We all know that making cement is an energy-intensive process, so when carbon prices are introduced in North America it’s going to have a major impact on an industry that quite literally lays at the foundation of our economy. In Ontario, cement maker St. Marys Cement — now part of Brazilian conglomerate Groupo Votorantim — has partnered with stealthy startup Pond Biofuels of Toronto on a project that, since last fall, has already started to capture CO2 from a cement plant in southwestern Ontario. It’s believed to be the first project of its kind in the world. Pond Biofuels, the three-year-old company that developed the processes and algae bioreactor technology behind the project, hopes to demonstrate that the system can be scaled up to accept the emissions from an entire plant or any other energy-intensive industrial facility. In the case of St. Marys, the algae will be harvested, dried using industrial waste heat, and then used to offset fossil fuels that are currently used in its cement kilns. In essense, the CO2 will be recycled over and over again. The company, which became a strategic investor in Pond Biofuels last year, is also investigating the idea of producing biodiesel from the algae that can be used to fuel its own truck fleet.
There are many algae technology companies out there, but it’s nice to see these two Ontario companies actually doing something outside of the lab in a way that directly meets the needs of industry. In fact, Pond Biofuels has its sights set on China as well. The company revealed in December that its St. Marys project had been approved as part of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate program. This means it will get funding to do a feasibility study that will assess the suitability of its technology for the cement industry in China.