CarbonCure: concrete breakthrough?

CarbonCure technology review

CarbonCure injects CO2 into concrete during the mixing process, where it mineralizes to form CaCO3. The resultant product is up to 20% stronger and can most likely save 4-6% of the CO2 intensity of finished concrete.

Total CO2 abatement has recently been running at 60kTpa, across 300 customers, with a long-term aspiration to abate as much as 500MTpa potentially.

The technology scores OK on the TSE patent framework, although some question-marks are explored in the data-file, especially around the specific solutions discussed in the patents.

CO2 capture: a cost curve?

CO2 capture cost curve

This data-file summarizes the costs of capturing CO2 from different sources, so that it can be converted into materials, electro-fuels or sequestered.

Specifically, we have estimated the full-cycle costs (in $/ton), ultimate potential (in MTpa) and other technical considerations, linking to our other models and data-files.

The lowest-cost options are to access pure CO2 streams that are simply being vented at present, such as from the ethanol or LNG industries, but the ultimate running-room from this opportunity set is <200MTpa.

Blue hydrogen, steel and cement place next on the cost curve and could each have GTpa scale. Power stations place next, at $60-100/ton.

DAC is conceptually attractive, as the only carbon negative technology, but if all CO2 molecules in the atmosphere are fungible, it is not clear why you would pursue DAC until options lower down the cost curve had been exhausted.

Construction materials: a screen of costs and CO2 intensities?

Energy and CO2 costs of construction materials

This data-file compares different construction materials, calculating the costs, the embedded energy and the embedded CO2 of different construction materials per m2 of wall space.

The file captures both capex and opex: i.e., the production of the materials and the ongoing costs associated with heating and cooling, as different materials have different thermal conductivities.

Covered materials include conventional construction materials such as concrete, cement, steel, brick, wood and glass, plus novel wood-based materials such as cross-laminated timber. Insulated wood and CLT are shown to have the lowest CO2 intensities and can be extremely cost competitive.

The data-file also compares different insulation materials, including their costs, thermal conductivities (W/m.K) and the resultant energy economics of insulation projects.

Cross laminated timber: costs and economics?

Economic costs of producing cross laminated timber to decarbonize construction

Cross laminated timber costs $1,200/ton, or $500/m3 pa, in order to derive 10-20% IRRs at a production facility costing $2,000/Tpa in capex. Cost lines include input costs of timber, polyurethane resins, labor, electricity, O&M, and capital costs. This data file is our economic model for mass timber production.

Cross-laminated timber (CLT) could become a more readily used construction material amidst the energy transition, with sufficient strength to build 40-80 story skyscrapers, yet 80% lower CO2 intensity than walls comprising steel and cement, while also providing long term carbon storage for nature-based CO2 sequestration.

CLT was invented in Austria in the 1990s. The concept is that layers of timber board are glued together. Each layer is arranged so that its grain runs perpendicular to adjacent layers. This gives exceptional strength and moisture performance.

This data-file captures cross-laminated timber costs, modelling that an $500/m3 sales price, equivalent to $1,200/ton, is needed on CLT products in order to generate 10-20% IRRs based on $25/ton timber input costs.

Capex cost of CLT production facilities are estimated in the data-file, and likely around $1,000 per m3 pa of output, or over $2,000/Tpa. This is based on aggregating bottom data (across input cost lines) and top down data (from past projects).

Resins are assumed to be polyurethanes. Other opex costs include labor and energy, which are also disaggregated in the data-file. Input variables can also be stress tested in the data-file, in order to evaluate cross laminated timber costs, compared with other construction materials.

Cross laminated timber at $1,200/ton is clearly more expensive than steel at $600/ton and cement at $130/ton, however this can be recouped as less reinforcement is needed for lighter structures, construction times are faster, and there are other savings on formwork. Total costs of a CLT building and a traditional building may therefore be similar (below).

For further work into mass timber, please see our deep-dive report into cross laminated timber, and our patent review for Stora Enso. Or if you just want to browse some pretty picrtures of CLT architecture, we like this online collation here.

Make CO2 into valuable products?

Make CO2 into valuable products

This data-file is a screen of 27 companies, which are turning CO2 into valuable products, such as next-generation plastics, foams, concretes, specialty chemicals and agricultural products.

For each company, we have assessed the commercial potential, technical readiness, partners, size, geography and other key parameters. 13 companies have very strong commercial potential. 10 concepts are technically ready (up from 8 as assessed in mid-2019),  6 are near-commercial (up from 5 in mid-2019), while 13 are earlier-stage.

A detailed breakdown is also provided for the opportunity to use CO2 enhancing the yields of commercial greenhouses (chart below).

The featured companies include c21 start-ups. But leading listed companies include BP (as a venture partner), Chevron Phillips, Covestro, Repsol, Shell, TOTAL (as a venture partner) and Saudi Aramco.

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