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Wed May 18 2022

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Start-ups join drive for net-zero cement

10 May Six technology start-ups – including two from the UK - are joining forces with global cement companies to help with the industry’s push to reach net zero by 2050.

MOF Technologies uses metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) to deliver energy-efficient CO2 removal
MOF Technologies uses metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) to deliver energy-efficient CO2 removal

The Global Cement & Concrete Association (GCCA) has today revealed the six as winners of the first ever Innovandi ‘Open Challenge’. 

The start-ups are focused on technologies that reduce or eliminate carbon, including carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS), the production of low-carbon cement and cementitious materials, and low-cost drying technology using kinetic energy.

The six, which were chosen from more than 100 entrants to the challenge, hail from the USA, Canada, UK, Italy and the Netherlands. They have now joined forces with leading cement companies to help drive further innovation in the industry and will each form part of formal consortia to further test, develop and deploy their technologies.

One of the key focuses of the industry is to develop the technology and implementation for carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), with CarbonOro, MOF Technologies and Saipem among the start-ups that the industry is backing. GCCA members have committed to moving from the dozens of pilot projects and announcement already under way to having 10 industrial scale carbon capture plants by 2030 as part of the Net Zero Roadmap, announced in October 2021.

CCUS includes a range of technologies and methods that ‘capture’ CO2 from large sources – such as in industrial power generation. The CO2 is then either used on site or compressed and transported to be used or stored elsewhere.

Carbon Upcycling Technologies and Fortera both use captured CO2 to produce low-carbon cement and cementitious materials. The other confirmed start-up is Coomtech, a British business that has developed a low-cost drying technology using kinetic energy created by managed, turbulent air.

Six newly established consortia will help to accelerate the development of the technologies. Each consortium is made up of a start-up company, with their respective technology, and includes between three and eight cement companies, with 16 GCCA member companies involved across the six innovation consortia.

Thomas Guillot, GCCA Chief Executive, said: “It’s a proud moment to see the industry coming together to support such innovative start-ups on their journey. Our member companies were greatly impressed by their ambition to be a key part of the climate solution. The programme is another big step forward towards unlocking innovation to help us achieve our net zero goal.

“As the need for resilient and sustainable communities to support a growing global population becomes more pressing, cement and concrete will be essential to providing the infrastructure and buildings that society needs. Achieving net zero concrete relies on a number of different groups playing their part, and as an industry we’re looking outwards as well as inwards, to see how start-ups like these can support our goals.

"To achieve net zero globally by 2050, we also need to involve and support the future generations who contribute innovative ideas and energy to the industry. At GCCA, we’re identifying and convening research and development with great potential and offering our support through guidance and effective collaboration.”

Fortera’s technology captures CO2 emissions from cement plants, combining it with calcium oxide to make reactive calcium carbonate
Fortera’s technology captures CO2 emissions from cement plants, combining it with calcium oxide to make reactive calcium carbonate

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A demonstration day is scheduled for late 2022.  

The six shortlisted start-ups are:

CarbonOrO (The Netherlands)

  • Carbon capture technology using unique bi-phasic amine with a lower cost of capture.
  • Supported by CEMEX, Holcim, SCG, Titan Cement, UltraTech Cement and Votorantim Cimentos

Carbon Upcycling Technologies (Canada)

  • Using a patented, low-energy process, Carbon Upcycling Technologies chemically activates and captures CO2 within solid waste materials to produce a range of supplementary cementitious materials, to create low carbon cement and concrete.
  • Supported by Cementos Argos, CEMEX, CRH, Holcim, Shree Cement and Taiheiyo

Coomtech (UK)

  • Coomtech has developed a low energy, low cost drying technology using managed turbulent air, creating kinetic energy to remove moisture.  Revolutionising a 100-year-old process, a single Coomtech-enabled plant can cut CO2 emissions by the equivalent of more than 600,000 mature trees per year and is 75% cheaper to operate.
  • Supported by Buzzi Unicem, CRH, JSW Cement and UltraTech Cement

Fortera (USA)

  • Fortera’s technology captures CO2 emissions from cement plants, combining it with calcium to make reactive calcium carbonate. It is stable in dry powder form and its cementitious properties are activated when wetted.
  • Supported by Cementos Argos, CRH, Holcim, JSW Cement, Taiheiyo Cement and Ultratech Cement

MOF Technologies (UK)

  • Nuada carbon capture technology uses metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) to deliver energy-efficient CO2 removal at a fraction of the cost of conventional amines
  • Supported by Buzzi Unicem, Cementir Holding and HeidelbergCement

Saipem (Italy)

  • Saipem has developed a carbon capture technology that neither requires nor produces toxic products. The process can capture post-combustion emissions directly from industrial sources, like chimneys.
  • Supported by Buzzi Unicem, Cementir Holding, Cementos Molins, CEMEX, GCC, Holcim, Titan Cement and Votorantim Cimentos

Chris Every, chief commercial officer & founder of Coomtech, said: “As a young business seeking to establish a radical new technology there is usually no short cut to the industries you are targeting or clients you seek to inform and demonstrate capability to. Each prospect must be individually developed and nurtured. The Innovandi Open Challenge combines a stringent review process with access to the combined power of the biggest global players in the cementitious market. The Challenge provides those of us who have succeeded in clearing the evaluation hurdles along the way, a unique and hugely valuable direct access to our prospective markets and technology users. We are delighted and proud to have been selected as a consortium partner in the Innovandi Open Challenge and are excited to begin the execution stage, delivering Coomtech’s contribution to a cleaner and more cost-effective cement industry.”

Dr Conor Hamil, co-CEO of MOF Technologies, said: “Having developed a carbon capture system that overcomes the traditional adoption barriers of energy and cost, we are thrilled to be working with members of the GCCA to bring our technology to the field. Our Nuada carbon capture technology has been designed to deliver the ultra-efficient CO2 separation needed to overcome these barriers, enabling our partners to reach their net zero targets. We are therefore thrilled to be participating in the Innovandi Open Challenge and playing our part in decarbonising the concrete value chain.”

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