Halifax company named winner of $20M Carbon XPRIZE; technology was tested in Calgary

Halifax-based company CarbonCure’s breakthrough technology can be used to retrofit existing concrete plants so they consume carbon dioxide as part of their normal production process

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A Canadian company that has developed a process to reduce emissions from concrete production is one of the two grand-prize winners of the $20-million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE.

Halifax-based company CarbonCure — whose breakthrough technology can be used to retrofit existing concrete plants so they consume carbon dioxide as part of their normal production process — will take home one of two $7.5-million grand prize purses. (In Round 2, a $2.5-million prize purse was shared equally between the five finalists in two separate competition tracks).

“It’s really a dream come true,” Rob Niven, CarbonCure’s founder and CEO, said in an interview. “We’ve been working at this for so long.”

The Carbon XPRIZE is a five-year global competition that was launched in September 2015 to address CO2 emissions from fossil fuels by challenging innovators around the world to develop new technologies that convert the most CO2 into products with the highest net value. To be competitive, teams had to minimize their use of energy, water, land and overall CO2 footprint.

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In all, XPRIZE received 47 submissions from 38 teams from seven countries. In October 2017, after 27 semifinalists were chosen, XPRIZE announced the 10 finalists selected by the judges to compete for the two $7.5-million grand-prize purses.

The 10 finalist teams, representing five countries, had to demonstrate a working system at lab scale during the semifinal round in 2016 and 2017. Teams produced a diverse range of products and technologies to transform CO2 into fuels, chemicals, plastics, carbon fibre, concrete, building materials, food and more.

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For the purpose of the contest, CarbonCure’s prize-winning technology was installed at the 860-megawatt natural gas-powered Shepard Energy Centre in southeast Calgary, which was the test site for the Alberta track of the Carbon XPRIZE. (The contest also had a track based in Wyoming, which was won by a research team from UCLA).

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A Calgary-based company, Carbon Upcycling Technologies, was also in the running for the top prize and had a demonstration site at the Shepard Energy Centre. Carbon Upcycling Technologies has developed a system that converts gaseous CO2 into an inorganic solid material that can be used in the production of concrete, plastics, pharmaceuticals, batteries and more.

Niven said CarbonCure believes its technology has the potential to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions from the concrete industry by 500 million tonnes per year by 2030. The company, which already has its technology installed in 300 concrete plants around the globe, plans to use its prize money to help it scale up as well as to invest heavily in further research and innovation.

“Concrete is by far the most abundant man-made material on the planet, and it also has an enormous carbon footprint due to its scope,” Niven said. “There’s so much more we can do based upon this science of turning CO2 into value for concrete producers.”

astephenson@postmedia.com

Twitter: @AmandaMsteph

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