Besides producing massive amounts of CO2, concrete production also uses large amounts of water contaminated with concrete. Managing the slurry or concrete wash water is costly, inconvenient, and damaging to the environment.
Later this year, Team CarbonCure, led by President Jennifer Wagner, will demonstrate its innovative solution for reclaimed water in the finals of the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE — a global competition that challenges participants to convert waste carbon dioxide (CO₂) into useful products.
CarbonCure entered the competition in 2015 and spent the following five years building, testing, and fine-tuning its Carbon XPRIZE innovation: CarbonCure for Reclaimed Water.
“The carbon removal landscape has changed dramatically since we launched our Carbon XPRIZE journey five years ago. It’s been an incredible journey for our team, and we are now ready to showcase our carbon removal technology in Alberta this year as we compete for the grand prize,” said Jennifer Wagner, President at CarbonCure.
CarbonCure’s XPRIZE project focuses on decarbonizing the carbon-intensive process of concrete production.
Cement, the key ingredient that gives concrete its strength, is also one of the largest emitters of CO2 in the built environment. This is due to both cement’s inherent calcination process and its enormous scale (concrete is the most abundant human-made material in the world, with three tonnes used annually for every person on the planet).
The concrete industry has been adopting carbon-reducing technologies and best practices for several years. However, many of the technologies available today will not drive down CO2 emissions sufficiently to meet the fundamental goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. More disruptive carbon reduction solutions take too long to deploy and are often costly, without offering economic value to producers in return.
For the Carbon XPRIZE, Team CarbonCure has developed another innovative carbon removal technology to solve this dilemma.
CarbonCure’s latest effort is CarbonCure for Reclaimed Water, which solves a huge problem for concrete producers who are dealing with slurry or concrete wash water from returning mixes and truck washouts every day, while also removing carbon from the concrete production process.
CarbonCure’s reclaimed water technology injects a precise dosage of CO₂ into the waste water from concrete production. The CO₂ reacts with the calcium ions in the waste solution to produce a nano-scale suspended solid with strength-enhancing properties.
The new nano-solid material can then be incorporated back into new concrete mixes — along with chemically stabilized cement particles — to reduce the amount of required freshwater and cement.
“The carbon removal results are considerable,” said Travis Janke, Project Manager at CarbonCure. “In addition, the technology adds incredible value to a concrete producer’s operations as they can recover full value from their waste cement and water. Further, the technology improves the quality of the concrete product when compared to the use of virgin materials.”
The demonstration for the purposes of XPRIZE will be very different from the commercial application which is optimized for use at concrete plants, integrates with producers’ existing reclaimers, and won’t require any onsite carbon capture.
The Carbon XPRIZE innovation aligns closely with CarbonCure’s mission to reduce 500 megatonnes of CO2 from the built environment annually, which is equivalent to taking 100 million cars off the road each year.
The final demonstrations will take place at one of two power plants: a natural gas power plant in Calgary, Alberta, and a coal power plant in Gillette, Wyoming. Carbon capture technologies will take emissions from the power plant stacks and pipe them into several test bays for the finalists to use in their demonstrations.
The winning teams in Alberta and Wyoming will convert the most CO₂ into products with the highest value — each winning a $7.5 million prize.
“We are looking very strong as we enter the final hurdle of the XPRIZE contest,” Geoff Arbuckle, Engineering Technologist at CarbonCure and XPRIZE Project Coordinator. “We’re confident our reclaimed water technology will score big with the judges. We have an edge on some of the other finalists as our concrete technology results in the permanent removal of carbon dioxide. Other forms of utilization — fuel, chemicals, and plastics — can result in carbon dioxide being re-released into the atmosphere at the end of the product life cycle.”
CarbonCure is competing at the Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre in Calgary, Alberta beginning in October 2020. The Carbon XPRIZE winners will be announced in 2021.