James Wollner.

Earthshot Winner: alumnus aiming to find rock-solid solution to limit global warming

6 March 2023

The article at a glance

CJBS alumnus is part of the winning team of The Earthshot Prize, the Prince of Wales’s prestigious environmental award, for solutions to carbon dioxide removal 

Cambridge Judge Business School alumnus is part of the winning team of The Earthshot Prize, the Prince of Wales’s prestigious environmental award, for solutions to carbon dioxide removal.

An innovative startup based in Oman that permanently removes CO₂ by mineralising it in rock is one of the winners of the Earthshot Prize, founded by the Prince of Wales. Part of the successful team is James Woolner (MSt 2020) who completed a Master of Studies in Entrepreneurship at Cambridge Judge Business School. Originally an engineer, James is now Head of Business Development for the firm called 44.01.  

Innovative solution to CO₂ removal

Named after the molecular weight of carbon dioxide, the company has found a way to safely and cheaply remove CO₂, which is essential to limit global warming. It works by mineralising CO₂ in peridotite, a rock found in abundance in Oman and throughout much of the world. The natural process is accelerated by pumping carbonated water into seams of peridotite deep underground. 

Current processes capture CO₂ from the atmosphere and store it. But these methods of carbon “storage” often rely on burying the gas underground in disused oil wells and aquifers, requiring long-term monitoring and costly insurance. 44.01’s approach makes this unnecessary.   

Earthshot winners receive £1 million to apply solutions

The Earthshot Prize was founded by Prince William in 2020 to “uncover and scale the innovative solutions that will repair our planet within the next ten years.” Winning ventures receive £1 million, a global platform, and support to see their solutions adopted and scaled. They also have the accolade of becoming one of only 50 winners over the decade. Those shortlisted are given tailored support to scale and accelerate their work.   

The prize is divided into five sections, with 44.01 winning the “Fix Our Climate” category, which focuses on transitioning to renewable energy, reducing methane emissions and constructing buildings fit for the future.   

Remarkably, James also previously worked for another of the finalists in the category, LanzaTech, working in R&D as a junior engineer. This venture uses bacteria to recycle carbon pollution, industrial and agriculture waste into profitable products such as sustainable fuels, cosmetics, and textiles.   

How Cambridge Judge experience provided latest research and network

44.01 now aims to grow its operations internationally enabling local mineralisation without needing costly transportation. It is also solving supporting the energy transition in Oman by offering a new career to engineers and geologists currently working in the fossil fuel industry. The firm’s goal is to have mineralised 1 billion tonnes of CO₂ by 2040.   

“The Cambridge Judge programme equipped me with the latest research and applied practises in entrepreneurship and business and provided me with a vast network of like-minded professionals that will continue to be invaluable throughout my career”, says James. “To have worked on 2 of the 3 nominated technologies for our award is phenomenal.”  

James has spent his whole career working on the scale-up of climate technologies across Asia, Europe, and now the Middle East. He is a Chartered Chemical Engineer, and a mentor at Undaunted (formerly the Centre for Climate Change Innovation (CCCI)) based at the Royal Institution in London.