Elon Musk said via tweet Thursday that he would donate $ 100 million for an award for best carbon capture technology.
Musk, who recently overtook Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to become the richest person in the world, did not provide more details except to add in an accompanying tweet that “the details will come in next week.” It is not known if this is a contribution to another organization that prepares an award such as Xprize or if it is another production led by Musk.
The broad definition of carbon capture and storage is as the name suggests. Waste carbon dioxide emitted in a refinery or factory is captured at the source and then stored with the aim of removing the potentially harmful by-product from the environment and mitigating climate change. This is not a new quest and many companies have sprung up over the past two decades with different means of achieving the same end goal.
The high initial cost of carbon capture and storage or sequestration (CCS) has been a major barrier to the technology. However, there are companies that have found promise in carbon capture and use – a cousin of CCS in which collected emissions are then converted to other, more valuable uses.
For example, LanzaTech has developed a technology that captures waste gas emissions and uses bacteria to turn them into usable ethanol fuel. A bioreactor is used to convert waste emissions from a steel mill or factory or any other company producing emissions into captured and compressed liquids. LanzaTech’s core technology is a bacteria that likes to eat those dirty gas streams. When the bacteria eats the emissions, it ferments them and emits ethanol. Ethanol can then be made into various products. LanzaTech creates companies that specialize in a different product. The company has created a spin-off called LanzaJet and is working on other possible products such as the conversion of ethnaol to ethylene, which is used to make polyethylene for bottles and PEP for fibers used to make clothing. .
Other examples include Climeworks and Carbon Engineering.
Climeworks, a Swiss startup, specializes in direct air capture. Direct Air Capture uses filters to capture carbon dioxide from the air. The emissions are then either stored or sold for other uses, including fertilizer or even to add bubbles found in soda-like drinks. Carbon Engineering, is a Canadian company that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and processes it for use in enhanced oil recovery or even to create new synthetic fuels.