These Tech Startups Are Leading the Charge Towards Deep Decarbonization
Deep decarbonization refers to the types of changes in energy systems that will be required to meet carbon emission reduction and related climate policy goals. There is a global need for a realistic blueprint to reduce carbon emissions. When it comes to decarbonizing the cement industry, for example, the development and implementation of carbon capture and storage technologies are unavoidable. In a recent report by the European Commission, carbon capture technologies are seen as one of the most important to reduce process emissions.
Decarbonizing heavy industry is difficult because its emissions are a byproduct of chemical reactions, or related to processes that require very high heat or fossil fuels. Plus, industrial products must often meet precise quality criteria to comply with safety regulations. Therefore, lowering the carbon content in its manufacturing could impact the quality of the material output.
However, in the past few years, the Contech field has seen a boom in startups focusing their efforts on “green” initiatives that not only include CO2 capture technology, but also new energy sources and waste management. By working hand in hand with industry leaders that also wish to tackle this challenge, at CEMEX Ventures we´ve five standout examples of startups that are leveraging deep decarbonization and building a better future for all.
The UK-based startup is the developer of one of the most promising and advanced carbon capture technologies in the market. Carbon Clean developed a novel technology (CycloneCC), that efficiently and cost-effectively captures CO2 from industrial processes with the goal to provide carbon capture at 10 times smaller installation footprint and 6 times shorter build time, adding up to 50% savings in capital expenditures associated with carbon capture. Additionally, the technology would target operating expenditures as low as US$30 per metric ton of CO2 at an industrial scale.
The Canadian startup is an innovative carbon utilization company. Their solution allows them to capture CO2 from industrial waste and transform it into enhanced additives for cement that helps in the production of concrete with a low environmental footprint. Carbon Upcycling is the first company to reduce cement and concrete’s carbon footprint by double digits with its enhanced concrete additives while exceeding strength activity performance by 40%.
The Swiss company developed a transformative, long-duration energy storage solution to deliver reliable and sustainable electricity. Inspired by pumped hydro plants that rely on the power of gravity to store and discharge energy, Energy Vault combines CEMEX´s material science with their innovative software that replaces water with custom-made composite blocks, made with locally sourced soil or waste material, which are then lifted and lowered to store and release energy on-demand.
HiiROC is a unique startup that uses its technology to produce low-cost, zero-emission clean hydrogen. Through a unique thermal plasma process, the company is able to produce clean hydrogen and has strong growth potential inside the hydrogen ecosystem. In the cement sector, HiiROC´s solutions can be used to enhance the hydrogen injection capacity in cement production, helping reduce the consumption of fossil fuels in the process. As stated in COP26 in Glasgow by the end of 2021, solutions like the one HiiROC brings to the table help further cut methane emissions and other greenhouse gasses downstream.
The Swiss startup offers a radically new approach to replace fossil fuels in cement plants with high-temperature solar heat and captures 100% of carbon emissions. The captured emissions are then used as feedstock for fuel production, enabling cement manufacturing to achieve net-zero emissions. This is made possible by the extremely high temperature of solar heat provided by Synhelion’s technology and its pioneering process to turn CO2 into synthetic drop-in fuels, such as kerosene, diesel, and gasoline.
Recently, Synhelion and building materials company CEMEX announced that they produced the world’s first-ever solar clinker, the key component in cement responsible for approximately 40% of direct CO2 emissions of the cement manufacturing process. By switching to solar fuels and achieving this industry milestone, the technology can be a game-changer for the sector moving forward.
Deep decarbonization efforts are a viable solution to pollution and climate change. Innovations in technology bring hope and build greater resilience for a better future. The startups mentioned are just beginning to be the pioneers of this movement in the hopes that many more will follow in their footsteps. To learn about even more startups that are working on solutions that will help decarbonize the built industry, visit the Green Construction category of the Top 50 Contech Startups of 2021.
It is a tough road ahead, but we are confident we are on track to making positive changes for the cement, concrete, and construction sectors.
This is a guest article by Gonzalo Galindo Gout, Head of CEMEX Ventures, a VC firm fostering the construction revolution by engaging with startups, entrepreneurs, universities, and other stakeholders in the industry. Launched in 2017, CEMEX Ventures focuses on addressing the evolving pain points across the construction industry, bringing to life sustainable solutions.