4 Corners Carbon Coalition Fund Project to Turn Air into Concrete

By GlobeNewswire | March 07, 2023

The 4 Corners Carbon Coalition, a network of local governments committed to addressing the climate crisis with carbon removal, has awarded $150,000 to develop the world’s first on-site, fully-integrated direct air capture (DAC)-to-concrete manufacturing facility. The project will be developed by CarbonBuilt (an ultra-low carbon concrete technology developer), Aircapture (a modular DAC technology developer) and Block-Lite (a concrete products manufacturer). The process is expected to reduce the embodied carbon of the resulting concrete blocks by more than 70 percent compared to traditional concrete.

How it works
CarbonBuilt will install its patented and XPRIZE-winning technology on-site at Block-Lite. CarbonBuilt’s technology dramatically reduces the use of cement in concrete products by replacing it with a proprietary mix of low cost and low carbon industrial waste materials that are sourced locally. It then uses CO₂ to cure (harden) the mix into concrete blocks. Critically, the blocks can be sold at price parity, and are compliant with ASTM C90 and other relevant standards.

Aircapture’s modular DAC technology reliably supplies commercial and industrial customers with clean CO₂ captured from air onsite, when and where needed. The company will build an array of DAC units, each designed to capture approximately 100 metric tonnes of CO₂ per year. The CO₂ will be routed into CarbonBuilt’s gas processing system to be conditioned before being mineralized and stored permanently as concrete.

CarbonBuilt and Aircapture technologies will be installed at the Block-Lite manufacturing facility, a third generation, family-owned and operated business in Flagstaff, Arizona. The addition of DAC follows a years-long commitment to decarbonization by Block-Lite, which already has installed a large-scale solar array on-site to power its operations.

Environmental Impact
This combination of CO₂ avoidance (by reducing cement use) plus CO₂ removal (via mineralization) can result in concrete that reduces embodied carbon by more than 70 percent compared to traditional concrete. Collectively, the project is expected to avoid 2,000-3,000 tonnes of CO₂ emissions plus remove more than 500 tonnes of atmospheric CO₂ per year per production line.

Enabling a New Model for DAC
This project represents a new model for DAC in several ways. First, atmospheric carbon is not just buried, but treated as a valuable ingredient in a high-volume commercial product. Second, the on-site integration means no cost, complexity or human impact of CO₂ transportation. Last, because the technology is integrated at an existing manufacturing plant, there is zero land use impact. Block-Lite and CarbonBuilt become the “anchor tenants” for Aircapture, which intends to establish a broader local market for captured CO₂.  

Stakeholder Quotes

CarbonBuilt: “Large scale, durable carbon utilization can play a critical role in driving down the cost of DAC and accelerating atmospheric carbon removal. The concrete industry’s scale and global reach uniquely position it as an enabling partner to the DAC industry,” said Rahul Shendure, CEO of CarbonBuilt. “We intend for this project to become a blueprint that can be replicated at many of the thousands of concrete manufacturing plants around the world. The grant from Four Corners is a key first step in the overall project plan and we look forward to building on the momentum with our partners.”

Aircapture: “Atmospheric carbon dioxide removal and carbon utilization into products is on the critical path to addressing climate change. While the common assumption of industrial carbon application is that of a short lived product, we are demonstrating a novel solution to create permanent carbon storage sinks in our built environment,” said Matt Atwood, CEO of Aircapture. “This exemplary project couples industrial decarbonization together with cost savings, carbon removal, job creation and environmental co-benefits.”

Block-Lite: “All too often sustainable building materials require a trade off between cost and performance, but what is unique about this project is that there’s no ‘green premium.’ We’re going to be able to produce on-spec, ultra-low carbon blocks at price parity with traditional block which should speed adoption and impact.”

City of Flagstaff: "Flagstaff knows that addressing the climate emergency this decade will take a portfolio of solutions, some well-known and others that will emerge by supporting new thinking and partnerships,” said Flagstaff Mayor Becky Daggett. We're thrilled that Flagstaff will be the site of this first-of-its-kind collaboration."