Climate Change

Winner of XPRIZE Carbon Removal to get USD 50 million from Elon Musk

Winner XPRIZE Carbon Removal USD 50 million Elon Musk

Photo: XPRIZE

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February 15, 2021

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Published:

February 15, 2021

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The XPRIZE Carbon Removal will last four years through Earth Day 2025. In the first phase of the competition, 15 teams with the best solutions will get USD 1 million each. Ultimately, the first-ranked full-scale demonstration wins half of the USD 100 million promised by Elon Musk.

The world’s richest person wasn’t kidding when he tweeted he would reward the best carbon capture and storage projects with USD 100 million in total. XPRIZE said the competition sponsored by Chief Executive Officer of Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink and Boring Co. Elon Musk and his foundation aims to inspire and help scale efficient solutions to achieve the 10-gigaton-per-year carbon removal target by 2050.

The nonprofit organization announced the launch for Earth Day, April 22, and added the winner would be picked four years after that. In the first stage of the XPRIZE Carbon Removal, top 15 teams will be selected within 18 months and receive USD 1 million each. On top of that, 25 student scholarships of USD 200,000 will be distributed to student teams.

Selected teams to get assistance in fundraising

Milestone Awards will kickstart team fundraising for their operating budgets to achieve full-scale demonstrations. The grand prize winner gets USD 50 million, leaving USD 20 million and USD 10 million for the two runnerups.

Projects need to be scalable to gigaton levels per year

“We want to make a truly meaningful impact. Carbon negativity, not neutrality. The ultimate goal is scalable carbon extraction that is measured based on the ‘fully considered cost per ton’ which includes the environmental impact. This is not a theoretical competition; we want teams that will build real systems that can make a measurable impact and scale to a gigaton level. Whatever it takes. Time is of the essence,” Musk said.

CO2 must be stored for at least 100 years

Organizers said entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers would need to demonstrate a rigorous, validated scale model of their solution at a level of removal of one ton of carbon dioxide per day, and the ability to economically scale to gigaton levels. Planting trees alone cannot keep up with the rising amount of carbon, so radical innovation is necessary to limit the rise of temperature to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels, or at least to two degrees, they stressed.

“We expect to see approaches like engineered direct air capture, mineralization and enhanced weathering, natural solutions based on plants, trees, or ocean-focused solutions,” said Anousheh Ansari, CEO of XPRIZE.

Teams can submit entries across natural, engineer and hybrid solutions. The length of time that the removed carbon is locked up for is included in the criteria. A minimum goal of 100 years is desired. Carbon dioxide must be pulled directly from air or sea and locked in an environmentally benign and sustainable way.

XPRIZE noted the idea for the competition was proposed in October 2019 at its annual Visioneering program.

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