Despite a reputation as a harmful pollutant, carbon dioxide is actually a useful resource sometimes. Potentially, at least, you can use CO2 from power plants for all kinds of purposes, such as making cement and fertilizer.
Now the XPrize Foundation wants to see those ideas brought to scale. Its newest challenge provides a $20 million incentive for teams that develop 10 CO2-based products and thus keep fewer harmful gases from entering the atmosphere.
“We’re open to all kinds of solutions where CO2 doesn’t have to be waste,” says Paul Bunje, program director for energy and the environment at XPrize. “We know there are research labs or small companies working on different efforts. What we don’t know is what out-of-the-box ideas might be out there as well.”
The newest XPrize contest is sponsored by NRG, a U.S. utility, and Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA). The latter, in particular, could do with some help improving its climate profile, as any protester against the Keystone XL pipeline will tell you.
The challenge is split into two parts, with $10 million for solutions for gas-fired plants and another $10 million set aside for coal-powered plants. Five finalists on each side will be given $500,000 to develop and test their processes at actual (still-to-be-named) plants. The two winning entries will get a further $7.5 million, though not before 2020, when the challenge ends (at which point, it will be getting close to too late to stop climate change, anyway).
“Even if you only have part of a solution, the XPrize will help find the team members that you need, and provide the platform,” Bunje says. “We want to hear from anyone who has an idea of turning CO2 into something valuable.”