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A coal-fired power plant emits heavy smoke into the air. Photo: Pixabay.

Final push for entries in $20M carbon-capture competition

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Organizers of an international competition to find ways to turn a profit from carbon dioxide emitted by coal- and gas-fired power plants are making a final push for entries before next week’s deadline.

So far, 15 teams have submitted 20 entries to compete in the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. Many others have expressed interest, said Paul Bunje with XPRIZE.

This fall, XPRIZE judges expect to choose as many as 30 teams to begin to compete for $20 million in prize money. Winning uses of CO2, the gas primarily responsible for global warming, could include manufacturing graphene, a material much stronger than steel.

“What we’re really looking for is to make sure there are teams that have the quality and ability to do this very hard thing,” Bunje said. “The teams that have registered so far meet that criterion. They are pretty impressive — everything from academia to startups to big companies.”

Formal entries are due July 15. Teams that pass this fall’s proposal review will advance to testing their ideas in laboratories.

In the second round, XPRIZE will score teams on how much carbon dioxide they convert in the lab and the potential value of their products. As many as 10 teams will share $5 million and advance.

The final round will involve putting real flue gas to use. Work has been underway at a coal-fired power plant, Basin Electric’s Dry Fork Station near Gillette, Wyoming, to host the competitors.

Teams also will demonstrate technologies at a gas-fired power plant in Alberta, Canada. The winner of each side of the competition — at the coal-fired plant and the gas-fired one — will receive a $7.5 million grand prize.

XPRIZE has held a number of competitions in recent years to spur technology development. They include the $10 million Ansari XPRIZE, which in 2004 went to the first private team able to launch three people into suborbital space twice within two weeks.

The state of Wyoming has pledged $15 million toward construction of the Gillette-area lab in the hope coal-fired energy can emit less greenhouse gas while remaining competitive with renewable energy such as solar and wind power. Close to 40 percent of the nation’s coal comes from mines in Wyoming, the top coal-producing state.

The Wyoming lab won’t be much to look at, just a modular trailer and a place where the competitors can truck in their devices and hook them up to the power plant, said Jason Begger, executive director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority.

“They’ll be brought in, set down on the ground and plugged into the flue gas,” Begger said. “It’s almost like an RV park, providing a space and hookups.”

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc. has promised $5 million toward the center. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association has pledged $1 million.


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