Friday, April 19, 2024

Musk-funded CO2-reduction contest awards $1 million to 15 groups

From algae farming to producing a sort of artificial limestone, initiatives intended to reduce greenhouse gas in the atmosphere are getting a funding boost from famed entrepreneur Elon Musk, reports

The Tesla and SpaceX rocket company developer is bankrolling a $100-million XPRIZE Carbon Removal competition for the most promising ways to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide by grabbing the gas out of the air.

The 15 early-phase “milestone round” winners were announced Friday. Each will get $1 million, a welcome boost for the teams to carry on with and scale up their work.

“What we’ve said is you haven’t given us a million bucks; what you’ve done is catalyzed investment in this technology,” said Mike Kelland, CEO of Planetary Technologies, a milestone winner that seeks to increase the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide by controlling the rising acidity of seawater.

The milestone winners aren’t necessarily ahead or favoured for the $80 million in final prize money that will be awarded in three years. Until Dec. 1, 2023, anyone can still jump into the contest, which was announced a year ago, and potentially get a share of that money.

The final winning team or teams will need to show they can remove 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, show how much it would cost to remove up to 1.1 million tonnes per year, and show a path to removing billions of tons of carbon dioxide per year.

A third party– neither the participants nor XPRIZE – will independently validate the work submitted for the grand prize to be announced on April 20, 2025.

XPRIZE announced $5 million in carbon-removal project awards to university student teams last fall. The milestone winners announced Friday propose a variety of ways to remove carbon dioxide through artificial means, and by helping nature do much of the work herself.

Planetary Technologies is looking to the ocean to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide. The Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada-based company proposes to use antacids produced from the leftovers of metal mining to make the ocean more able to absorb the greenhouse gas.

“If we kind of ignore the ocean – say we’re trying to do this on land, we’re trying to store it in the ground – we’re just not going to make it,” Kelland said. “That’s sort of the opinion of a lot of these scientists working in this field.”

Another milestone winner, Durham, North Carolina-based 8 Rivers Capital, sees ocean chemistry as a model to replicate. The company seeks to trap atmospheric carbon dioxide in calcium carbonate crystals, similar to how the gas dissolved in the ocean helps form seashells and limestone.

Company spokesperson Adam Goff described the process as “poetic” in a way.

“The calcium cycle is how the earth regulates its CO2 over millions of years. We’re sort of speeding up that natural cycle,” Goff said.


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