concrete help during the 13 years of assessment. They managed to raise at least $155 million combined from other parties to continue their scientific progress with their carbon removal technologies. 

3. UK Government’s Second CCS Competition – £1 Billion

On April 3rd 2012, The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy launched the UK’s £1 billion Carbon Capture and Storage Commercialisation Programme Competition – its second attempt to support the CCS technology. The government had a big incentive to release the financial support for carbon capture and storage – to save around £30 billion a year for tax payers. That was the cost the Department estimated in 2015 to meet the UK’s 2050 decarbonization target without CCS in the power sector

The objective of the competition was to identify and support projects that can contribute to reducing the costs of CCS technology so that it can compete with other low carbon technologies in the 2020s. In 2013, the UK’s Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) announced that four projects were taken forward into a new intensive phase of negotiations. On 14 January 2013, DECC confirmed it had received revised proposals from all four projects. 

The competition was canceled in 2015 and about £100m were spent on it for developing carbon capture technology before it was scrapped. According to the National Audit Office Summary Report of January 2017, the UK’s plan to develop and deploy carbon capture and storage was ambitious, but ultimately unsuccessful. 

4. The NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE – $20 Million

The NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE is an international competition that started in 2015 offering teams a $20 million prize for the best technology that can convert carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and industrial facilities into viable products. The competition was scheduled to finish in 2020 but due to delays, the winner’s announcements have been pushed back to the spring of 2021. 

The competition is structured as a two-track prize – a $20 million awarded to winning teams, with $10 million awarded for each track. In the final and most ambitious stage of the competition, teams must demonstrate carbon dioxide utilization at a scale of two tons per day. The contest is encouraging the development of advanced technology and market-driven strategies for mitigating the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

5. Horizon Prize CO2 Reuse – €1.5 Million 

The Horizon Prize CO2 Reuse is a contest launched by the European Commission’s Directorate-General (DG) Research & Innovation, rewarding innovative products utilising CO2 that could significantly reduce the carbon dioxide atmospheric emissions when deployed on a commercial scale. The winner takes a single non-recourse payment of €1.5 million. The prize is one of three newly-launched challenge contests under Horizon 2020, taking the Commission’s total prize programme to twelve with a value exceeding €17 million. 

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