Calgary firm crafting stronger concrete with lower carbon footprint

Via Calgary Herald by David Parker

Another Calgary-born technology company is making great strides into world markets.

Carbon Upcycling Technologies (CUT) — the first company to reduce cement and concrete’s carbon footprint by double digits with its enhanced concrete additives, while improving strength activity performance by 40 per cent — has caught the attention of the British government.

CEO Apoorv Sinha and his Calgary team have been awarded C$3.6 million in funding by UK Research Innovation to manufacture climate-resilient cement from waste glass and CO2. This will be the world’s first commercial-scale cement additive plant that combines CO2 sequestration and waste glass.

The pilot will sequester up to five tonnes of CO2 emissions per day produced from a post-consumer glass recycling facility, while simultaneously extending the lifetime of 50 tonnes of glass waste. This translates to the project eliminating approximately 16,500 tonnes of local crushed glass from entering landfills, while sequestering approximately 1,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide that would otherwise reach the atmosphere.

Sinha was born in the state of Bihar in India, but in his early years lived in Kuwait where his father was — and still is — in the oil and gas industry, growing up immersed in that sector.

He chose a career in chemical engineering and earned his undergrad degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

In 2010, Sinha moved to Calgary for further studies at the University of Calgary while working for a small oilfield services company. He became passionate about recycling and lowering the embodied carbon of everything we interact with, and in 2014 — along with partners Greg Boser and Randy Cusson — launched Carbon Upcycling Technologies.

After the Alberta government put out a challenge to solve CO2 emissions, Carbon Upcycling was awarded a grant that enabled it to design and have constructed a reactor vessel that — loaded with gaseous CO2 and raw-waste powder — rotates to break down materials, allowing for CO2 to be absorbed into it to create enhanced additives.

The focus has been on supplying these additives to cement and concrete manufacturers. The use of supplementary materials has been proven to give concrete a 40 per cent improvement in strength activity and more durability, with a 40 per cent better rebar protection.

Starting with additives that would just fill a cookie jar, the Calgary plant can now produce 20 tonnes per day.

Reclaimed fly ash is delivered to the Calgary plant and, after processing the concrete additives into raw-waste powder feedstock, it is transported either by trucks or rail cars to cement/concrete plants.

The use of additives processed from captured CO2 has been tested in many applications, including driveways, retaining walls and foundation bases. It also provides low carbon material solutions to consumer product brands and fertilizers, and makes plastics more sustainable.

The UK funding will support a consortium led by Carbon Recycling, including CEMEX UK, a leading supplier of cement and ready-mix, and Glass Technology Services.

Gonzalo Galindo, head of CEMEX Ventures, says, “We aim to reach net-zero by 2050 and this project with Carbon Upcycling is an important milestone toward utilizing captured carbon to help achieve this goal.”

Sinha says: “By creating a valuable product from one of the toughest waste streams in the glass industry, and using cement flue gas directly in its process, Carbon Upcycling will provide the UK market with a low-cost, low-carbon alternative to imported cementitious materials.”

Much of the initial funding to kick-start the company was through grants, but its success earlier this year attracted $6 million in financing led by Boston-based Clean Energy Ventures, a leading venture capital firm that invests in early startups addressing the world’s most complex and urgent problems.

Sinha notes there are more than 3,600 concrete plants around the world, and Carbon Upcycling is paving the way to scale its commercial carbon utilization technology at facilities in North America and Europe.

Article by Lena Hogarth
August 17, 2022

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