Here is a rough draft of what a broad, technology agnostic Prize Design could look like. Please note that this is strictly a draft version meant to stimulate discussion. It in no way reflects a decision of or commitment by XPRIZE to move forward with this type of design. We look forward to all of your feedback!
The Technology Agnostic CDR XPRIZE
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We are exploring the feasibility of a prize design that is open to a wide range of CDR solution pathways. We need your help:
Identifying specific advantages / disadvantages of broad scope prize designs
Identifying the most meaningful metrics for a prize
Justification of this design
- Maximize number of viable CDR solutions that can be compete. (Not every solution need have equal chance of winning, but each should have at least a chance, otherwise teams will not enter those solutions).
- Have winners be determined based on measured performance against key criteria, rather than preferred CDR pathways selected in advance via scope definition
- Maximize number of viable CDR demonstrations in the competition
- Identify key evaluation criteria that incentivize solutions that maximize scalability, maximize actual carbon removal, maximize economic value creation, and minimize negative environmental and social impacts
- Identify key metrics that can be applied to the full range of CDR solutions deemed in-scope – in this case, a broad scope.
The challenge in creating an open prize then is creating metrics that allow for judging without accidentally disadvantaging or prohibiting entire classes of solutions in NETs unintentionally. Of course, some intentional exclusion of classes of NETs that we feel aren’t promising may be acceptable or even advisable).
To do this, we must focus on only the most important criteria, the factors that we believe to be essential elements of any solution we would want to incentivize. Here are these criteria along with brief reasons for each:
Total CO2 removed
- Competition Metric: tons of CO2 removed during demonstration, or tons of CO2 removed per year
- Incentivise solutions that have potential to scale AND can already demonstrate meaningful CO2 removal
- Prove the technology works in a very clear and direct way
Profitability or Economic Potential
Possible Competition Metric:
- Economic value of CDR minus capex minus opex, or unit profitability
- Economically viable solutions have best chance to attract investment, be developed, scaled, and deployed in the medium term. Least economically viable solutions may be the slowest to be adopted and deployed.
- Economic viability is also one of the most audacious challenges for CDR
Minimum Length of Time Sequestered
Possible Competition Metric:
- E.g. sequestration time must be greater than X years
- Solutions with maximum climate impact may also have longest carbon sequestration time
- Need to consider how to evaluate avoided emissions relative to carbon neutral solutions relative to carbon negative solutions
Maximum Land Use
- Possible Competition Metric: total land use for demonstration must not exceed 10 ha, or land intensity at scale must exceed 100 tons per ha
- Incentivize solutions that maximize broader environmental sustainability
- Some CDR pathways risk sparking competition with cropland and established communities for land
- Encourage land-intensive solutions to minimize land intensity
- Another key criteria for a prize is the amount of land that solutions can utilize, since many of the promising pathways currently being considered for carbon negative technologies are projected to require massive land use to achieve scale (i.e. the National Academies Study estimates that achieving 10 GT/year CDR scale for BECCS would require using 40% of all arable land on the planet).
- Note: This criteria is not intended to rule out biological solutions per se; rather it is intended to force innovation in biological solutions (i.e. ocean-based or vertical farming) that do not require unrealistic amounts of land to create an impact.
Here is one possible implementation of the above design principles. This is an example only, to illustrate how a prize COULD be built on this premise:
Prize Overview: Remove the most CO2 in a three-to-five year “race”, while meeting the key criteria noted above: profitability, land use, and sequestration time
Timeline: This CDR XPRIZE will be a 4-6 year prize. One way to divide that time is as follows:
Phase 1) “White Paper” Proposal Submission (6-12 months)
Phase 2) Demonstration Phase (1-2 years)
Phase 3) Final Field Test (2-4 years)
White Paper Submission:
Teams will be responsible for outlining their proposed innovation, specifically with regards to:
a) How it will meet profitability and sequestration thresholds, as well as satisfy land use constraints
b) How they propose to measure and verify the amount of CO2 removed during a 3-year field trial
c) What an minimum viable product (MVP) for their solution looks like that could be developed during the demonstration phase and how they think that MVP should be judged for suitability to advance to the Demonstration Phase.
Following the white paper submission, 30 teams will advance to the Demonstration Phase and be awarded a milestone prize to fund further develop.
- Demonstration Phase:
- Teams will be required to develop an MVP prototype of their solutions as described in the white paper submission.
- At the end of this phase, the 10 most promising prototypes with respect to CO2 removal will be advanced to the final field test phase.
- Each finalist would also receive a larger milestone prize to further develop their solutions.
- Final Field Test:
The ten finalist teams will then have a 3-5 year window to remove as much carbon dioxide as possible.
The Grand Prize Winner will be the team that sequesters the most carbon over that time period while meeting the requirements noted above:
- Profitability = Must achieve “unit profitability”, i.e. the value acquired on the open market for capturing a ton of carbon exceeds the opex cost of CO2 capture
- Land use = No more than 10-100 hectares of land utilized to capture the carbon (exact figure TBD)
- Minimum Time of Sequestration = Teams must show that at least 80-90% of the carbon captured has been or can be sequestered for at least 100 years (exact figures TBD).
While only 1 team will win the Grand Prize, there will be additional “Innovation Prizes” awarded at the discretion of the judges for teams that are unable to win the grand prize but still demonstrate significant achievement in one of the key focus areas for this prize: scale, profitability, and length of sequestration.