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Published July 10, 2008 09:49 AM

Carbon Sciences: Turning Carbon Emissions into "GreenCarbon"

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A small startup based in Santa Barbara, California is testing an alternative to carbon sequestration that, in a sense (perhaps more poetic than scientific), turns the second law of thermodynamics — entropy — on its head by taking waste CO2 and tailings from mining operations and turning the mix into materials of a “higher order” for use in a variety of industrial, agricultural, and environmental applications.  

Carbon Sciences, founded by CEO Derek McLeish, has developed a relatively simple technology that puts the brew under pressure and temperature to create PCC (precipitated calcium carbonate). Traditionally, calcium carbonate is produced through an energy-intensive process using expensive materials such as limestone; the “GreenCarbon” technology takes this normally exhaustive process and simplifies it, thus producing a useful, benign material while transforming carbon emissions instead of simply sequestering it — a method of carbon mitigation that McLeish considers high-risk at best. 

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From paper to plastic, wallboard to fertilizer, PCC is a common component of many everyday products, materials, and industrial processes. According to McLeish there is a $12 billion demand for PCC.

One of McLeish’s first major target markets for the GreenCarbon technology is the paper industry.

Creating a Greener Sheet of Paper

The industrial use of PCC is projected to grow to 10 million tons by 2010. 70% of that PCC will be used in the paper industry for use as a filler and brightener.

With the GreenCarbon process, CO2 emissions from a paper mill can be transformed into PCC for immediate use in paper production offering the producer the potential for both cost savings and carbon neutrality.

But why stop at simple “neutrality”?

From Carbon Neutral to Carbon Negative

Carbon neutral operations don’t release any additional CO2 into the atmosphere, nor do they reduce CO2 levels either. When applying GreenCarbon technology to a carbon neutral process, say an ethanol plant, that process actually reduces the amount of CO2, thus making it carbon negative.

Not only is GreenCarbon a method for removal and transformation (as opposed to storage) of CO2, McLeish contends that his GreenCarbon technology can produce PCC at a lower cost than traditional processes and also points out that as carbon credit markets come online, users will automatically realize additional cost reductions when the CO2 consumed in GreenCarbon is sold as carbon credits. Win-win.

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