IMAGE CREDIT: Julia Dunlop/Climeworks
It’s going to take a lot more than using paper straws to stop the world from heating up.
Recently, Elon Musk has tried to encourage more innovation: he created the largest incentive prize in history of $100 million to whoever can create the best carbon capture technology.
Carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) technology has been in production for years but currently, more people around the world have been promoting the adoption of it. Many innovators around the world have been developing technology to remove carbon from our atmosphere. CCS is technology that collects air from our atmosphere and stores the carbon dioxide in it and releases the clean air.
If we don’t limit the amount of carbon in our atmosphere, a dangerous sea level rise could occur sooner than we think. One of Antarctica’s ice sheets is on the brink of collapsing into the ocean due to the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Finding a way to limit or remove it could be the solution to stopping sea level rises.
On January 21st, 2021, Elon Musk tweeted he would be donating $100 million to the best carbon capture technology. The contest was launched April 22, 2021 (Earth Day), and will run until Earth Day 2025. “This is not a theoretical competition. We want teams that will build real systems that can make a measurable impact and scale to a gigaton level,” said Musk in a written statement released by XPRIZE, the nonprofit organization running the competition.
The technology must be able to remove one ton of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere per day and have the ability to be scaled up and eventually remove gigatons of carbon dioxide. The goal of the competition is to have this technology be able to capture and store carbon for a minimum of 100 years in an efficient way and remove 10 gigatons from our atmosphere by 2050.
The Global CCS Institute is the largest research institute globally that focuses mainly on the production of CCS and implementing it around the world to stop global warming. A team of professionals work with members of the institute to promote and accelerate the adoption of CCS worldwide. Because of the attention it’s been receiving, CCS has gained support from Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.
According to a 2020 report by the Global CCS institute , there are 65 commercial carbon capture plants open worldwide meaning they earn profit, commonly in exchanges. The first was opened in Switzerland by the company Climeworks with founders and engineers Christoph Gebald and Jan Wurzbacher. The greenhouses of agriculture enterprise Gebrüder Meier Primanatura AG sparked the idea for the carbon capture plant. The first business plan was created as a venture challenge course while the two were in university.
After collecting and storing the CO2, it is sold. The sold CO2 supplies different businesses such as local farms to be used as fertilizer. It can also be used to create carbon-neutral fuels and carbonated drinks.
IMAGE CREDIT: Climeworks
CCS has been around since the 1920s, being used for natural gas reservoirs, separating CO2 from methane; however the idea of capturing and containing carbon from the atmosphere has been around since 1977. More recently, research on this technology has been getting more attention due to the heavy pressure of global warming.
The report from the Global Institute of CCS stated that all carbon capture storage facilities worldwide increased capacity by 33% in one year. 26 of those facilities have been capturing 40 million tons annually.
At this point, we will not meet the goal of the XPRIZE competition of removing 10 gigatons of CO2 from our atmosphere by 2050, however, there is progress being made and we still have a chance. To be successful with our goal, there will need to be an increase in CCS facilities meaning the idea of it will have to be adopted faster.
The billionaire behind the CCS technology incentive says that is exactly the goal. “We want to make a truly meaningful impact. Carbon negativity, not neutrality,” Musk states.