How do you kickstart an industry? The $100 million XPrize for Carbon Removal recently announced its 15 winners in the first competition stage to achieve gigaton-scale carbon removal. With more than 1300 entrants in the XPrize process, the carbon removal prize may be the largest experiment in innovation in human history. The goal is to lower the cost of carbon removal to well below $100 per ton and ultimately to store atmospheric CO2 for centuries to halt and eventually reverse climate change. The XPrize Carbon Removal competition’s Executive Director, Nikki Batchelor, and Mike Leitch, the project’s technical leader, join the conversation to discuss the 15 milestone winners who earned $1 million each. When the final awards are announced in 2025, the winner will receive a $50-million prize, and the runners-up will split $30 million. Both for-profit and university teams were among this year’s winners, and they represent a variety of natural and technical approaches to capturing CO2 from the air and sequestering CO2 in the ocean, farmland, and rock formations.
Natural approaches, such as enhanced rock weathering, biomass processing, or supplementing agricultural land with biochar, are many people’s preferred carbon drawdown options. However, we need to place many bets to create diverse solutions if the industry is to grow. Technical solutions, including direct air capture and various ocean-based approaches, must be explored and readied to help keep the planet from warming more than 2C. At this point, genuinely catastrophic climate impacts will be inescapable. Given the pace, or more accurately, the lack of progress in reducing emissions, society needs to experiment safely and deliberatively with various carbon removal pathways. Explore some of these strategies to understand how the nascent carbon removal industry is taking shape. You can learn more about the XPRIZE for Carbon Removal at https://www.xprize.org/prizes/carbonremoval