Teams doing research in Campbell County finalists in XPrize emissions challenge

By: 
Greg Johnson Gillette News Record Via Wyoming News Exchange

GILLETTE — The countdown began Monday morning on the final leg of the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPrize competition with the announcement of the finalists.
The announcement came during the Future of Energy Summit presented by Bloomberg New Energy Finance in New York City.
Catherine McKenna, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change, said the potential for turning carbon dioxide emissions from power plants into viable carbon-based products has a $1 trillion economic potential.
“It’s about taking what you don’t want — CO2, a waste product — and making what you do want,” she said. “This is just a smart thing.”
She also said that efforts like the XPrize illustrate that innovation and breakthroughs are still possible.
“We can be smarter in the 21st century,” she said. “We need to be fostering this innovation. We need to be promoting it.”
The final teams include five each for two tracks of the competition, each with a $10 million prize pool. Their research will continue at the Integrated Test Center at Dry Fork Station north of Gillette, a coal-fired power plant, and the Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre at a gas-fired plant in Alberta, Canada.
By being named finalists, the teams win an equal share of the contest’s first $5 million payout — $500,000 each — with one team in each track guaranteed $7.5 million when the winners are announced in April 2020.
The finalists from India, China, Scotland, Canada and the United States propose myriad ways to turn waste carbon dioxide emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants into viable products, including concrete, plastics, carbon fiber and even feed for livestock.
Dr. Marcius Extavour is the senior director of Energy and Resources for the XPrize Foundation and prize lead for the Carbon XPrize competition. He announced the 10 finalists and talked about how their research could contribute to creating what he calls a “circular carbon economy.”
“We’re talking about actually transforming this gas into valuable products, tangible products,” he said. “We’re talking about new innovation and innovation on a topic that’s just emerging. Not many have heard about it.”
To win a place in the finals, the teams had to demonstrate their technologies at an incubator scale over a 10-month period. They were challenged to meet minimum technical requirements that were audited and verified by an independent research firm.
XPrize judges then evaluated the research and results based on:
How much CO2 was converted into viable products;
The overall CO2 footprint of the process;
Energy efficiency, and
Use of materials, land and water
“These are examples of innovators building real systems and real solutions that work,” Extavour said. “The opportunity, the big vision here, is achieving a circular carbon economy.”
The XPrize Foundation outlines that the finalist teams in Wyoming and Canada must demonstrate their technologies at scale at least 10 times greater than the semifinals required.
Because they have already demonstrated the potential of their technologies and processes, Extavour said he is encouraged that the final leg of the competition could produce one or more ways to commercialize CO2 emissions.
“These teams are showing us amazing examples of carbon conversion and literally re-imagining carbon,” he said. “The diversity of technologies on display is an inspiring vision of a new carbon economy.”
While the idea of using waste CO2 to make products like plastics, building materials, fish food and even drinkable spirits seems cutting edge, it’s just a start, Extavour said.
Looking beyond the breakthroughs is more important, he said, and includes generating investment and interest from the marketplace and policymakers.
“What does it take to make it real?” he asked. “The answer is being clever and being innovative is not enough.”

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