Last week we shared the exciting news that CarbonCure was named Grand Prize winner of the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. The days that followed were a whirlwind of press interviews and celebrations. This week, we caught up with the people who made it all happen — Team CarbonCure.
Site Operations Lead
Lead Concrete Technician
Summary of Team CarbonCure’s Journey
In 2015, Team CarbonCure entered the Carbon XPRIZE competition and set out on its mission to decarbonize the carbon-intensive process of concrete production.
One of over 2,000 applicants to the Carbon XPRIZE, Team CarbonCure was shortlisted among 38 contenders and spent five years building, honing, and pivoting its technology.
The team’s creativity, innovation, and unwavering dedication to the Carbon XPRIZE project saw it through several grueling rounds and numerous challenges as it battled its way to the final which took place in Alberta, Canada in 2020 and, ultimately, to taking home the grand prize of USD $7.5 million.
Who is Team CarbonCure?
Team CarbonCure is made up of seven people with a diverse range of skills and experience. Each team member played a key role in the development of the technology that won the industry’s most prestigious award — the Carbon XPRIZE.
“Initially, we didn’t believe we could win. We had to pivot multiple times to design a winning technology and, to be honest, there were days when we felt like quitting,” said Jennifer Wagner, President of CarbonCure at Team Lead of the Carbon XPRIZE team.
“On those days, we went back to the drawing board, where we didn’t just think outside the box, we stood on top of the box to reach for the stars! We proved to ourselves that we can overcome any challenge and that anything is possible if you put your mind to it,” said Jennifer.
Overcoming Immense Challenges
The competition forced the team to accelerate timelines, think creatively, and tackle some incredible challenges, especially in the final stages.
In addition to travel restrictions and other pandemic-related challenges, the harsh winter conditions in Calgary meant the team had to limit the number of staff on the final demonstration site and contend with freezing equipment, wet conditions, and hazardous cold temperatures.
“We would get up at 4:30 am in the freezing cold and be covered in mud for an entire day. It was seriously hard work,” said Geoff Arbuckle, Site Operations Lead on Team CarbonCure. “There was great camaraderie on our team and with other teams at the test centers. It made the challenging experiences much easier to handle.”
Dean Forgeron, the Lead Engineer on Team CarbonCure was proud of how the team pulled together to get the system up and running. “For me, the most exciting part was when the system shipped from Halifax to Calgary and we activated it and saw it in action at the demonstration site actually using the CO2,” said Dean.
The freezing conditions meant that the team had to make many adjustments to the equipment to prepare for the final in the fall of 2020 in Alberta, Canada.
“The most stressful moment for me was when it was minus 25 degrees celsius (-13 degrees Fahrenheit) outside and all our pipes froze. We had to come up with a solution to rework the whole system,” said Adam Meade, Lead Concrete Technician on Team CarbonCure.
The team’s final demonstration differed a lot from the original concept mapped out back in 2015 at the beginning of the XPRIZE journey.
“We’ve definitely made mistakes along the way. But what makes for a great entrepreneurial team is if and how they can learn from those mistakes and not make the same ones again. For us, the competition has been a continuous learning experience,” said Travis Janke, Project Manager on Team CarbonCure.
Innovation is one of our core values and the Carbon XPRIZE competition has been a great opportunity for the team to really push the envelope on what is possible.
What the Carbon XPRIZE Win Means to Team CarbonCure
Being part of a winning XPRIZE team is a lifelong goal for many innovators. Team CarbonCure worked very hard to achieve something that will make a big difference to the concrete industry and to the planet.
“I’m at the beginning of my career as an engineer so winning XPRIZE is an amazing experience that will really help me in the future,” said Almas Ikhsanov, Field Technician on Team CarbonCure. “Our team spirit was amazing. There were some challenging times but our team really pulled together and reminded each other of our end goal — to win XPRIZE.”
Sean Monkman, Scientific Lead on Team CarbonCure was instrumental from the beginning. He helped the team use predictive modelling to make decisions about their innovation strategy that would give them the best chance of winning.
“Looking back over six years of work on the XPRIZE, my favourite part was working with the team to bring the vision into reality,” said Sean.
“Winning the Carbon XPRIZE is a very special moment for the team. Not only does it validate our technology for reclaimed water, but it also validates that we have the right people and the right approaches to solve some really complicated problems,” said Jennifer.
For more information on CarbonCure’s XPRIZE journey, watch the WIRED interview with Team CarbonCure leader and CarbonCure President, Jennifer Wagner.