A new startup is here to reduce emissions from heavy-polluting construction materials. Paebble is a European company that just raised €8 million ($8.02 million) to bring its carbon-negative construction material to market.
The company’s process works as captured CO2 at industrial sites gets mixed with water and ground silicate rocks, producing a powder that can be used as a filler in construction. It could also be used to make paper, alongside a range of other applications.
The technology is based on CO2 mineralization which is a natural process of turning carbon dioxide into stone. In nature, it usually takes centuries, however, Paebble has found a way to accelerate it by a factor of more than a million, with minimal energy use, based on 20 years of research.
Captured carbon is thus combined with abundant minerals to create a carbon-negative raw material that could be used in the construction industry to replace currently heavily emitting ones.
“The world is using four billion tonnes of cement every single year which stands for some 8% of global CO2 emissions. We can replace part of the concrete mix with this material,” says one of the founders Andreas Saari.
According to Paebble, every year, exposed rock surfaces around the globe permanently remove 1,1 billion metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. This process known as rock weathering, or CO2 mineralization is also one of the popular carbon removal strategies that industries aim to scale up as a way to tackle climate change.
So far, the company produces one kilo a day of its carbon-negative material from a pilot facility located in the Dutch town of Rotterdam. However, the founders hope to find the right partnerships to expand production and reach.
According to Mr. Saari, the capacity of production is expected to be 100 kilos a day by February and 300 kg a day by the end of next year. After that, the company is looking to scale up by a factor of 10 every 12 to 24 months.
Marta Sjögren, one of Paebble’s founders also adds their materials can be competitive in price. “There will be a brand value attached to carbon-storing or carbon-negative materials. We think we’ll be able to charge a premium but we can definitely go break even and have good gross margin even on the current commodity prices around fillers,” she explains.
The construction industry is one of the heaviest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. Without finding a way to make construction materials processes zero emissions, the goal of reaching the 1.5 °C target stays elusive.