COVID-19 threw some hurdles at the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE competition this year, but it didn’t derail the 10 finalists who overcame all obstacles to stay in the running for the two US$7.5 million grand prizes. Several carbon utilization technologies remains on course for commercial deployment, and some are already out in the market, despite everything that threatened the competition’s success.
Meanwhile, other important and tangible benefits of the competition will continue to ripple far and wide for a long, long time.
“To say COVID-19 has been a challenge for the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE is an understatement, but we’re back on track,” says Marcius Extavour, Executive Director the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. In addition to some teams being unable to travel to test sites, there were delays in obtaining equipment and supplies, which left others scrambling.
XPRIZE waived the requirement to test onsite at the Wyoming and Calgary test facilities for three competitors based in China, India and Scotland and pushed back timelines for everyone to accommodate some of the unique challenges posed by COVID-19. Now, site visits to assess and validate the teams’ carbon conversion technologies are nearing completion, and the judging will soon begin followed by the grand prizes announcement in spring 2021.
Although the competition will end, legacy is just beginning. Extavour points out the real value of the exercise has been in showcasing carbon utilization technologies to the world to elevate and broaden the discussion around clean tech and climate change. “The Carbon XPRIZE has helped ignite growth for new audiences on the topic of carbon utilization technology and makes people, who might not have been engaged before, sit up and take notice,” he says.
The competition also leaves behind important infrastructure that supports ongoing carbon utilization research and development by others. Both purpose-built test centres (in Calgary and Wyoming) are uniquely world class and at least one contestant is already planning to remain on site after the Carbon XPRIZE competition concludes.
The competition has also propelled all contestants along the commercialization path by giving them exposure to potential partners and investors and lending a certain quality assurance that minimizes investment risk. “XPRIZE provides rigorous technology validation for these companies with independent judges and auditors. That gives them credibility with funders,” Extavour explains.
He estimates an additional $200 million investment has gone into carbon capture innovation through funding and grants for these companies through other sources.
On its part, the XPRIZE foundation launched the Circular Carbon Network (circularcarbon.org) to continue to grow the circular carbon economy after the competition. This free, online database will accelerate the growth of this clean tech sector by helping to connect a global community of innovators who are working to transform waste carbon dioxide into a valuable asset for society.
“The best is yet to come,” Extavour says, “We’re really excited about what spring will bring.”
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