Alberta's Climate Change and Emissions Management Corp., which collects money from a $15-per-ton levy that the province applies to companies that exceed set emissions limits, said it wants "bright ideas from around the world that will repurpose carbon and use it as a starting material."
"The approach could deliver significant reductions in greenhouse gases, complement other greenhouse gas reduction strategies, strengthen our economy and enhance Alberta's competitiveness," CCEMC Chairman Eric Newell said in a statement.
Examples of possible "winning" entries, CCEMC says, include: technologies that fix captured carbon into solid or easily transportable materials and biological solutions that capture carbon and convert it into a viable product, such as creating oils from algae as well as processes that produce high-value goods from greenhouse gas emissions.
The competition announcement Thursday follows a major demonstration against TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL pipeline last weekend in Washington.
"With the eyes of the world on Alberta, now is the time for us to broaden our focus -- by exploring and investing in technologies that drive our climate change targets and ensures we remain a global clean energy supplier," said Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Diana McQueen.
Alberta aims to reduce greenhouse emissions intensity to 50 percent less than 1990 levels by 2020.
An independent organization created in 2009, CCEMC has invested more than $160 million in projects that have a combined value of more than $837 million.
CCEMC says that it has committed to fund 49 projects that have a combined value of nearly $1 billion. The projects are estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 8 megatons over 10 years, equal to taking more than 1.6 million cars off the road.
The competition is open to but not limited to companies, academic researchers, research institutions, consultants, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and inventors, CCEMC said. The $35 million in grants will be awarded through three rounds of funding over five years.
The highly stable molecular makeup of carbon, however, poses a considerable technical challenge.
Eddy Isaacs, chief executive of Alberta Innovates, Energy and Environment Solutions, which will help with the judging for the competition, told the Edmonton Journal that once carbon dioxide is emitted, it stays in the atmosphere for an average of 100 years.
"It does take a lot of energy to break down the CO2 and to convert it into a useful product that has economic value," he said.