With the aim of mitigating the impacts of climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and oceans, the four-year competition invites teams of innovators to propose solutions that can extract CO2 and permanently sequester it in an environmentally benign way. Validated models will be scientifically evaluated on four criteria: the ability to remove at least one ton of CO2 a day; scalability to the gigaton level; efficiency as measured by cost per ton of CO2 removed; and length of CO2 sequestration, with a minimum goal of a hundred years. According to XPRIZE, scientists estimate that as much as six gigatons of CO2 a year must be removed by 2030 and ten gigatons a year by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.
Musk initially announced the commitment — the largest for an XPRIZE competition to date — on January 21 in a tweet: "Am donating $100M toward a prize for best carbon capture technology." To open on Earth Day, April 22, the competition will provide the top fifteen teams after eighteen months with $1 million "milestone grants" to kickstart their fundraising in support of full-scale demonstrations. XPRIZE also will award scholarships of $200,000 to twenty-five student teams. The winners of the $50 million grand prize and second and third prizes of $20 million and $10 million will be announced on Earth Day 2025.
"We want to make a truly meaningful impact. Carbon negativity, not neutrality," said Musk. "The ultimate goal is scalable carbon extraction that is measured based on the 'fully considered cost per ton' which includes the environmental impact. 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. Whatever it takes. Time is of the essence."
(Image credit: XPRIZE Foundation)