Today, this flue gas wafts up and out of the power plant’s enormous smokestacks, but by simply bubbling it through the nearby seawater, a new California-based company called Calera says it can use more than 90 percent of that CO2 to make something useful: cement.
It’s a twist that could make a polluting substance into a way to reduce greenhouse gases. Cement, which is mostly commonly composed of calcium silicates, requires heating limestone and other ingredients to 2,640 degrees F (1,450 degrees C) by burning fossil fuels and is the third largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the U.S., according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Making one ton of cement results in the emission of roughly one ton of CO2—and in some cases much more.
While Calera’s process of making calcium carbonate cement wouldn’t eliminate all CO2 emissions, it would reverse that equation. “For every ton of cement we make, we are sequestering half a ton of CO2,” says crystallographer Brent Constantz, founder of Calera. “We probably have the best carbon capture and storage technique there is by a long shot.”