Alabama’s Carbon Capture Center Tests Breakthrough Technology

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Energy Fairness has always enthusiastically supported carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) research and development. The technology has enormous potential to take carbon dioxide emissions from the air and convert them into everyday products such as plastics or even jet fuel. Yet, there’s exciting potential in another use—concrete building blocks. The Alabama-based National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC) recently announced that it had successfully injected carbon dioxide (CO2) into 5,000 concrete blocks, where it is now stored for good. 

The NCCC is located next to Alabama Power’s Plant Gaston in Wilsonville, AL, and is operated by Alabama Power’s parent company, Southern Company, on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy. California’s CarbonBuilt teamed up with the NCCC to conduct a multiweek test of its Reversa carbon capture process, developed by the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering. The technology received the prestigious 2021 NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. The testing process was a resounding success across all metrics.

“Our approach offers utilities and other industrial plants a pathway for beneficial reuse of CO2 emissions,” said Rahul Shendure, CarbonBuilt CEO. “At the same time, we offer concrete producers a way to increase operating margins significantly while reducing overall carbon emissions from production by more than 50%. This winning combination could unlock gigaton-level emissions reductions in the coming years.”

A recently released White House report found that CCUS deployment “should increase tenfold” over the next decade to meet climate goals. Creating essential building materials such as concrete blocks from recycled CO2 is a significant accomplishment to that end. 

“This first report recognizes the critical importance of carbon capture and pipeline infrastructure in meeting any credible climate targets, which is why the technology has enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress,” Senator Shelley Moore Capito said in a statement. “We must deploy CCUS for all sources — power plants, factories, and direct air capture.”

Fortunately, CCUS enjoys broad public support. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in Congress to expand and improve tax credits for CCUS research and development. The private sector is well-invested also, with billionaire tech guru Elon Musk offering a $100 million prize for the “best carbon capture technology.” Additionally, ExxonMobil has pledged to invest $3 billion in carbon capture research. 

Using captured CO2 in concrete blocks is an exciting development, and we can’t wait to see what other uses we find. If this trend continues, the sky could be the limit for CCUS technology and for tackling the challenge of reducing our carbon emissions.