CarbonCure Takes Home the Carbon XPRIZE

We are delighted to share that CarbonCure has been named one of two USD $7.5 million grand-prize winners of the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE

The contest — which took place in three rounds over four and a half years — challenged us and over 2,000 applicants to develop breakthrough technologies to convert carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions into usable products, with the ultimate goal of tackling climate change. 

“Carbon conversion presents a massive opportunity — both from a climate and economic standpoint,” said Jennifer Wagner, President of CarbonCure and leader of Team CarbonCure. “Climate change is a massive threat to life as we know it and it can seem like an insurmountable challenge. Team CarbonCure and our fellow Carbon XPRIZE contenders have demonstrated that the challenge is surmountable and that we have the solutions available today to create meaningful change,” said Jennifer.

In 2015, Team CarbonCure entered the Carbon XPRIZE competition and set out on its mission to decarbonize the concrete industry. Team CarbonCure’s innovation and tireless dedication to the project saw it through several gruelling rounds and numerous challenges as it made its way to the final phase of the competition, which took place in Alberta, Canada in 2020. 

Carbon XPRIZE-Winning Innovation

Team CarbonCure demonstrated two technologies as part of the Carbon XPRIZE competition — both of which are scalable, retrofit solutions to help decarbonize the concrete industry.

After being selected as a semi-finalist, Team CarbonCure achieved a historic milestone: the successful demonstration of a fully integrated CO₂ capture and utilization solution for concrete, where the CO₂ from a cement kiln was used for the production of ready mix concrete.

“This breakthrough helped us envision a future with a fully circular economy, where we’ve not only reduced the amount of CO2 emissions that we produce, but any remaining CO2 emissions are used to create valuable products,” said our CEO and Founder, Rob Niven.

CarbonCure partner Thomas Concrete, under the leadership of President Alan Wessel, played a key role in the demonstration of CarbonCure’s CO2 utilization technology in the semi-final round. Thomas Concrete has since delivered over 3 million cubic yards of concrete to Georgia and the Carolinas, resulting in over 30,000 tonnes of carbon savings. 

During the final round of the Carbon XPRIZE competition, we demonstrated our newest commercial technology focused on carbonating reclaimed water — the wastewater generated at concrete plants — to enable the production of concrete with a reduced water, cement, and carbon footprint. 

In addition to the other technologies in our portfolio, this new technology will play a pivotal role in helping us achieve our mission to reduce 500 million tonnes of CO₂ from the built environment annually — equivalent to taking 100 million cars off the road each year. More than 300 concrete plants around the world are already using our ready mix technology, and the first generation of our reclaimed water technology is currently operating in a commercial setting at TRIO Ready-Mix’s concrete plant in Victoria, British Columbia.

“The whole purpose of the Carbon XPRIZE was to demonstrate that CO2 can be turned into a valuable feedstock and be used as a building block for a wide variety of products that we use every day,” said Rob. “We’ve shown that it is possible to develop business-friendly solutions which can help mitigate climate change while also creating new business opportunities.”

A typical Team CarbonCure at the Carbon XPRIZE test site in Calgary, Alberta.

Why CarbonCure’s Win is Significant

Governments and corporations have set ambitious net-zero emissions targets to avoid the worst effects of climate change, while also creating new, clean economic opportunities. 

Buildings are the source of 40 percent of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions and, with the world’s building stock expected to double by 2060, it’s vital that solutions are developed that can scale quickly.

Since concrete is the world’s most used human-made material, it is a major source of CO₂ emissions, it offers a great opportunity for innovation. In fact, the use of CO₂ in concrete is expected to become a USD $400 billion market opportunity.

CarbonCure’s solution for the concrete industry exemplifies XPRIZE’s ideal innovation — it is effective, commercially viable, and scalable — and it is having a real impact today.

CarbonCure President Jennifer Wagner was the Team Lead for the project.

The Climate Change Clock is Ticking

The Carbon XPRIZE win offers us a unique opportunity to create greater awareness of XPRIZE’s ethos that “the world needs crazy ideas.”

“I’m a glass-half-full person so I’m optimistic about the future, and feel that we’ve got the right people and technologies to tackle climate change,” said Jennifer. “What keeps me up at night is whether we can do it fast enough.” 

While CarbonCure’s technologies are already being widely deployed to build all manner of infrastructure and building projects, we need to turn our attention to scaling up these proven solutions as quickly as possible

Technology alone will not get us to our net-zero emissions targets — we need scale. Concrete producers, the wider construction community, and policymakers are important allies on our journey to scale to a level where we can fully decarbonize the concrete industry.

What’s Next for CarbonCure?

Taking home the Carbon XPRIZE validates CarbonCure as the global leader in climate tech for concrete and helps accelerate our growth trajectory as we work towards our mission of reducing 500 million metric tonnes of CO2 annually. 

For us, this means ramping up the growth of our existing climate technologies, continuing to innovate to bring new technologies to market that permanently reduce/remove/recycle CO₂, and accelerating the deployment of our technologies in international markets.

We’re also committed to building a legacy in the community, and that’s why we’ll be investing a portion of the prize funds into social equity initiatives. Climate change and social equity are intricately connected — marginalized communities often face social and environmental injustices — and we want to do our part to address climate change across all communities.

For more information on CarbonCure’s XPRIZE journey, watch the XPRIZE-sponsored event with WIRED, featuring Team CarbonCure leader and CarbonCure President, Jennifer Wagner.

Come back and visit Concrete Corner next week as we share behind the scenes details of Team CarbonCure’s path to becoming a Carbon XPRIZE winner and celebrate all the individuals who contributed to this great achievement!

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