CarbonCure’s suitcase-sized technology, which bolts onto a concrete plant’s existing production line, injects waste carbon dioxide emissions into still-wet concrete, subsequently strengthening it while also cutting carbon emissions by approximately 10 per cent during manufacturing.

Maritime base an advantage

Robert Niven, the technology’s inventor and CarbonCure’s chief executive, turned up at Halifax’s Cunard Centre in November to pick up the award — one of four handed out each year by the 35-year-old Ernest C. Manning Foundation to Canadians who have or are using commercialized inventions to improve peoples’ lives.

Niven told The Chronicle Herald the win was proof that, for innovators, being based in Atlantic Canada is more of an advantage than an impediment.

“Nova Scotia is like a large, living lab where we have access to all of the components of a larger economy, but with the advantages that stem from a smaller community,” he said. “Because we have access to great talent, and due to the connectivity between both public and private sector organizations, it’s much easier to develop ideas and technology here in Nova Scotia and then export them elsewhere.”

The Manning Award follows CarbonCure’s October announcement that its team has been selected as a semifinalist for the Carbon XPRIZE, an international competition that challenges teams to develop breakthrough technologies that convert carbon dioxide into valuable products. That cash prize is $20 million.

Growing business

Niven, a B.C.-born chemist and engineer, signed up CarbonCure’s first licensee in early 2013. Two years later, the company entered the ready-mix concrete market by partnering with Vulcan Materials Co., a U.S. construction materials company with annual revenue in the billions, company sales director Christie Gamble told The Chronicle Herald. Gamble said CarbonCure currently has more than 40 partnerships with ready mix and masonry firms in Canada and the U.S.

She said that in September, the firm signed a deal with Ozinga Bros. Inc. — one of the Midwest’s biggest concrete suppliers — to install the technology at the client’s Chicago plant. She said Ozinga was sourcing its carbon dioxide from an ethanol plant in neighbouring Wisconsin.

CarbonCure’s vice-president of sustainability, Jennifer Wagner, added that the Ozinga deal came after CarbonCure received many requests for its ready-mix from Chicago architects eager to cut their buildings’ carbon footprints. She said architects, often early adopters of technology, were encouraging construction companies to use more eco-friendly materials.

Chicago-based Rand Ekman, chief sustainability officer of U.S. architectural firm HKS, advocates carbon reduction initiatives within the design community. In a release to announce the Ozinga deal, Ekman said he’d been anticipating the launch of CarbonCure ready-mix concrete in Chicago “for some time.”

In July, Shaw Brick, Atlantic Canada’s oldest concrete masonry producer, adopted CarbonCure’s technology across its entire production facility in Lantz. Shaw Brick is a division of The Shaw Group, which began in 1861 as a Hantsport clay and tile manufacturer. Gamble said Shaw Brick first partnered with CarbonCure in 2007. Early iterations of the technology were developed at the Lantz plant, she said.

Halifax company Ambassatours Gray Line used CarbonCure concrete to build its 32,000-square-foot headquarters at Halifax’s Windsor Street Interchange. This building was the world’s first commercial development to fully incorporate the CarbonCure ready-mix technology, Gamble said.

“Less than a year later there are now hundreds of construction projects using the technology,” she said.

According to the 20-employee CarbonCure, if its technology was adopted by all of the world’s concrete producers, it would eliminate up to 700 megatons of carbon dioxide production annually.

To see more of CarbonCure's technology in action, see Robert Niven's video.

Article Originally Published in The Chronicle Hearld here.