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UW Student Team Wins XPRIZE and Musk Foundation Award in Carbon Removal Competition

November 10, 2021
three people working together on something
From left, UW students Shane Heavin, of Rock Springs; Lander Stone, of Laramie; and Anna Savage, of Greybull, work on soil gas sensors as part of their award-winning project related to carbon removal. (UW Photo)

A team of students from the University of Wyoming is a winner of the Carbon Removal Student Competition funded by XPRIZE and the Musk Foundation.

XPRIZE has announced that 23 student-led teams won the $5 million Carbon Removal Student Competition, which is part of the $100 million XPRIZE for carbon removal supported by the Musk Foundation. The competition was launched, in part, to fund early-stage concepts from the next generation of carbon removal innovators and to remove barriers to entry for those interested in the main competition.

The UW team -- Shane Heavin, of Rock Springs; Danielle Jones, of Gillette; Anna Savage, of Greybull; and Lander Stone, of Laramie -- submitted a project proposal in the category of Measurement, Reporting and Verification Technologies to improve the design of existing carbon soil gas monitoring sensors created and produced by Earth Platform Systems (EPS).

The team will receive a $100,000 award to discover ways to improve the design; to incorporate it into other environments and uses; and to lower costs of production and make it more widely available.

Savage, who serves as the team and project leader, is excited to be part of the growing trend to move carbon capture technologies forward.

“Our main goals are to make it smaller, more accessible and easier to deploy,” Savage says. “The technology is already really innovative and advanced. What we want to do is make sure that companies and private institutions can actually deploy these sensors and get good baseline data to move the carbon sequestration industry forward.”

The project team is being supervised by Charles Nye, an associate research scientist in the UW School of Energy Resources’ (SER) Center for Economic Geology Research, and Ben Flickinger, owner of EPS. Earlier this year, Nye and Flickinger deployed the first generation of the carbon soil gas sensor near the project site for the Wyoming CarbonSAFE Project near Gillette.

“This submission is based on a site that is being considered for carbon dioxide capture and storage,” Nye says. “Being able to utilize and improve technology that is part of a real-world site -- that has a high probability of being Wyoming’s first carbon capture and storage site -- will allow this team to evaluate its sensors using authentic data.”

Savage believes that the interdisciplinary nature of the collaboration is a strength of the project, allowing students to get involved.

“The School of Energy Resources is leading a lot of cutting-edge research, and this is a great way to get students involved on the ground,” Savage says. “We are very grateful to be able to assist with a real carbon storage project, and we are deeply humbled to have been selected for the XPRIZE award.”

The interdisciplinary team members are part of a newly created UW student organization called the Environmental Sensing Club. Students in the club represent academic programs from SER, the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, engineering and geology.

To be eligible for the Carbon Removal Student Competition, student teams needed at least 50 percent of their members to be currently enrolled in an educational institution with the support of an academic adviser or business leader able to act as a formal mentor.

All submissions were reviewed by a panel of expert third-party judges who considered the innovation, ability to reach gigaton scale, team resources and capabilities, as well as project plan feasibility in their selection process.

To see a full list of the selected teams or learn more about the XPRIZE Carbon Removal competition, visit www.xprize.org/carbonremoval.

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