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Ottawa-based Hyperion launches pilot with Lafarge to use carbon emissions to strengthen concrete

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CEO Heather Ward is the co-founder of Hyperion Global Energy. The company is looking to tap a US$44-billion global market for high-purity CO2-derived minerals that are used in such areas as pharmaceuticals and green building materials.Justin Tang/The Globe and Mail

The world’s largest cement company has launched a test of technology developed by an Ottawa-based startup to process carbon emissions and make low-carbon concrete to help meet its net-zero goal.

Lafarge Canada, a unit of Switzerland’s Holcim Group, has partnered with Hyperion Global Energy Corp. to pilot its system to capture flue gas from cement manufacturing at an Eastern Ontario plant and store the minerals resulting from its process in concrete, the companies said.

Hyperion calls its system Tandem Carbon Recycling. It packs equipment into 40-foot shipping containers, which it installs on site, speeding the time to be in operation, it says. The business plan calls for selling the calcium carbonate from the mineralization process as it scales up, said Heather Ward, Hyperion’s chief executive officer and co-founder. That makes it an alternative to mining.

“This is actually showing that that we can make an impact to potentially be carbon negative, as well as offering the permanent storage of CO2 that allows companies to leverage carbon credits,” Ms. Ward said. “But we aren’t just dependent on carbon credits as our revenue stream. We’re making a mineral that is market driven and has a market price.”

The company builds and operates the patented system itself, which Ms. Ward said allows it to bypass traditional barriers to new technology adoption. It is currently focused on refining and expanding its unit at Lafarge Canada, but has designs on other markets and industries with hard-to-abate emissions.

Hyperion, which currently has fewer than 10 employees, was founded by Ms. Ward and Jerry Flynn, who invented the process. In 2018, it entered the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE contest with a prototype unit, and it emerged as a finalist.

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The company is looking to tap a US$44-billion global market for high-purity CO2-derived minerals that are used in such areas as pharmaceuticals and green building materials.

That demand coincides with a race to cut greenhouse gases from cement and concrete, which are key to expanding infrastructure as the world transitions to cleaner energy sources but make up about 8 per cent of total emissions.

Lafarge is piloting the Hyperion technology at its Bath, Ont., plant, where it can capture and recycle 1,000 tonnes of carbon a year. Hyperion said it aims to scale that up by a factor of 10 over the next 12 months.

The circular process is one of several Lafarge is trying out in Canada as its parent company seeks to slash emissions from worldwide operations with the aim of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, said Robert Cumming, head of sustainability and public affairs for Lafarge in Eastern Canada.

“If we’re able to capture CO2 from cement production and produce a calcium carbonate, another product we can sell, that’s really interesting to us,” Mr. Cumming said. “We think it’s a better early technology than some of the more expensive ones. That’s what attracted us to it.”

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In addition, because the system is self-contained, it doesn’t require Lafarge to make major expenditures on equipment such as scrubbers for the smokestacks at its plant, he said.

Other startups Lafarge Canada is working with include CarbonCure Technologies Inc., Carbon Upcycling Technologies and CarbiCrete, each with different carbon-reduction and utilization processes.

Under a strategy put forward by the Cement Association of Canada called the Carbon Zero, the industry believes it will have to rely on several methods of extracting carbon and making use of byproducts, while eliminating the use of coal and petroleum coke, to meet its climate targets.

Ms. Ward said Hyperion aims to show emitters that they can turn waste into an asset, which will save them money. “That is going to be really what drives decarbonization in the industrial sector,” she said.

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