The $20 Million Carbon XPRIZE: The 10 Finalists, revealed


In New York, XPRIZE announced the 10 teams advancing to the final round in the $20M NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE.The 10 finalists, each taking home an equal share of a $5 million milestone prize, were revealed at Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Future of Energy Summit in New York City. This four-and-a-half-year global competition challenges teams to transform the way the world addresses carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions through breakthrough circular carbon technologies that convert carbon dioxide emissions from power plants into valuable products such as enhanced concrete, liquid fuels, plastics and carbon fiber.

The Wyoming Track includes five teams that will demonstrate conversion of CO2 emissions at a coal-fired power plant in Gillette, WY:

• Breathe (Bangalore, India) – Led by Dr. Sebastian Peter, the team is producing methanol, a common fuel and petrochemical feedstock, using a novel catalyst.

• C4X (Suzhou, China) – Led by Dr. Wayne Song and Dr. Yuehui Li, the team is producing chemicals and bio-composite foamed plastics.

• Carbon Capture Machine (Aberdeen, Scotland) – Led by Dr. Mohammed Imbabi, the team is producing solid carbonates with applications to building materials.

• CarbonCure (Dartmouth, Canada) – Led by Jennifer Wagner, the team is producing stronger, greener concrete.

• Carbon Upcycling UCLA (Los Angeles, CA, USA) – Led by Dr. Gaurav Sant, the team is producing building materials that absorb CO2 during the production process to replace concrete.

The Alberta Track includes five teams that will demonstrate conversion of CO2 emissions at a natural gas-fired power plant in Alberta, Canada:

• C2CNT (Ashburn, VA, USA) – Led by Dr. Stuart Licht, the team is producing carbon nanotubes.

• Carbicrete (Montreal, Canada) – Led by Dr. Mehrdad Mahoutian, the team is producing cement-free, carbon-negative concrete that uses waste from steel production as an alternative to traditional cement.

• Carbon Upcycling Technologies (Calgary, Canada) – Led by Apoorv Sinha, the team is producing enhanced graphitic nanoparticles and graphene derivatives with applications in polymers, concrete, epoxies, batteries and pharmaceuticals.

• CERT (Toronto, Canada) – Led by Dr. Alex Ip of the Sargent Group at the University of Toronto, the team is producing building blocks of industrial chemicals.

• Newlight (Huntington Beach, CA, USA) – Led by Mark Herrema, the team uses biological systems to produce bioplastics.

Each finalist team passed a first round evaluation based on the amount of CO2 converted into products, as well as the economic value, market size and CO2 uptake potential of those products. To win a place in the finals, the semifinalist teams had to demonstrate their technologies at pilot scale at a location of their choosing. Over the course of a 10-month period, semifinalist teams were challenged to meet minimum technical requirements and were first audited by independent verification partner Southern Research. Teams were then evaluated by the judges based on how much CO2 the team converted into products; the economic value, market size, and CO2 uptake potential of those products; the overall CO2 footprint of their process; as well as energy efficiency, materials use, land use, and water use.

Next steps

The top 10 teams will have 2 years of access to an integrated test center (one is in Gilette, Wyoming and one is in Calgary, Alberta), in which at least 9 months will be “on the clock” and during that time they will have to demonstrate 150 days of uptime, and at least 30 days of continuous uptime, and the ability to handle 2 tons of flue gas per day.

Teams competing in the Wyoming track will test their technologies at the Wyoming Integrated Test Center (ITC), a cutting-edge carbon research facility in Gillette, WY, USA, co-located with the Dry Fork Station coal power plant. Teams competing in the Alberta track will test their technologies at the Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre, a new carbon conversion research hub co-located with the Shepard Energy Centre natural gas power plant in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Who didn’t make it?

The following companies did not advance from the semi-finals to the finals:

Aljadix (Switzerland) – Led by Thomas Digby, the team is producing carbon negative biofuel.

Carbon Cure (Canada) – Led by Jennifer Wagner, the team is producing enhanced concrete.

CAT.ALY.ST (United States) – Led by Stafford Sheehan, the team is producing biofuels.

CO2 Solutions (Canada (TSX-V: CST)) – Led by Dr. Louis Fradette, the team is producing a high-value bioproduct.

Dimensional Energy (United States) – Led by Jason Salfi, the team is producing hydrocarbon fuels.

EE-AGG (United States) – Led by Mark Edelman, the team is producing methanol.

Hago Energetics (United States) – Led by Wilson Hago, the team is producing gas and liquid fuels.

Ingenuity Lab (Canada) – Led by Carlo Montemagno, the team is producing dihydroxyacetone (DHA) and other chemicals.

Innovator Energy (United States) – Led by Ethan Novek, the team is producing syngas and acetic acid.

Low-Energy-Consumption CO2 Capture and Conversion (United States) – Led by Maohong Fan, the team is producing fuels and chemicals.

Opus 12 (United States) – Led by Etosha Cave, the team is producing plastics, fertilizers, and gasoline.

Pond Technology’s Carbon Cyclers (Canada) – Led by Peter Howard, the team is producing biodiesel and solid biofuel.

Protein Power (United States) – Led by Lisa Dyson, the team is producing high-protein fish food.

RES Kaidi (United States) – Led by Mark Robertson, the team is producing dimethyl ether (DME) for chemical feedstock or fuel.

Tandem Technical (Canada) – Led by Jerry Flynn, the team is producing health supplements, toothpaste, paint and fertilizers.

Terra COH (United States) –Led by Jimmy Randolph, the team is producing energy storage and retrieval, and electricity generation.

The scoring

“We think carbon capture itself is a huge topic,” Dr. Marcius Extavour, XPRIZE senior director of Energy and Resources told The Digest. Accordingly, the scoring is, “evenly divided between the highest percentage sequestered and the highest valuable product.”

Reaction from the stakeholders

“These teams are showing us amazing examples of carbon conversion and literally reimagining carbon. The diversity of technologies on display is an inspiring vision of a new carbon economy,” added Extavour. “We are trying to reduce CO2 emissions by converting them into useful materials, and do so in an economically sustainable way.”

More on the story

More on the Xprize here.