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Omani carbon removal pioneer wins $1.2m Earthshot Prize

The 44.01 team
The team at 44.01. The Omani company aims to begin mineralising carbon commercially next year
  • Gulf company 44.01 wins Prince William’s environmental award
  • Its carbon mineralisation tech ‘is replicable globally’, says founder
  • Oman has set a target of net-zero carbon by 2050

Omani carbon mineralisation pioneer 44.01 has been named one of the winners of the 2022 Earthshot Prize.

44.01 emerged from more than 1,000 applicants to be picked as one of the five winners of the environmental award, which was founded by Prince William and is judged by a panel of experts. The company wins £1 million ($1.2 million) to scale its business.

The prize, announced at a ceremony in Boston, Massachusetts, last weekend, comes as Oman commits to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

44.01 won for its development of a technique that harnesses the natural power of mineralisation in peridotite – a rock found in the sultanate as well as in America, Europe, Asia and Australasia – and accelerates it to remove carbon from the atmosphere and turn it into rock.

The innovation took the award in Earthshot’s Fix Our Climate category, which focuses on transitioning to renewable energy, reducing methane emissions and constructing buildings fit for the future.

Talal Hasan, 44.01’s founder and “carbon general”, said he believed its technique could be replicated globally.

He said 44.01 (the name refers to the molecular mass of carbon dioxide) had already conducted successful pilots of its mineralisation process in Oman and would begin mineralising CO2 commercially next year. 

By 2040, the company aspires to have removed 1 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere, he added.

Unlike carbon storage, which involves burying CO2 underground in disused oil-wells or aquifers, mineralisation removes it forever.

Hasan said: “The answers to the problems our planet faces can often be found in the natural world. At 44.01, we have found a natural process that removes carbon and we’ve accelerated it. We believe this process is replicable globally and can play a key role in helping our planet to heal. Thank you to the Earthshot Prize for recognising our work.”

Oman has large deposits of peridotite, so carbon mineralisation could also be a boon for workers in the region and provide new roles for engineers and geologists currently working in the fossil fuel industry, he explained.

Muscat’s net zero target was announced by Sultan Haitham Bin Tariq Al Said in October. The initiative includes the establishment of an Oman Centre for Sustainability to “follow up on plans and programmes for carbon neutrality”.

The Omani government has also set up a Carbon Management Laboratory, which is supervised by the Ministry of Energy and Minerals in co-operation with environment and civil aviation authorities.

US oilfield services firm SLB is collaborating with the government to develop geothermal resources in Oman. Last month the sultanate’s national hydrogen company, Hydrom, launched the first public auctions of land blocks for developing green hydrogen projects.

In August the government established a national hydrogen alliance, known as Hy-Fly. It is made up of 13 public and private organisations and aims to facilitate the production of H2 energy for domestic use and export.

Hand, Person, Body Part
Prince William also met US President Joe Biden on the trip. Picture: Reuters/Evelyn Hockstein

The Earthshot Prize, set up by Prince William and the Royal Foundation, aims to find tested, scalable solutions that can help repair the climate and prevent further harm. It has five categories: Protect and Restore Nature, Clean Our Air, Revive Our Oceans, Build a Waste-free World and Fix Our Climate.

The first ceremony was held in London in 2021 and the second in Boston on December 2.

The winners are chosen by an international council of specialists and leaders from the fields of business, philanthropy, science and entertainment. They include Prince William, Queen Rania of Jordan, Sir David Attenborough, Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma and Cate Blanchett.

Urban, Lighting, Woman
The ceremony in Boston, US, on December 2. Picture: David L. Ryan/Pool via Reuters

The project was inspired by President John F Kennedy’s Moonshot, which united millions of people around the goal of reaching the moon. The Earthshot Prize aims to urgently encourage and scale innovative solutions that can help put the world firmly on a trajectory towards a stable climate by 2030.