NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE

Article

What if we could turn CO2 into a building?

A team of entrepreneurs from Canada has developed a way of turning industrial carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into concrete.

It’s a potential game changer in the fight against climate change. After water, concrete is the most abundant substance on Earth. Most concrete is made using cement, and cement production involves an industrial process that creates significant amounts of CO2. In fact, cement production accounts for five per cent of the world’s total CO2 emissions.

Carbicrete Team

The Carbicrete team, left to right: Mehrdad Mahoutian, Chris Stern, Yuri Mytko, Mario Venditti

A Montreal-based company called Carbicrete has come up with a way to make concrete using steel slag—a waste byproduct leftover from steel production—instead of cement. This drastically reduces the CO2 emissions associated with concrete production. Not only that, Carbicrete doubles down on its innovation by curing their concrete with CO2. It’s injected into wet concrete to give the concrete added strength, while permanently sequestering the CO2 away from the atmosphere.

“I was sick and tired of hearing people being afraid of carbon dioxide. I’m gonna take garbage and turn it into money and solve a huge issue.”
Chris Stern, co-founder and CEO of Carbicrete

This means that a concrete block made by Carbicrete is carbon negative. Instead of a normal concrete block, which adds two kilograms of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere, Carbicrete says their concrete will divert a kilogram of CO2 from a power plant or industrial facility away from the atmosphere!

“I was sick and tired of hearing people being afraid of carbon dioxide,” says Chris Stern, co-founder and CEO of Carbicrete. “I want to take carbon dioxide and turn it into a product and make money off it—and at the same time, we’re doing something good. That’s what inspired me.”

Carbicrete is one of 10 teams of finalists in the US$20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE competition. The competition is supported by Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), an alliance of oil sands producers committed to driving innovation to accelerate environmental performance, and NRG, a major power producer in the U.S.

Over the next year and a half, Carbon XPRIZE finalists like Carbicrete will have a chance to prove that their technologies work in a real-world setting: industrial-scale test facilities connected to a natural gas power plant in Calgary, Alberta and a coal power plant in Wyoming. The winner will be the team that converts the most CO2 into products with the highest net value.

If companies like Carbicrete can succeed, however, the true winners could be the rest of us.

Learn more about Carbicrete and the other ten finalists of the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE competition.

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