Carbon capture idea wins The Liveability Challenge 2021

US-based SeaChange has triumphed ahead of five other finalists in the annual search for solutions to make Asia's cities more sustainable.

SeaChange, the winners of the 2021 The Liveability Challenge
SeaChange, the winners of the 2021 The Liveability Challenge: Image: Eco-Business

A United States-based firm that removes carbon dioxide from sea water has emerged the winner of the 2021 edition of The Liveability Challenge, an annual search for solutions to the toughest challenges facing Southeast Asia’s fast-growing cities.

SeaChange emerged ahead of a group of six finalists to claim the top prize of S$1 million (US$735,000) in funding for their project from the backer of the contest, Temasek Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Singapore state investment firm Temasek.

This year’s competition, which was organised by Eco-Business, was themed around ideas to reduce and lock-in greenhouse gas emissions and create a circular economy that is restorative and regenerative in design.

SeaChange was awarded top prize following a series of live presentations to an expert panel of judges, partly in-person and partly virtual, in response to social distancing restrictions introduced for the Covid-19 pandemic.

SeaChange’s technology converts dissolved CO2 in sea water into stable solid carbonates, which can be used to make construction materials such as cement and concrete.

“Using sea water as a sponge is a gamechanger for atmospheric CO2 removal,” said Camly Tran, chief operating officer the SeaChange, and executive director for the Institute for Carbon Management at University of California, during her presentation. “This is important work, and potentially transformative.” 

One judge, Steve Melhuish, impact investor at Planet Rise, described the SeaChange idea as a “big, bold approach to carbon capture” and lauded the idea for leveraging desalination plants in Singapore to help achieve scale.

The winner came out in front of a shortlist for decarbonisation solutions that included DiviGas, a Singapore-based firm that captures carbon from hydrogen plants, and UK-based Econic Technologies, which uses carbon dioxide to produce sustainable polyurethanes, textiles and surfactants.

The circular economy-based finalists included Aegis Packaging, which makes sustainable packaging using silicate polymers, Seppure, which recovers and reuses solvents using nanofiltration technology, and NEU Battery Materials, which recycles lithium from electric vehicle batteries.

Other prizes were awarded to Seppure, NEU Battery and Divigas. Seppure was awarded a $100,000 investment by Planet Rise. Seppure and Divigas were awarded S$50,000 by Amasia. NEU Battery Materials was awarded a S$50,000 investment by Silverstrand Capital.

According to a poll of the audience, Aegis Packaging was the most popular entry.

The winner of last year’s Challenge was Singapore-based biotechnology company TurtleTree Labs, the developer of lab-grown milk. Past winners have included RWDC Industries, which produces a material made from plant-based oil to replace single-use plastic, and Sophie’s Kitchen, a California-based firm that makes protein products from bioalgae.

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