Elon Musk tweeted Thursday that he would donate $ 100 million in prize money for best carbon capture technology.
Musk, who recently surpassed Jeff Bezos of Amazon to become the richest man in the world, provided no more details except to add in an accompanying tweet, “details will come next week.” Updated: A person familiar with the plan told TechCrunch that it would be linked to the Xprize Foundation, a non-profit organization that hosts competitions aimed at promoting technological development and innovation.
The broad definition of carbon capture and storage is as the name suggests. Carbon dioxide waste discharged into a refinery or factory is captured at source and then stored in order to remove the potentially harmful by-product from the environment and mitigate climate change. This is not a new pursuit and many companies have emerged over the last two decades with different means to achieve the same end goal.
High upfront costs for carbon capture and storage (CCS) are a major barrier to technology. However, there are companies that have found a promise to capture and utilize carbon – a cousin of CCS, in which the collected emissions are then converted into other more valuable purposes.
For example, LanzaTech has developed a technology that captures waste gas emissions and uses bacteria to turn them into usable ethanol fuel. The bioreactor is used to convert liquid, trapped and compressed waste from a steel plant or a factory or other emitting plant. LanzaTech’s core technology is a bacterium that likes to eat these dirty gas streams. Because the bacterium eats the emissions, it essentially ferments them and releases ethanol. Ethanol can then be converted into various products. LanzaTech separates businesses specializing in different products. The company has set up a separation called LanzaJet and is working on other possible products, such as converting ethanol to ethylene, which is used to make polyethylene for bottles, and PEP for fibers used to make clothes.
Other examples include Climeworks and Carbon Engineering.
Climeworks, a Swiss start-up, specializes in direct air capture. Direct air capture uses filters to capture carbon dioxide from the air. The emissions are then stored or sold for other purposes, including fertilizer or even to add bubbles found in soda drinks. Carbon Engineering is a Canadian company that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and processes it to be used for improved oil recovery or even to create new synthetic fuels.