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CALGARY — Asking the public to “reimagine carbon,” a group of oilsands companies is helping to launch a $20-million XPrize competition to find innovative ways to address carbon emissions.

Dan Wicklum, chief executive of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance, said the goal is to find practical uses for converted carbon emissions, rather than an outright reduction in carbon dioxide production.

“The competition will promote and advance the discovery and development of new technologies to take carbon emissions, which are now seen as a liability, and change them into a resource, a valuable, usable product,” Wicklum said at the public launch Tuesday.

“Today we’re throwing down the gauntlet, we are lighting a fire under the brightest minds in the world.”

The competition runs for four and a half years and the winning team will be the one that converts the most CO2 into one or more products with the highest net value and the smallest environmental impact.

Possible solutions listed by the organizers include new ways to make cement, concrete and other building materials, chemicals to make industrial and consumer goods, low-carbon transportation fuels, or entirely new products.

Teams will be able to choose between capturing carbon emissions from a coal power plant or a natural gas facility.

The prize is being half-funded by U.S.-based NRG Energy, a utility that promotes renewable energy, and half by Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance, founded by 13 oilsands companies to find ways to reduce the environmental impacts of the industry.

“The Carbon XPrize embodies everything COSIA works toward every day,” said Wicklum.

“COSIA was launched to be the vehicle through which oilsands companies would do things differently, where they would work together on shared environmental challenges and where they would share technology that would accelerate performance improvement.”

The non-profit XPrize foundation, known for organizing high-profile research competitions like creating the first private space flight, will run the competition.

Follow @ibickis on Twitter.

 

 

Ian Bickis, The Canadian Press

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