University of Calgary

University of Calgary

October 04, 2011 09:00 ET

University of Calgary: University-affiliated scientist's spin-off company on campus short-listed for prestigious $25-million prize

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - Oct. 4, 2011) - A company created from a University of Calgary-affiliated scientist's research, and located on campus, is a finalist in a $25-million international competition to capture global-warming carbon emissions from thin air.

Carbon Engineering, a private firm created by David Keith, is the only Canadian finalist among more than 2,500 entries in the Virgin Earth Challenge, founded by Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin Group.

Keith is a fellow in the Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy (ISEEE) and an adjunct professor of physics. He joined Harvard University as a professor this September 1, but maintains a strong collaboration with the university.

"The Virgin Earth Challenge is a global competition. David Keith's company being the only Canadian finalist shows that the energy and environmental research being done by ISEEE and at the University of Calgary offers practical solutions for real-world problems," said David Layzell, ISEEE's executive director.

Keith's work on climate science, energy technology and public policy spans 20 years, and has earned him such recognitions as first prize in Canada's national physics prize exam, MIT's prize for excellence in experimental physics, and a listing as one of TIME magazine's Heroes of the Environment in 2009.

Carbon Engineering's investors include Microsoft founder Bill Gates and prominent Calgary oilman and businessman Murray Edwards.

"Carbon Engineering has built the strongest engineering team in the world for developing CO2 capture from air," Keith said.

"Our novel, catalyzed capture and recovery technology should dramatically reduce our cost and energy footprint, enabling us to succeed in niche markets under current economic conditions. We are thrilled that Virgin will work with Carbon Engineering to commercialize CO2 capture from air."

The Virgin Earth Challenge offers a $25-million prize for the first entrepreneur to establish a safe technology and commercial business to capture carbon from thin air, as opposed to capturing CO2 from an industrial source such as a coal-fired power plant or oilsands operation.

'Air capture' is one of very few technologies that can reduce CO2 emissions from the distributed and mobile sources, such as vehicles and airplanes, which emit more than half of the greenhouse gases on Earth.

Carbon Engineering is currently operating a prototype air capture machine on campus, at a site near the physical plant. The 30-ton prototype is designed to test the key technical innovations behind the company's efficient air contactor designs. The machine will run several more weeks this fall and continuously next summer, to accumulate significant operational experience and run-time.

Keith also is a keynote speaker for ISEEE's Conference on the Assessment of Future Energy Systems (CAFES – at the downtown Westin Calgary hotel on November 3 and 4.

CAFES will showcase 10 internationally renowned experts on energy systems thinking as keynote speakers. The conference will bring together these experts with top scientists from the university, industry leaders and policy makers, to identify the opportunities challenges and integrated solutions for Canada and North America of the next energy system transformation.

In addition to Keith, global experts on energy systems who'll speaking at CAFES include Alan Knight, independent sustainable development adviser to the Virgin Group and director of the Earth Challenge.

MEDIA OPPORTUNITY – Tour Carbon Engineering's site

Reporters are invited to tour Carbon Engineering's site on campus and view the company's prototype air capture machine. David Keith will be available for interviews. The tour will start at 1 p.m. Tuesday, October 4.

To confirm your attendance, please call or email the Media Contact below.

DIRECTIONS: The site is located just off West Campus Drive, across from the Children's Hospital and near the Physical Plant on the east side of West Campus Drive. See attached map.

Contact Information

  • Media Contact
    Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy
    Mark Lowey
    Communications Director
    (403) 210-8659 or Cell: (403) 990-6986