Sirwin
Sirwin

Sublime Systems Seeks to Commercialize Low-Carbon Cement


I'm of the mindset that we must take care of our natural environment. I always have been, from an early age. I've never waivered from that value. If you feel the term "decarbonization" is a political word, then this article probably isn't for you. Electric vehicles, especially those made by Tesla, have become the face of the so-called "clean tech" tech revolution. But sustainability isn't just about transitioning from gas powered cars to lithium-powered ones. The decarbonization of heavy industry, specifically materials, is quietly happening without as much fanfare. I've written dozens of articles on Origin Materials, who seeks to mass produce chemical precursors for materials which have a lower carbon footprint than oil-based chemicals.

Today I would like to highlight another company, Sublime Systems, which is also working a solution to reduce carbon emissions in the material space. Their end goal is a low-carbon cement. The company understands that humans will continue to build; that's simply the truth of where we are going as a species. It's estimated that 8% of the world's carbon emissions come from the production of cement. Traditionally, cement is made by heating limestone in a kiln to extremely high temperatures from the heat of fossil fuels. Not only does the burning of said fuels emit CO2 but the heated limestone does as well. Sublime's solution uses an electrochemical process, powered by renewable energy sources, and non-carbonate rocks that they expect will produce low carbon cement on a commercial scale.

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Headquartered in Somerville, MA, Sublime Systems was founded in 2020 by Leah Ellis and Yet-Ming Chiang. The company was initially a spin-out of Chiang's MIT lab. In January 2024, the Department of Energy awarded $6.69 million to Sublime to advance their process:

Sublime Systems aims to advance an electrolytic process for cement production to reduce the loss of heat to the environment. This electrolytic process removes the primary sources of GHG emissions, which are fossil fuel fired kiln and the use of limestone as feedstock. By avoiding combustion from the cement manufacturing process and integrating with renewable electricity, this technology prevents the occurrence of NOx, sulfur oxide (SOx), aerosols, and combustion-related particulate emissions. Sublime's ultra-low carbon cement manufacturing process is an equitable path through the green transition. 

Also announced last month was the site of their first commercial plant: Holyoke, MA. The first of its kind plant appears to serve as the company's "demonstration plant," with plans for a larger "megaton scale" plant coming later. The Holyoke facility is expected to be commissioned in 2026, will create 70 jobs, and have a yearly production capacity of 30,000 tons of cement. It is anticipated that the plant will be powered by clean hydroelectricity. While the total cost of the project has not been made publicly available, they are receiving incentives from the state of Massachusetts: a state tax credit from the Economic Development Incentive Program and local Tax Increment Financing from the City of Holyoke to offset property taxes. 

The company is currently hiring for several positions, across a range of departments:

  • Business Development
  • Engineering
  • Pilot Plant Technicians
  • Finance
  • Research & Development

Sublime Systems is currently privately held and venture capital-backed. Their headcount has grown an estimated 15% over the past six months.

The decarbonizing of building materials, particularly cement, is a crucial step in reducing CO2 emissions from heavy industry. The company states that their product can replace traditionally-made ready-mix cement "with no compromises." It certainly seems like a no-brainer to switch. The limiting factor will be unit economics. Can the lower-carbon replacement be made at commercial scale at cost parity with the legacy product?


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dot com boomer - writing mostly on crypto, stocks, entertainment, etc.


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