Reducing CO₂ from the atmosphere by injecting it into concrete.
It accidentally caught our attention that until now, all of this month’s posts were companies that are somehow trying to reduce CO₂ being added to the atmosphere. Not wanting to break this month’s #cleantech spell, instead, we doubled down presenting a company that actively uses CO₂ in gas form and turns it into something useful. No worries for the people who like their #proptech dirty, next week regular programming will resume!
It seems somewhat unreasonable to expect that just reducing CO₂ emissions will be enough to stop the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere from rising. Luckily there is already technology available that can be used to remove CO₂ from the air. Unfortunately, gas isn’t exactly known for being very stable, so carbon capture technology will also be needed to safeguard and store it long term. Storing CO₂ is one thing CarbonCure Technologies does, but by also transforming it into something useful it is really hitting the #cleantech jackpot.
CarbonCure developed and commercializes carbon mineralization technology. By injecting a precise dosage of carbon dioxide into concrete, it turns CO₂ into CaCO₃, making the resulting concrete stronger, without affecting other important properties of concrete like pumpability, set-time, density, color, or durability.
This picture doesn’t really scream carbon-negative, but here we are… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ imagery courtesy CarbonCure Technologies.
The technology can be applied to existing concrete plants and seamlessly integrates with the existing batching software of the plant.
As of now the CO₂ used is sourced from industrial emitters, and stored in pressurized CO₂ tanks onsite, but it could just as well be sourced from other sources like direct air capture.
CarbonCure Technologies is a Canadian company that is active since 2007. It was founded by Robert Niven, first, under a different name, as a management consulting company focused on the concrete sector, and since 2011 as a carbon removal technology provider. Remarkable is the attention the technology receives from the tech sector, they raised funds from Amazon and Microsoft, and industry darlings like Stripe and Shopify use them to offset their carbon footprint. But it’s not only the tech sector that is impressed, they are also wildly recognized for their efforts by their peers and juries in various competitions. Just last week they were awarded the $7.5M dollar grand prize in the COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, a competition aimed at companies building products made out of CO₂.
🕵️♀️ Who else?
Also being recognized by the XPRIZE competition is another company building a concrete alternative out of CO₂: Carbonbuilt. Carbonbuilt is similar to the process employed by CarbonCure, but they use exhaust gasses of nearby heavy industry as a source of CO₂, instead of using pressurized tanks to get the CO₂ to the concrete plant.
There is a lot of focus from the scientific and business community to use carbon dioxide as source material for other uses, some of which could also be of interest for the built environment. eg. Cambridge Carbon Capture claims to be able, using CO₂, to produce MgCO₃ (which can be used a fire-retardant building material). MCi has a system that can produce plasterboard out of CO₂. Made Of Air is producing carbon-negative thermoplastics that can be used in building facades….
Compared to CarbonCure, most of these technologies are still in their early development phase and aren’t yet available commercially.
The technology is upcycling a resource with a giant surplus replacing commodities that, like sand and cement seem inexhaustible, but very much aren’t. The cost of adding the technology is offset by the reduction in the cost of the raw resources, so it doesn’t impact the price of the resulting concrete.
Compared to other technologies that can be used for long-term CO₂ storage, CarbonCure’s solution is the one that has the most potential to become incorporated as a global industry-standard.
👎 Why not?
I won’t even try to find something here :-).
📚 Further reading?
Don’t worry, this was cement to be!