Sunday, July 21, 2024

Carbon-Sucking Concrete Renders Carbon Capture Pipeline Obsolete

Stakeholders in the fossil energy sector, advocating for carbon capture and underground storage to mitigate power plant emissions, persistently pursue their goals despite facing setbacks. Their vision of establishing a vast network of carbon pipelines in the United States appears to be slipping away, as innovative carbon capture methods gain momentum. The most recent development centers on the global concrete industry, which produces a staggering 33 billion tons per year, as it undergoes a transformation towards carbon negativity.

Carbon Capture & Sequestration on the Ropes

In the face of the accelerating global climate crisis and the alarming loss of biodiversity and natural ecosystems, it’s increasingly evident that the conventional methods of fueling the modern industrial economy have become unsustainable. The urgent need to transition away from the dominance of coal, oil, and natural gas has evolved into an existential imperative.

Implementing carbon capture technology at power plants fueled by fossil sources does little to contribute to the broader effort, aside from providing a semblance of legitimacy to the fossil energy extraction industry. Moreover, as the cost of renewable energy, energy storage solutions, green hydrogen, and other sustainable alternatives continues to decline, the appeal of investing in costly carbon-capture systems for power plants is gradually diminishing.

In recent times, pipeline proposals have encountered resistance from local landowners, tribal communities, and environmental organizations. Data from the Global CCS Institute indicates that the United States already possesses approximately 6,500 kilometers (about 4,039 miles) of active CO2 pipeline infrastructure, and there is limited enthusiasm for further expansion, except among pipeline developers.

Opposition to CO2 pipelines has extended its reach beyond fossil power plants, affecting pipeline proposals in various industries. Just recently, the Chicago Tribune reported that Navigator CO2, a Nebraska-based company, has decided to delay its plans for a multi-state, 1,350-mile pipeline. This decision comes in the wake of citizen and regulatory opposition in South Dakota, Illinois, and Nebraska. The pipeline was intended to serve the biofuel and fertilizer sectors in the Midwest, but its construction remains uncertain at this point.

More & Better Carbon Capture Solutions

A promising alternative technology is the capture and recycling of carbon at or near its source of production. This approach has gained momentum, leading to the development of various synthetic materials that utilize captured carbon. This growing list encompasses products such as vodka, perfumes, fabrics, and PET plastic, demonstrating the diverse applications of this innovative approach.

While the concept of carbon capture is promising, there is a significant marketing challenge to address. Carbon capture processes are energy-intensive and can impact the overall efficiency of power plants. Manufacturers reliant on carbon sourced from fossil fuel power plants may face a disadvantage if a competing technology gains traction: direct air capture technology. This innovative approach offers an alternative means of obtaining carbon and could potentially disrupt the status quo.

Indeed, as the name implies, direct air capture systems are designed to extract carbon dioxide directly from the surrounding atmosphere. They are not dependent on any specific carbon-emitting source, particularly not one that relies on the combustion of fossil fuels. This inherent flexibility makes them an attractive and versatile solution for mitigating carbon emissions.

However, there is ongoing debate and uncertainty surrounding direct air capture technology. Critics are raising concerns that fossil energy stakeholders might use this technology to obtain carbon credits, potentially allowing them to sustain their extraction activities. This potential misuse of carbon credits has become a point of contention in the discussion surrounding the effectiveness and ethical considerations of direct air capture.

And Now For Something Completely Different

We are at a pivotal moment in the pursuit of carbon capture, and the global concrete industry, responsible for producing a staggering 33 billion tons annually, is poised to play a crucial role.

Conventional carbon capture systems have been explored for carbon-intensive industries, including concrete production. However, innovators in the low-carbon concrete sector have introduced a more promising alternative.

Last July, CleanTechnica spotlighted C-Crete Technologies, a US startup that has engineered a low-carbon, pourable concrete. What sets C-Crete apart is its ability to capture and mineralize atmospheric CO2 during the curing process. Imagine C-Crete as a concrete form of a carbon-absorbing tree, and you’re on the right track.

The latest development for C-Crete is a $2 million funding award from the US Department of Energy, aimed at commercializing the company’s concrete as a carbon-negative product. This recognition from the Energy Department isn’t solely about environmental preservation; it also underscores the potential for a more efficient carbon capture system and a cost-effective alternative to traditional concrete.

C-Crete explains that the CO2 incorporated into their product, whether sourced from the air during curing or industrial emissions, can be utilized in a diluted form, eliminating the expensive step of separating it from other gases. The company further highlights that their binder emits minimal CO2 during manufacturing and continues to absorb it from the atmosphere over time. This scalability and cost-competitiveness relative to conventional cement positions it as a viable substitute for ordinary Portland cement, a notorious contributor to global CO2 emissions.

Once mineralized within the concrete, the diluted CO2 serves to enhance the material’s strength, durability, and resilience compared to standard concrete.

When Is Cement Not Cement?

It’s important to clarify that cement and concrete are distinct materials. Concrete is a composite material primarily consisting of water, sand, and gravel, with cement playing a role of about 10% to bind the components together. C-Crete, in its innovation, eliminates conventional cement from the equation, enabling the creation of a pourable material resembling concrete.

C-Crete’s groundbreaking technology centers on its patented high-performance, cement-free binder, which utilizes various local materials as feedstocks. Their vision is to develop a cement-free, ready-mix, carbon-negative concrete that not only mitigates carbon emissions but actively contributes to reversing climate change. C-Crete’s founder and president, Dr. Rouzbeh Savary, emphasizes their commitment to revolutionizing the carbon-intensive construction sector, making it more environmentally sustainable.

It’s worth noting that C-Crete’s carbon-negative concrete can find applications in a wide range of infrastructure projects, including those related to fossil energy. At present, the company is emphasizing its efforts in the building sector, with recent examples of projects deploying substantial quantities of C-Crete’s concrete, such as an 80-ton pour used for foundations, shear walls, and flooring in a commercial construction site.


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