The $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE has moved back its final deadline by seven weeks. The competition aims to demonstrate viable new uses for carbon dioxide; one half of the competition is hosted by the Integrated Test Center at the Dry Fork Station in Gillette. The other half is located in Alberta which has not yet seen any deadline changes.
Marcius Extavour, executive director of the competition, said COVID-19 is a huge disruption and challenge for everyone.
"We don't want to put the teams in a position where they have to take unnecessary risks or aren't able to comply with any of the public health directives," he said.
The seven week extension will give teams more time within the Round 3 operation period; that's when teams will need to collect data that will eventually be used to judge the winner.
An XPRIZE representative said it was tricky to find an extension short enough to maintain the integrity of the competition but long enough to allow teams to field the impacts of COVID-19. They said Carbon XPRIZE is still aiming to announce its winner in the fall of 2020, but that everything is still fluid.
The competition in Wyoming pits five finalists against each other with the goal of developing new uses for carbon dioxide and demonstrating their technologies potential; teams are looking to use flue gas to turn carbon dioxide into greener fuel alternatives, concrete, and plastics among other uses.
Extavour said XPRIZE had previously expected teams to begin setting up shop at the ITC in April with an eye at September to announce.
Two of the teams are domestic, but three are international - located in the United Kingdom, India and China - and face travel restrictions. Plus, there are local concerns.
"The judges have to meet, we have to do a bunch of validation work, the teams have to collect the data, the teams have to operate to make the data," he said.
Extavour said visas are an issue, but that several teams also just need to utilize international shipping to get equipment on site. As of March 20, the ITC itself closed due to Governor Mark Gordon closing down restaurants, schools and, more recently, all non-essential business.
Jason Begger, executive director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority (WIA), which manages the ITC, said the WIA is in a wait-and-see mode with travel restrictions and quarantines in effect without an end-date.
"The last thing we needed was to bring in people from all over the world into Gillette when the community has limited services and we're doing everything we can to stop transmission of the virus," Begger said.
Each team is being affected in unique ways. Co2Concrete, located at the University of California Los Angeles, currently has its system en route to the ITC. Begger did give specific guidance that deliveries could be offloaded, but that construction or assembly is prohibited.
Dimensional Energy, in Ithaca, NY, expected to move its system to Wyoming in mid-April, but that will now need to be postponed.
BREATHE, located in Bangalore, India, is led by Sebastian Peter. He said there's still another month or two of work to do in India to prepare engineering and paperwork. He said the primary concern will be shipping items to the U.S.
Peter said COVID-19 does not change their plans to participate in the competition.
"There is no question about that. As soon as this issue is over, definitely we will come. Yeah, no doubt about it. But the process and procedure, how that will [happen], we don't know. So that we have to understand," he said.
C4X in China and the Carbon Capture Machine in the U.K. did not respond for comment.
Extavour said, at the end of the day, the motivation of the prize is not going away.
"The problem we're trying to solve is not going away. Maybe we won't get to address it this spring the way we hoped, but I think we've come far enough that we'd like to find a way to support these finalists to showcase what they can do. The ITC is there waiting for us to use it," he said.
Carbon XPRIZE had previously postponed deadlines last June. It moved the competition's final data collection deadline from February 28 to June 30. That deadline is now August 17.
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