The turbines at Moss Landing power plant on the California coast burn through natural gas to pump out more than 1,000 megawatts of electric power. The 700-degree Fahrenheit (370-degree Celsius) fumes left over contain at least 30,000 parts per million of carbon dioxide (CO2)—the primary greenhouse gas responsible for global warming—along with other pollutants.
Today, this flue gas wafts up and out of the power plant’s enormous smokestacks, but by simply bubbling it through the nearby seawater, a new California-based company called Calera says it can use more than 90 percent of that CO2 to make something useful: cement.
It’s a twist that could make a polluting substance into a way to reduce greenhouse gases. Cement, which is mostly commonly composed of calcium silicates, requires heating limestone and other ingredients to 2,640 degrees F (1,450 degrees C) by burning fossil fuels and is the third largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the U.S., according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Making one ton of cement results in the emission of roughly one ton of CO2—and in some cases much more.