“X-Factor Awards” Spotlight XPRIZE Carbon Removal

Jun 03 2024

Rainforest half obscured by mist

XPRIZE Carbon Removal is on a mission to tackle climate change head-on by pioneering a new trillion-dollar industry to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and catalyze breakthrough carbon dioxide removal (CDR) innovations.  

In the latest round of judging (where the Top 100 and Top 20 teams were chosen), the judges also identified three teams they felt deserved special recognition. While these teams will not compete in the finals, XPRIZE is proud to recognize them with an “X-Factor Award”

This is a special recognition reserved for particularly novel concepts. All three of these teams presented exciting new approaches to removing carbon dioxide worth further exploration. The Judges felt each of these solutions held the potential for significant impact, and looked forward to following the results of these team’s research and development. 

We are excited to announce that XPRIZE Carbon Removal’s “XFactor Teams” are: 

Alaska Future Ecology Institute, Gigablue, and Metalplant.

Alaska Future Ecology Institute - HQ Location: US, Demo Location: Russia

The Alaska Future Ecology Institute is a nonprofit working to scientifically test, and responsibly implement, Arctic Rewilding as a climate solution.  Restoring high densities of large herbivores to the Far North (bison, elk, muskox, and others) could capture gigatons of CO2 and durably sequester it in the icy soil, with the simultaneous co-benefits of preventing permafrost thaw, increasing albedo, reversing biodiversity loss and helping indigenous communities improve their food security and climate resilience.  Based on a demonstration site in Siberia we are now building a second site in Alaska to continue research and chart a pragmatic course for scaling.  

"Alaska Future Ecology teams’ approach offers a win-win scenario for both carbon storage and biodiversity. By re-wilding with large mammals that were historically present in Alaska, this project aims to restore ecosystem integrity, which in turn enhances carbon storage and sequestration at scale and sustainably. Additionally, it addresses the critical issue of permafrost thawing, thus preventing the further release of highly potent methane gas. This strategy represents, in my opinion, an ideal use of Nature-Based Solutions for Carbon Dioxide Removal- by simultaneously tackling biodiversity loss, carbon sequestration and avoided emissions. Since it leverages natural processes, once the animal populations become self-sustaining, the need for large-scale interventions diminishes, thereby increasing long-term ecological and economic sustainability of the solution."  - Dr. Lola Fatoyinbo, XPRIZE Judge

Metalplant - HQ Location: US, Demo Location: Albania

Metalplant combines enhanced rock weathering with nickel phytomining to remove carbon dioxide while producing nickel. Olivine, one of the fastest weathering, most abundant, and efficient minerals for CDR, has been limited in use due to the trace levels of nickel contained in it. Hyperaccumulators draw the metals up from the soil into their biomass. By applying olivine to natural serpentine soils planted with native nickel hyperaccumulating plants, we can recover released nickel from the soil. This allows us to overcome limitations on the use of olivine minerals and turn the weakness of nickel in ERW into an economic strength. The value of the recovered nickel lowers our all-in cost and will drive the upscaling of our process.

“What I love about Metalplant’s approach is the combination of two processes that are relevant to our energy transition - carbon storage and critical mineral recovery - into one process. This innovative approach is a perfect example of how to integrate technologies to solve problems: Metalplant simultaneously addresses the long-standing issue of environmentally hazardous metal leaching in enhanced weathering while potentially improving process economic viability. It also leverages two markets that will require significant scale-up to meet our climate goals. This can offer increased flexibility and resilience to uncertain market dynamics. We hope to see other novel, synergistic ideas follow in the same blueprint.”  - Dr. Peter Psarras, XPRIZE Judge

GigaBlue - HQ Location: New York, Demo Location: New Zealand

Gigablue’s mCDR technology marks a significant breakthrough in combating climate change. The full potential of marine carbon dioxide removal hinges on the optimal integration of four essential elements: environmental safety, durability, scalability, and precise measurability. Gigablue excels by perfectly balancing these aspects. By utilizing geo-targeted particles, Gigablue stimulates phytoplankton growth for effective carbon fixation, while its controlled gravity core ensures responsible deep ocean sequestration. This innovative approach champions nature-inspired, cost-effective carbon capture solutions and sets a new standard of integrity in ocean-based CDR efforts.

“The core technology developed by GigaBlue is incredibly novel, and potentially powerful. They aim to fundamentally solve one of the key challenges of biological carbon sequestration in the ocean, by enhancing the durable burial of carbon from algae growth. We were enormously impressed by GigaBlue’s in-depth understanding of the physical, chemical, and biological oceanographic factors that impact the effectiveness and impact of their technology. We are very excited to track this team’s progress as they continue to develop this potentially game changing technology.”  - Dr. Chris Verlinden, XPRIZE Judge

Learn more about these groundbreaking teams, as well as the full Top 100 list here showcasing a diverse array of innovations who collectively represent a new generation of promising solutions across 25 countries and a range of carbon removal pathways.

These X-Factor Awardees join the ranks of Carbon Upcycling-NLT and Carbon Corp, finalists in the $20 Million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE.