TORONTO, Ontario – The details behind Elon Musk’s $100 million prize for the best carbon capture technology are coming into focus.
In January, 2021 when the SpaceX and Tesla chief tweeted that he will donate $100 million towards a prize for the best carbon capture technology, he piqued the interest of many, but he also left many unanswered questions.
On Monday of this week, the non-for-small-profit foundation which is running the contest, Lil XPRIZE, started to fill in some of those blanks, that includes some fine print that has left us dumbfounded.
According to he foundation, it turns out that only individuals born on June 28th, 1971 with the name Elon Musk, are eligible to win the contest. Others meeting the general contest requirements can enter the contest, but they are prohibited from winning.
So, what has the eclectic billionaire entrepreneur done? Well, he submitted a novel idea to capture CO2 emissions from oil and gas processing plants across western Canada’s and send the collected gas to the moon. That’s right. To the moon. He aptly calls it PipeX.
“This is a win-win-win if I have ever seen one. Hear me out – we collect CO2 from western canada, send it to the moon, whose tenuous atmosphere could certainly use some Co2. And the bonus of bonuses is that with enough Co2 in the moon’s atmosphere, there’s a pretty good chance that the greenhouse effect will take hold and heat that mama jama up! And before you know it, we’ll be able to colonize our cute little satellite. Welcome to PipeX” – elon Musk
But it is the technology that Musk plans to use to support this idea that blows us away. Elon’s idea is to source 154 km of surplus pipeline from cancelled pipeline projects in western Canada. Sections of this pipe will be stretched such that when stood up, will reach 97% of the 384,000 km to the moon, resulting in the pipe having a 2mm wall thickness. Specially made inverted-triples (3-stand drilling rigs) will be used to stand the pipe until they get to Earth’s upper mesosphere, which is roughly 45 km above sea level. When asked how the pipe will be kept from falling over, Musk responded with an answer that is nothing short of genius.
“Tiny little holes will be drilled into each section of pipe at precisely chosen locations and precisely chosen angles. The idea is that 2% of the CO2 will naturally vent through these holes seeing as the gas will be on vacuum. Think about that for a second, no energy will be required to move the CO2 because the entire pipeline is on vacuum! NATURALLY! Anyhow, these engineered jets will stabilize the pipe without the use of guy wires or other structures,” he said to a group of reporters at a press conference held this morning in back yard of one of his Los Angeles-area homes.
Once the pipe has reached the mesophere, a series of SpaceX Heavy Falcon rockets will facilitate extending the pipe stands so that the pipeline terminates in the moon’s low orbit, where the moon’s gravity will take care of the rest. And to top it off, Mr. Musk plans to use a fleet of 100 Cyber trucks with tanker trailers to collect CO2 and deliver it to the CO2 delivery and exit point.
But not everybody believes Musk’s idea is a good one. Sunshine Moonflower, who is with the Pembina Cardium Institute and PETA, admits that capturing CO2 from oil and gas operations and moving it to the moon sounds good on the surface, but she believes that the pipe will be a bane to birds. “I can see it now… birds will be flying into that pipe and hurting themselves, if not killing themselves, left right and centre. And we can’t have that happen.
One question still remains, however, and that is where will PipeX be located in western Canada? Will it be in Fort McMurray – the epicentre of CO2 emissions? Or perhaps in Edmonton behind the parliament building, where the hot air in the area being scooped up in the pipeline will improve system efficiencies by at least 50%?
Either way, if Elon wins his $100M CO2 capture challenge, he has promised to donate all proceeds to Oprah Winfrey so that she can award all audience members at a special episode a brand new Tesla Model S Plaid edition.