Block-Lite is a small concrete manufacturer in the industrial corridor of Flagstaff, Arizona. A third generation family business manufactures bricks and other masonry for retaining walls, driveways and landscaping projects. The company is already a regional leader in sustainability, and in 2020 became the first manufacturer in Flagstaff to power its operations with on-site solar panels. But now it’s doing something more ambitious.
On Tuesday, Block-Lite announced a pioneering collaboration with climate-tech startups Aircapture and CarbonBuilt to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and hide it in concrete blocks. The companies estimate that the project will reduce the carbon footprint of Block-Lite’s products by 70% and create a model that can reshape the industry.
Concrete causes big problems for the climate. It is one of the literal building blocks of society and is becoming more carbon-intensive each year. Most of its carbon does not come from making concrete, but from making its main component, cement.Cement production accounts for about 10% of US industrial carbon emissions
CarbonBuilt has developed a solution to this problem in two different ways. First, the company found a unique way to replace cement with a cheap, locally sourced mix of industrial waste. CEO Rahul Shendure told Grist that it includes common by-products of coal-fired power plants, steel manufacturing and chemical production. His second feat for the company is how the device hardens slurry into concrete blocks. In other words, it is solidified with carbon dioxide. That’s where he comes in with Aircapture. The company plans to build one of his machines on the Block-Lite site that will extract carbon dioxide directly from the ambient air.
“Our technology is very flexible about where we source the CO2 from,” said Shendure. “What is particularly different about this project is that we are sourcing carbon dioxide from direct air capture technology.”
This is an idea that a few other companies are pursuing. In February, a similar partnership between another direct air recovery company called Heirloom and concrete startup CarbonCure demonstrated the process for the first time. Also, this is not CarbonBuilt’s first project. The company is remodeling a concrete plant called Blair Block in Alabama. CO2 is then produced by burning biomass in a boiler.
The Flagstaff project has broken ground in part thanks to a $150,000 grant from the Four Corners Carbon Coalition, a group of Southwestern municipalities that funds projects to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. increase. The coalition was born out of the realization that communities with ambitious goals to become carbon neutral will likely need to invest in such solutions, many of which are still in their early stages.
Susie Strife, Sustainability Director for Boulder County, Colorado, said: Union, said in an interview with Grist last year. “We are trying to aggregate resources and create something of a municipal platform for carbon removal.”
Why Boulder County and Flagstaff are joining cities to suck carbon out of the atmosphere
In addition to the funding, Shendua said the company will sell carbon credits to reduce the carbon emissions AirCapture equipment emits from the atmosphere and the use of less cement. “We have received a letter of intent from the buyer, which is very important for this project,” he said. “Many companies are now paying premium credit prices for emerging technologies, making them more available in the real world.”
Block-Lite did not respond to Grist’s inquiries, but in a press release the company suggested that the new concrete product would be no more expensive than its current offering. What is unique about this project is that there is no ‘green premium’,” said Block-Lite. “We should be able to produce on-spec ultra-low carbon blocks at prices comparable to conventional blocks, accelerating adoption and impact.”