As Global Warming Soars, These XPRIZE Carbon Removal Finalists Are More Needed Than Ever

Phil De Luna, Contributor | Forbes
10 mai 2024

I’m a materials scientist working to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

Skyrenu Forbes Xprize
Many of the world’s top scientists now expect global warming to soar past the 1.5 degree Celsius target – the point of irreversible climate change. Reducing emissions is no longer enough. Countries and companies are struggling to meet their climate targets through emissions reductions. Removing CO2 from the atmosphere and permanently storing it is becoming our only backstop to catastrophic climate impacts.
In a significant step forward in the emerging carbon removal industry, the XPRIZE Foundation has just announced the top 20 finalists in the $100 million Carbon Removal XPRIZE competition, backed by the Musk Foundation. The challenge was launched to spur viable carbon removal solutions that can be executed at scale, with the goals of both mitigating the effects of climate change and building economic opportunity. With diverse teams from around the globe, the top 20 represent a cross-section of the most promising technologies in natural and engineered solutions.
Among the finalists, there are groundbreaking approaches ranging from enhanced weathering techniques that accelerate natural geological processes to cutting-edge direct air capture (DAC) systems that efficiently extract CO2 from the atmosphere. Other innovative methods include biochar application, which stabilizes carbon in solid form and improves soil health, and direct ocean capture which pulls carbon from the ocean allowing it to pull more CO2 from the air. The 20 finalist teams are organized across four removal pathway tracks: Air, Rocks, Oceans, and Land.
The Carbon Removal XPRIZE is structured in rounds, with each round designed to progressively test the feasibility, scalability, and economic viability of the technologies. In the final round, the finalists are expected to demonstrate their technologies at a pilot scale, aiming to remove at least 1000 tonnes of CO2 per year. This rigorous testing phase not only demonstrates the technology's efficacy but also its potential market impact, as carbon removal must be economically sustainable to attract investment and achieve wide-scale deployment. (Disclaimer: My company Deep Sky is a carbon removal project developer that has partnered with XPRIZE finalists for their pilot deployment.)
Importantly, recognition from XPRIZE is a major catalyst for these early-stage companies and helps them raise funding from investors, attract customers, and develop partnerships with vendors. "Only 12 months ago my co-founder Jasper and I were building a prototype in my garage, and now we're preparing to deploy kiloton-scale DAC systems later this year,” said Airhive CEO and XPRIZE finalist Rory Brown. “To get that recognition from the XPRIZE team and expert judges will also help us push ahead on our path to scale more quickly, and we're excited to see how all the other great teams in the Finalist list do too."
As teams from all over the world race to develop technologies, regions are starting to emerge as hubs centered around access to renewable power and storage capacity – key ingredients to scaling carbon removal. For example, Quebec, Canada has seen recent attention as a promising place to build direct air capture because of its abundance of hydroelectric power. "We are thrilled to be part of this outstanding group of climate innovators and finalists of the XPRIZE Carbon Removal,” said Gabriel Vézina, co-founder and CEO of Quebec-based Skyrenu. “This nomination emphasizes the potential and crucial importance of deploying Direct Air Capture systems combined with CO2 mineralization for reliable and sustainable carbon removal, particularly for strategic regions like Quebec."
Innovation challenges like the XPRIZE Carbon Removal competition serve as a focal point for innovators and give us something to root for. As these teams enter the final phase of the competition, the world watches with bated breath, hopeful that among them are the key technologies that will help us avert climate catastrophe.