mandag 22. mars 2010

Mining giant Peabody jumps into carbon capture, buys $15M stake in Calera

Peabody Energy, the major coal mining company, has just bought a $15 million equity stake in Calera,  a developer of technology that converts carbon dioxide released from power plants into sustainable building materials. The deal is yet another sign that fossil-fuel corporations are scrambling to fit themselves into greener supply chains.
Calera’s technology can capture carbon dioxide gas released from all kind of industrial facilities — from coal-fired power plants to cement manufacturers — and, using simple seawater, solidify it into hard carbonates that can be used in bricks or eco-friendly cement. The company says every ton of its building materials can sequester up to half a ton of carbon dioxide, but it hasn’t revealed much beyond that.
By producing more eco-friendly cement, Calera is actually killing two birds with one stone. Not only is it sucking hazardous gases out of the air, it will also — eventually — replace traditional cement makers, sources of massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. The uniqueness of the concept earned the company major support and about $50 million from Khosla Ventures.
Calera isn’t the first company to come up with this idea. CalStar Products, a Foundation Capital-backed startup, is doing something similar. Instead of using carbon dioxide gas, it takes the fly ash left over from the coal-burning process, and transforms it into bricks. Typically, the fly ash would be washed into watersheds, polluting ecosystems.
Still Calera seems to present a major opportunity to make buildings, and even city streets, carbon-neutral. But there are still a couple hurdles standing in its way. For one, Green materials makers have had a notoriously hard time turning themselves into large-scale manufacturers. Doing so takes a lot of capital. In most cases, government funding will be vital to success.
Companies: Calera, CalStar Products, Peabody Energy

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