Both $7.5M Grand Prize Winners Developed Technologies Focused on Decarbonizing Concrete, the World’s Largest Material Industry
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA (April 19, 2021) - XPRIZE, the global leader in designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world’s grandest challenges, today announced that CarbonCure Technologies and CarbonBuilt have won the $20M NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, a prize that set out to convert CO2 emissions into valuable products.
Selected by a panel of independent judges, both winning teams developed solutions aimed at reducing CO2 emissions associated with traditional concrete, which is currently the world’s most abundant human-made material and accounts for seven percent of all global CO2 emissions. The two team’s award-winning technologies will be, and already are, game-changers for global decarbonization and the fight against climate change.
Launched in 2015, the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE was a five-year global competition developed to address rising CO2 emissions by challenging innovators around the world to develop breakthrough technologies that convert the most CO2 into products with the highest net value.
The competition included two tracks, the Wyoming track that focused on the conversion of emissions from a nearby coal-fired power plant, the Wyoming Integrated Test Center in Gillette, WY, and the Alberta track which used emissions from an adjacent natural gas-fired plant, the Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre in Calgary, AB. The winning teams, one from each track, converted the most CO2 into products with the highest value, while minimizing their overall CO2 footprint, land use, water use, and energy use.
CarbonCure Technologies, the Alberta track winner from Canada, demonstrated a technology which enabled the production of concrete with a reduced water and carbon footprint without sacrifice to the material’s reliability. Utilizing CarbonCure Technologies’ system, a precise dosage of CO2 is injected into a concrete plant’s reclaimer system, which contains the water used to wash out concrete trucks and mixers. The CO2 is converted to a permanently embedded mineral with strength-enhancing properties which can then be incorporated into new concrete mixes. By reducing the amount of new freshwater, solid waste disposal and cement required, the team, which is backed by Bill Gates’ fund Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Amazon Climate Pledge Fund, BDC Capital and others, is able to reduce the material costs and increase profitability for concrete producers.
“I’m incredibly proud of Team CarbonCure’s hard work, dedication, and ingenuity that contributed to our win. The prize winnings will accelerate our path to achieve our company mission of reducing 500 megatonnes of CO2 emissions annually by 2030,” said Jennifer Wagner, president of CarbonCure and team lead for the competition. “Technology alone will not get us to our net-zero emissions targets — concrete producers, the wider construction community, and policymakers are important allies on our journey to decarbonize the concrete industry.”
The Los Angeles-based Wyoming track winner, UCLA CarbonBuilt, developed technology that reduces the carbon footprint of concrete by more than 50 percent while reducing raw material costs and increasing profitability. The CarbonBuilt concrete formulation significantly decreases the need for ordinary Portland cement while enabling the increased use of low-cost waste materials. During the curing process, CO2 is directly injected from flue gas streams (like power plants or cement factories) into the concrete mixture where it is chemically transformed and permanently stored. Development began at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering in 2014 with support from the NRG COSIA CARBON XPRIZE, philanthropic foundations, private and corporate sponsors, as well as government agencies including the U.S. Department of Energy.
“I am absolutely thrilled that UCLA CarbonBuilt has won the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE,” said Gaurav N. Sant, professor of civil and environmental engineering and of materials science and engineering at UCLA Samueli. “As a third-generation civil engineer, I have been fascinated with the role that construction has played in solving societal challenges. To have spent the last decade finding a solution to mitigate the carbon footprint of concrete construction with a phenomenal team, and to have won the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE doing so is an ultimate dream come true,” shared Sant, who is also the director of the UCLA Institute for Carbon Management and founder of CarbonBuilt, Inc., a private company set up to commercialize the pioneering CO2 utilization technology.
“Concrete is one of the world’s most abundant materials, and a crucial frontier in the fight against climate change. The production of portland cement, the key ingredient that binds concrete and gives it its strength, accounts for approximately seven percent of global CO2 emissions,” says Marcius Extavour, vice president of climate and energy at XPRIZE. “Concrete is also a material that can be readily made using CO2 as an input, which the winning teams have demonstrated really clearly. Now, deploying their technology to avoid and reduce emissions from heavy industry will be a gamechanger for global decarbonization in the fight against climate change.”
