CarbonCure Technologies of Dartmouth, N.S. has jumped to international prominence in the battle to reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) with a recent investment from a group of high-profile investors. Breakthrough Energy Ventures, chaired by Bill Gates and co-funded by several high-tech billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg and Sir Richard Branson, recently endorsed the Canadian company for its multi-patented process that injects carbon dioxide into concrete during manufacture.
Breakthrough Energy Ventures’ financial commitment reflects the increased attention being paid to “embodied carbon” — the total amount of CO2 produced throughout the construction process. Gates suggests that the increased intensification of cities around the world has improved many common measures of life quality, such as access to schools, health care, and job opportunities. However, the construction process itself creates huge amounts of carbon and therefore contributes to climate change.
“Buildings are made of concrete and steel, both of which produce a lot of emissions when they’re being made,” says Gates. “In fact, these two materials account for around 10 per cent of the world’s annual greenhouse gases. By one estimate, the world will add 2 trillion square feet of buildings by 2060 — the equivalent of putting up another New York City every month for the next 40 years.” Significant innovation in construction is one of five areas that Gates believes will avoid what he calls a “climate disaster.”
CarbonCure has a mission to deliver CO2 utilization solutions that provide competitive advantages while reducing harmful emissions across the concrete supply chain. This aligns with the objectives set out by Breakthrough Energy Ventures. “Through a process of due diligence, we were able to demonstrate that we met all of their criteria,” said CarbonCure Technologies CEO Robert Niven. “We could provide breakthrough climate technology, have strong commercial scalability, and at the same time have a profound impact on CO2 emissions affecting climate change.”
Using carbon captured from industry emitters and by third parties as an additive to the concrete mix, CarbonCure’s technology effectively removes CO2 from the atmosphere forever. Furthermore, independent tests have determined that the process measurably improves the strength of the concrete with minimal added cost to manufacturers.
CarbonCure has been CSA approved, and is available coast-to-coast in Canada. With Breakthrough Energy Ventures as a major shareholder actively involved in growing the business, Niven said the company now has the resources to expand further.
“We are currently working with nearly 200 concrete producers around the world. Our business model of retrofitting existing concrete plants with CarbonCure technology scales up very quickly and will now continue into international markets. We will be working with local partners who have a lay of the land, in Asia for example, and will soon be announcing plans for Europe,” he said.
Niven described how the fund’s financial infusion is also accelerating the development of new CarbonCure technologies, such as those dealing with the volume of waste water created at concrete manufacturing facilities. “We have a pipeline of technology that uses carbon dioxide productively in the manufacture of concrete. This deepens our business and delivers environmental benefits to the industry.”
A high-profile investment from Gates and friends has significant promotional value for CarbonCure as well, said Niven. “We are getting a lot of very valuable one-to-one introductions. You can imagine the type of influence this group has across the world. They are working with others who are really trying to take action on climate change,” he said.
The company has further benefitted from initiatives undertaken by several municipal, provincial and state jurisdictions across North America. Recently, Emissions Reduction Alberta announced a $5 million partnership with the company to accelerate the rollout of current CarbonCure systems and technologies to help the province reach its climate goals.
Niven believes CarbonCure’s formula is both needed and obvious in today’s world. He said, “you can get better concrete and a lower carbon footprint, all at the same price. Why wouldn’t you do that?”
John Bleasby is a Coldwater, Ont. based freelance writer. Send comments and Inside Innovation column ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.