Scale of End-Use Demonstration

This competition will be evaluating the full life cycle of energy carriers, from the cradle to the grave. In the Finals, we will seek the capture of renewable and clean electrons at a pilot (commercial demonstration) scale, transfer them in a simulation of an ocean crossing, and then use them in a demonstration of three functions that enable energy transitions through near and long-term trajectories: electrification, combustion, and heat generation.

What scale should the end-use demonstration be, and why?

  • Is “proof of concept” sufficient?
    Is it sufficient to demonstrate end-use functions using base-benchmark technologies for further development post-competition at the adopting markets?
  • Or should it be a commercial demonstration-scale pilot throughout the lifecycle?
    Should the full cycle match a pilot scale production-rate to increase market confidence in solutions?

Hi @akb, @carlbozzuto, @rayw, @b0bbybaldi, @agval, @Magneto, @gyyang, @clabeaux, @SPSBadwal, @skunsman, @marcelschreier, @bernardsaw, @Paul, @KeithDPatch, @Jesse_Nyokabi - Curious to know your thoughts on this important discussion on end-use demonstration of energy carriers - should it be proof of concept or demonstration of end-use functions or commercial demonstration-scale pilot?

@Eti that’s a good question. There are pros and cons to both approaches. Simplified demonstration requirements mean that competitors are able to demonstrate their proposed solutions - but it might require XPRIZE staff to put more effort into the evaluation, such as the assumptions around parts of the ecosystem that weren’t demonstrated. A more complex demonstration means that competitors might struggle to demonstrate all aspects of the ecosystem and/or the challenge might take much longer; but XPRIZE staff will not have to make so many assumptions in the evaluation.

Talking of assumptions, how ecosystems evolve in the future might be complex and difficult to predict, as there are many factors that determine the eventual outcomes (e.g. market forces, investment, support, government support and regulation, etc.).

Thanks @akb for sharing your thoughts. Do you mean it makes more sense to have commercial demonstration-scale pilot of the solutions throughout the lifecycle given the uncertainties around future ecosystems.

Hi @Shashi - a commercial scale demonstration might make the evaluation simpler in the sense that every aspect could be evaluated, without many assumptions having to be made. However, I suspect competitors might struggle to demonstrate all the aspects of a full ecosystem - unless the commercial scale demonstration focuses on just one specific aspect. Also, it’s not yet clear what the successful, or dominant, parts of a full ecosystem will be in the future - which poses a challenge in terms of setting up an XPRIZE for a complete ecosystem.

From my perspective I can see pros and cons to both of the approaches proposed on this page.

Thinking about this a little more, systems that are built to be modular and interoperable with various aspects of a future ecosystem might warrant extra points in the evaluation. A system that can easily adapt (and integrate into) to the changing attributes of future energy ecosystems might mean they have a better chance of succeeding in the future [assuming they also score well on the other criteria too of course].

What do I mean by energy ecosystem? Here’s an illustration: Global Renewable Energy Network:

@Shashi, I think this should be correlated to funding. A proof of concept would be enough to be accomplished with a funding grant (smaller one) but definitely, large prizes should carry with them consumer feasibility to make sure that this solution has proper product-market-fit beyond the competition.

Thanks @b0bbybaldi and @akb for sharing your thoughts in detail.

Hi @Magneto, @cananacar. @Ali, @Access600, @anis, @Febbie, @Shepard, @grhoffman7, @adventureashr, @mikelandmeier, @erinnvw, @SonyaD, @lauramatrax - Do you have any inputs to share on the final solution demonstration by teams. Your feedback on the above mentioned options will be helpful.

Hi @Irina, @PhilDeLuna, @Wangari, @dwcollins1960, @CamCarbonCapture, @hopkepk, @bartc, @jwangjun, @ACESChris, @peterstyring, @Adaryani, @josephjjames - Given your experience in this field it would be nice to have your advise and feedback on scale of end-use demonstration of renewable energy carriers. Thanks.

I can see pros and cons to both of the approaches proposed.

Systems that are built to be modular and congenial with various aspects of a future system might warrant extra points in the evaluation. A system that are easily adapt and coherent to the changing attributes of future energy ecosystems might mean they have a better chance of succeeding in the future.

Thanks @Jesse_Nyokabi for sharing your thoughts.

Hi @JohnBucknell, @railman, @everforce, @Paul, @mgraffg, @Ruslana, @mattymatt, @Dave2021, @Agnelli317, @Poshgero - Would love to hear your thoughts on the two approaches listed above for solution demonstration by the teams. Which approach is better?

Commercial scale is hard to justify from an economic perspective, however a proof a concept has to be able to show performance representing commercial scale for any pilot program otherwise there is no incentive to continue.


I listened to the podcast with Elon Musk and Peter Diamandis talking about the $100 million prize for carbon removal. Mr. Musk pointed out that whatever technology is proposed, it has to work to win the prize. That means something has to be built and operated for a sufficient period of time to be convincing that the technology actually works. The pilot scale that is proposed is 1000 tons per year of CO2. That corresponds to roughly 100 lb/hr of a fuel like natural gas being burned and generating that much CO2. In the power industry, that would be a small scale pilot plant. Proof of principle would be done at the bench scale level. Proof of principle would show that the technology might possibly work, but would not be sufficient to provide the type of data needed to scale up a process to large size equipment. A pilot plant could do that, provided it were large enough to minimize interferences imposed on small scale experiments (boundary effects, surface to volume issues, mixing issues, etc.). Typically, in the power industry, there would be another step after a small scale pilot plant to try to learn about scale up problems. Then there would be a small commercial demonstration to be followed by a large scale demonstration. Thus, the level being proposed would be a preliminary step towards full scale up. Even so, such test facilities cost on the order of $1 - 2 million. They are big enough to encounter many of the issues that larger scale plants will have to confront such as startup, control systems, and shutdown procedures. That being said, typically a 30 day, continuous run is usually required to demonstrate that there are no adverse impacts from longer term operation. These might involve build up of unwanted chemicals, fouling of catalysts, corrosion issues, etc. In the CarbonXPRIZE, one team that accomplished a full 30 day run found that they had a film buildup on one of their electrodes which caused a performance degradation. When the electrode was cleaned, performance was restored. That type of data is extremely important for commercial operation. The worst thing that can happen for the introduction of a new technology for commercialization is to have the performance fail after a short period of time at the customer’s plant. In summary, I think the 4 year time period is too short. I have mentioned this before. It will take some time to properly design, build, commission, test, and execute a 30 day run. An extra year is probably required. The proposed size is probably OK, recognizing that a lot more work will have to be done to scale up. Finally, a 30 day, continuous run should be an absolute requirement in order to meet Mr. Musk’s statement that the technology “must work”.

Thanks @carlbozzuto for sharing these insights. Very helpful in understanding the demonstration and timeline.

Thanks @JohnBucknell for sharing your thoughts.