Carbon XPRIZE Finalists Return To Gillette For Next Technical Steps

Feb 6, 2019

Marcius Extavour at the ITC gathering
Credit Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

Four of the five finalists for the NRG Cosia Carbon XPRIZE competition gathered at the Integrated Test Center (ITC) in Gillette Tuesday. It's the first time the organization has brought teams back to the site since the ITC opened in May of 2018.

The five teams based out of Gillette are competing to demonstrate their technology, all devoted to converting carbon dioxide into a usable product. The winner will take home a $7.5 million prize in June of 2020.

Groups met with experts for a design review, with vendors, and with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality to discuss permitting. It was also a chance to check out the test bay where reactors and other facilities will be assembled. Jason Salfi, head of Dimensional Energy, is the only team using photocatalysis. On the gravelly, empty site, he was scoping out the best place to set up.

"We'd be best probably over in there," Salfi said, explaining it's south-facing and out of the shade. "We're solar driven our power needs are very minimal, so we're looking for the maximum solar resource."

His project uses direct sunlight to eventually produce polymers for industrial partners. Other groups competing for the XPRIZE are developing technology that can convert carbon dioxide to concrete, construction feedstock, and methanol.

Breathe, based out of Bangalore, India, is focused on producing methanol. That's often used with gasoline to reduce emissions. Leader of the team Sebastian Peter said he was very surprised by the lack of people.

"No one is here in this side of the world. It's so empty, so empty," Peter said, laughing.

He added he's confident that his technology is the best.

"It is getting the best kind of conversion, getting the best selectivity compared to them," Peter said.

In June, the operational period begins where teams can formally start collecting data.