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Calera Captures Carbon in Concrete, Produces Clean Water

July 23, 2010
Concrete apartments in Gimhae, Republic of Korea, extend to the horizon.

In Gimhae, South Korea, concrete apartments extend to the horizon. / Photo: oceandestoiles on flickr

Concrete. There’s a lot of it on earth. Pretty much every paradise has its parking lot. And its big-box store, high-rise condos, sidewalks, stadiums and office parks. Bridges, tunnels, jetties, locks, canals, station platforms: all require concrete.

Concrete is the second most consumed substance on earth (pdf), after water: three tons of it per year, per person on earth.

Manufacturing all that concrete is the second largest source of carbon emissions in the world, after energy generation, accounting for 5% of world CO2 emissions.

But a Californian company, Calera, has developed a solution.

Calera’s process, called Mineralization via Aqueous Precipitation, makes producing cement – the binding ingredient in concrete – remarkably efficient, by tackling multiple problems in one play.

Calera's Multi-faceted process solves multiple=

It recycles waste products, produces fresh water and, wait for it, captures and sequesters carbon and other pollutants. Safely. No pipes to the bottom of the ocean, no betting on the thermocline, no liquefaction and deep earth burial (although Calera can do that too).

The CO2 is recycled along with fly ash, wastewater and brines from manufacturing and desalination. Calera’s process remixes the ingredients and outputs fresh water and cement. Using waste materials to produce cement means not having to mine limestone. Meanwhile, pollutants like sulfur oxides, mercury and CO2 are captured, purifying the flue gas emitting from power and cement plants and preventing acid rain.

So all that concrete in paradise will, in fact, protect paradise. Concrete produced via Calera’s process will mean less brines from desalination,  less water used for carbon sequestration, less limestone mining, less carbon, mercury and sulfur oxides in the environment, less global warming, and more environmental stability.

Maybe using better concrete doesn’t match leaving paradise untouched, but in light of arguably necessary economic development, Calera’s process is the next best thing.

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