Additionally, the USD $20M NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE awarded X-Factor awards to Carbon Upcycling-NLT and Carbon Corp, two finalists that created excellent products and compelling demonstrations that deserved recognition. Carbon Upcycling-NLT, based in Calgary, produces nanoparticles with applications in various industries, particularly concrete, construction and plastics. Carbon Corp, who relocated from the USA to Calgary, transforms CO2 into carbon nanotubes, with applications such as lightweight, ultra-strong and cost-effective replacements for metals; stronger cement-composite building materials; and expanding applications in industrial catalysis, batteries, and nanoelectronics.
“Combating climate change is one of the most important challenges we face--requiring us to rethink, reimagine, and embrace new ideas,” said Jeanne-Mey Sun, NRG vice president, sustainability. “Competitions, such as the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, are opportunities to bring innovators together to develop solutions for the monumental task of decarbonizing our economy. As we recognize today’s winners, we celebrate all of the teams’ hard work and perseverance in this new era in carbon technology.”
“Through COSIA, Canada’s oil sands industry has been proud to support this initiative which has proven that capturing CO2 emissions from natural gas and coal combustion and converting such into usable products can be a game-changer in broader emissions reduction efforts. With breakthrough technologies like these, we can tackle the major causes of climate change while also responsibly meeting global energy demand,” says Wes Jickling, chief executive of COSIA. “As one of many projects underway within COSIA, the competition is a shining example of how innovative cleantech can transform our world. Our hats are off to all the competitors, and we congratulate the winners.”
“Congratulations to XPRIZE winner, CarbonBuilt. The research they’re doing at the Integrated Test Center proves Wyoming is leading the way on carbon capture and utilization,” said U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY). “ Last summer, I saw their groundbreaking work firsthand, as they transformed captured carbon dioxide into concrete. CarbonBuilt’s technology will help create new markets and jobs in Wyoming and across the country, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Congratulations to CarbonCure who’s already transforming the concrete industry, and to the rest of the contestants in advancing a carbon-tech sector full of opportunity. It has been a privilege for the Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre to host the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE”, says Laura Kilcrease, CEO of Alberta Innovates. “The ACCTC is open for business and we welcome new technology developers to experience the ACCTC as they blaze paths to a net zero future.”
Each grand prize winner will be awarded a USD $7.5 million prize purse, and will receive their winnings within 60 days. Those interested in learning more can do so at carbon.xprize.org
XPRIZE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is the global leader in designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world’s grandest challenges. Active competitions include the $20 Million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, the $10 Million Rainforest XPRIZE, the $10 Million ANA Avatar XPRIZE, the $5 Million IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, $5 Million XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling, $5 Million XPRIZE Rapid COVID Testing, and $500K Pandemic Response Challenge. For more information, visit xprize.org.
NRG is the leading integrated power company in the U.S., built on the strength of our diverse competitive electric generation portfolio and leading retail electricity platform. A Fortune 500 company, NRG creates value through best in class operations, reliable and efficient electric generation, and a retail platform serving residential and commercial businesses. Working with electricity customers, large and small, we implement sustainable solutions for producing and managing energy, developing smarter energy choices and delivering exceptional service as our retail electricity providers serve almost three million residential and commercial customers throughout the country. More information is available at www.nrg.com. Connect with NRG Energy on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @nrgenergy.
Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) is a unique alliance of oil sands producers focused on accelerating environmental performance in Canada’s oil sands. COSIA enables collaboration and innovation between big thinkers from industry, government, academia and the wider public to improve measurement, accountability and performance in the oil sands across our environmental priority areas of greenhouse gases, land, water and tailings. COSIA members search the world for solutions to our toughest problems. And we have some of the best minds on the planet working on technologies to enable responsible and sustainable development. To date, COSIA has shared over 1,025 distinct environmental technologies and innovations that cost over $1.6 billion to develop. Visit COSIA at www.cosia.ca. Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.