With under a year to go, the 10 finalists of the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE are entering the final lap of the competition to see who can recycle carbon dioxide (C02) emissions into a valuable product. It’s a race with high stakes as the teams – five in the natural gas track and five teams in the coal track – that convert the most C02 into the most valuable and useful products will each take home a $10 million prize. But the real winner out of this open innovation exercise, slated to end the fall of 2020, will be the world’s environment.
“Many of our consumer materials are carbon-based and most of them could be sourced with C02 as a feedstock,” explains Marcius Extavour, Executive Director of the Carbon XPRIZE. “This competition to find a viable carbon conversion technology that may result in a way to eat up C02 emissions and generate revenue.”
Extavour and XPRIZE believe that climate change is a collective action problem for humanity to solve. “If you move alone you lose, if we all move together, we all win,” Extavour explains. “Our competition format can help accelerate that collective movement.”
Several COSIA member companies – Canadian Natural, Cenovus, ConocoPhillips, Imperial and Suncor – along with NRG Energy, a U.S. power company, partnered with the XPRIZE Foundation on the global competition. COSIA members are exploring many avenues to improve environmental performance in the oilsands and ensure a clean energy future for Canadians. Supporting the Carbon XPRIZE may be one avenue to get there.
Ten teams from five countries, including Canada, are currently testing their technology in purpose-built facilities. Five teams are testing their system’s ability to process C02 at the Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre (ACCTC ) in Calgary in the natural gas track of the competition. The test centre is operated by InnoTech Alberta. The other five teams are doing similar testing in the competition’s coal track at the Wyoming Integrated Test Center (ITC).
“We really believe we can inspire and guide solution makers from around the world to bring solutions forward and work with partners like COSIA, and others in the industry, to take these solutions forward and make them real,” Extavour says. “This is all about getting to market. If we can show profit, we can mobilize the market. That is where the prize is focused.” He estimates the market for C02 products, which could include building materials, plastics, fertilizer, liquid fuels and consumer goods, could run to a trillion dollars.
XPRIZE is a not-for-profit foundation based in Los Angeles that designs and implements innovative competitions to solve the world’s grandest challenges. Since the foundation’s inception 25 years ago, it has launched 17 competitions and awarded nearly $70 million in prize purses, all raised through partners and sponsors.
To date, the competitive prize model has tackled artificial intelligence, energy, education, and the environment. Each prize has created industry-changing technology that supports a sustainable world. “We make the impossible possible by incentivising great minds to make a difference,” Extavour says.