Feature Article

Can Concrete Save Us? Locking Up Carbon in Building Materials

Concrete is responsible for a huge proportion of global carbon dioxide emissions. A few companies want to reverse this cycle by sequestering carbon in building materials.

June 1, 2014

Driving down California’s Coastal Route 1 from Santa Cruz to Monterey, you might notice a couple of massive 500-foot smokestacks venting flue gases from one of California’s largest power plants, Dynergy’s Moss Landing Power Plant. This 2,500-megawatt (MW) facility emits 2.3 million tons (2.1 metric tons) of carbon dioxide annually, according to the California Air Resources Board—making it one of California’s largest contributors to global climate change.

Yet hidden in this complex are several research projects attempting to figure out whether carbon dioxide can be economically recovered from the flue gases of power plants and sequestered into concrete or other mineral products that could be used in the built environment. Similar projects are under way in Texas, Colorado, Canada, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere.