There was a brief flare-up in the CCS scene, which has hardly made any progress for years: Tesla boss Elon Musk announced in the spring that he would be offering 100 million US dollars in prize money for the best process, the CO2 filters from the air and stores it or can use it as a raw material (carbon capture and storage).
Musk’s motivation is easy to explain: the technology is still not economical. Although it is getting more and more money and attention, a breakthrough has not yet been identified. There comes a new X-Prize from the Tesla and SpaceX founder is just about right.
Faster CO2 from the air
Climate models show that large amounts of carbon dioxide must be removed from the air in order to prevent truly dangerous global warming. And more and more countries and companies are relying on a certain level of CCS in order to reduce their emissions to zero in the coming decades.
Microsoft, for example, announced in 2020 that it would set up a $ 1 billion fund for CCS technologies as it wants to offset all of its historical emissions. Direct air capture startups like Climeworks, Carbon Engineering, and Global Thermostat have all raised at least $ 10 million from investors. And the Carbon X-Prize has put out $ 20 million in prize money for incorporating carbon dioxide into products.
This article is from Issue 2/2021 of the Technology Review. The magazine will be available from February 18, 2021 in stores and directly in the heise shop. Highlights from the magazine:
A lot more money is needed
Musk’s additional $ 100 million could certainly help. However, it shows how limited this is possible with money. Carbon Engineering has put the cost of a single large separation plant at $ 300 to 500 million. Aside from money, Musk also has a special talent for attracting attention.
And the division can use that. 15 teams are to receive one million dollars each, the winner even gets 50 million. It was “not a theoretical competition”, announced Musk, “we are running out of time”. Is that enough to finally deliver the breakthrough?