Why a Carbon XPRIZE?
1. Why is this competition important?
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are a leading contributor to climate change and represent a massive global challenge that cuts across social, political, and geographic boundaries. The scope of the challenge calls for radical new approaches and breakthroughs in science, engineering, policy, and business. The largest source of CO2 emissions is the production and consumption of energy derived from fossil fuels. Reducing emissions will require accelerating deployment of both new carbon mitigation technologies and low-carbon and zero-emissions energy sources.
2. How do carbon emissions affect me and the world around me?
Carbon emissions are a truly global problem since harmful climate change has the potential to impact every person on Earth. It is tempting to think of carbon emissions and climate change as simply a problem created by big industries, but in reality, we all consume the energy and goods that produce CO2 emissions directly or indirectly. The way we grow food, build villages and cities, travel by land, air, and sea, and manufacture goods all depend on energy, specifically liquid fuels like gasoline and diesel, and electric power from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. We all share the atmosphere, ocean, and land systems that are affected by CO2 emissions, so we all share the risks of harmful climate change and its ramifications on our communities and way of life.
3. Wouldn’t it be easier to just switch our energy to renewable sources?
This challenge is not about choosing between using renewables or lowering carbon emissions from fossil fuels. To achieve a clean and sustainable energy future we must aggressively develop and nurture low-carbon and zero-emission sources of energy, including renewables. However, experts predict that global energy systems will continue to rely on fossil fuels in the near term, making up as much as 64% of the global energy mix by 2035 according to the International Energy Agency. So even as we develop and deploy renewables, at the same time we must reduce the carbon emissions from existing sources, including the oil and gas sector, power plants, heavy industry, and transportation.
4. How is this different from efforts to capture and store CO2 underground?
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) can also be a critical part of the portfolio for addressing global CO2 emissions. Investment in CCS has succeeded in advancing some technologies to a stage where there are now at least a dozen commercial-scale CCS projects worldwide, with approximately 50 additional CCS projects in various stages of development around the world. However, there may be many regions where subsurface storage is not the optimal solution. In addition, no matter how advanced, CCS technologies will always fundamentally treat CO2 as a waste product that requires disposal rather than as an asset with value. CO2 conversion has the potential to be a complementary solution with additional investment and technological development.
5. Where can I learn more about carbon emissions?
There are several great sources of scientific data on CO2 emissions worldwide. Here are a few sources to get you started:
- The International Energy Agency (IEA) compiles tables of carbon emissions by activity and industry sector from around the world
- The World Bank provides a great interactive chart showing historical and projected emissions from countries and regions around the world
- The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) publishes helpful information and data on carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases from various sectors of the U.S. economy, and also includes international data
- The European Commission Reports on Climate Change and Climate Action give a high level summary of links between carbon emissions and the risks of climate change, all in the context of Europe’s Climate Action plans
Tell me about the competition
6. What is a CO2 conversion technology?
Teams must develop a solution that can convert CO2 from a power plant flue gas into one or more products. Some teams may combine existing technologies that capture and separate CO2 with technologies that convert pure CO2 into one or more products. Other teams may be able to use flue gas directly in the CO2 conversion process. The end result will be the conversion of harmful CO2 emissions into valuable and useful products.
7. What is the timeline for the competition?
The competition will be held in three rounds over 54 months. After each round, only the top teams determined by the judging panel will move on to the next round. You can find a detailed timeline for the competition here.
8. What is the difference in the two tracks of the competition?
Teams in Track A and Track B will use different flue gas mixtures to test their technologies. Track A competitors will test their technologies using flue gas from a coal power plant, while Track B competitors will test their technologies using flue gas from a natural gas power plant. Natural gas power plant flue gases typically contain less CO2 by volume than coal flue gases, and coal flue gases typically contain a greater amount of contaminants compared to natural gas flue gases.
9. How will the technologies be tested?
In Round 1, teams will submit technical and business information so that judges may assess their viability and competitiveness. In Round 2, teams will demonstrate technologies in a controlled environment (such as a laboratory), using a simulated power plant flue gas stream consisting of a mixture of CO2 and other gases similar to that emitted from an actual power plant. In Round 3, teams will demonstrate technologies under real world conditions at a larger scale. Teams will have access to test facilities adjacent to existing power plants, and will prove their technologies using actual power plant flue gas.
10. How will the judging panel evaluate the technologies?
In Round 1, the judging panel will assess and rank teams based on the evaluation criteria explained in the competition guidelines. In Round 2 and Round 3, teams must meet minimum requirements for water and land footprint, and will be scored on (1) how much CO2 they convert and (2) the net value of their products. The net value calculation will take into account the economic value of the products, the cost of inputs including energy, and the potential market size of the products.
11. How much is the prize purse?
A total of $20 million in prize purses will be awarded as follows:
- In Round 2, a $2.5 million milestone purse will be shared equally among up to five finalists in each track.
- In Round 3, a $7.5 million Grand Prize purse will be awarded to the winner in each track.
12. Does XPRIZE provide financial support to competing teams?
XPRIZE does not provide direct financial support to teams during or after competition, aside from the prize purses. However, XPRIZE does support the teams every step of the way by bringing competitors together to share ideas, encouraging collaboration among teams with complementary technology sub-systems, and more generally by building an ecosystem of innovators, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, industry partners, potential funders, media and marketing professionals, as well as know-how and best practices from past XPRIZE competitions.
13. Is this a global competition?
Yes! Anyone can compete in an XPRIZE competition. Teams from around the world are expected to enter and compete for the prize.
How do I get involved?
14. How do I compete?
The first step is to form a team! If you are interested in competing, even if you do not yet have a team, you can create a user profile on our Team Portal. In order to become a registered team and compete for the prize, teams must sign the Competitors Agreement and pay a registration fee. The regular registration deadline is in March 2016. The late registration deadline in June 2016.
15. Why is a registration fee required to compete?
Competing in an XPRIZE is an exciting journey that often requires a commitment of time, expertise and resources. Registration fees are required as a simple qualifier to ensure competitors will be able to obtain the appropriate resources to fully compete. All fees collected are used to support teams and competition operational costs such as testing, team focused events, media and prize impact development.
16. Is there help developing teams?
17. If I’m not competing, how can I get involved?
There are many ways to get involved. If you are in a similar field or have resources to share, please contact us to see how you can serve as a resource to competing teams or as a supporting partner. If you are someone that is excited to see the transformative power of this prize, then please join our community. Many people in the Open Source community support the Prize goals without competing. Join the XPRIZE Forums and the Wiki for more information. And for anyone who wants to broaden the impact of this prize and accelerate change, please share and advocate among your networks! Help us get the word out to find the best innovators who can compete and let the world know about the power of this prize to help the world Reimagine CO2.
Impact of the Prize
18. How will this competition address the issue of CO2 emissions?
The prize will incentivize development of new and emerging CO2 conversion technologies, accelerating them from laboratory testing to demonstration under real world conditions. This will help identify the most promising pathways for CO2 conversion and prove they can be deployed at power plants and other industrial facilities. Breakthroughs in the conversion of CO2 could ultimately lead to new manufacturing processes and markets that can help drive down global CO2 emissions.
19. What impact could this prize have?
The prize will prove that CO2 can be a valuable asset—a building block for a wide variety of products we use every day. After the prize is won, utilities, industrial facilities, and other industries will have access to new solutions that could reduce emissions through CO2 conversion, and lower the cost of deploying cleaner energy globally. Ultimately, the impact of the prize will go far beyond the critical demonstration of innovative technologies, by inspiring transformation, enabling new markets, and empowering people to be a part of the solution to one of our world’s grandest challenges.