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Exclusive: Low carbon cement plant launches in Mass.

A lot in Holyoke, Massachusetts, the home of a first-of-a-kind low carbon cement plant

A lot in Holyoke, Mass., that formerly housed paper mills is the future home of a first-of-its-kind low carbon cement plant. Photo courtesy of Sublime Systems

Low-carbon cement startup Sublime Systems has acquired a site in Holyoke, Mass., that formerly housed paper mills to build its first commercial-scale plant.

Why it matters: First-of-a-kind plants like Sublime's can be tricky to finance, and signing an agreement for the land is a key first step toward production.

Of note: Energy-intensive cement production accounts for more than 7% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

Details: The planned factory is expected to be commissioned in 2026, create 70 jobs, and will eventually have capacity to make 30,000 tons per year of cement.

  • The Somerville, Mass., startup chose Holyoke for a handful of reasons: low-cost clean electricity from hydropower, close distance to its HQ and pilot facility, ample industrial zoning, and a community eager for factory jobs.
  • In addition, the state offered Sublime a grant from the Economic Development Incentive Program, and the city of Holyoke provided local tax increment financing to offset property taxes.
  • The Holyoke plant, at so-called kiloton scale, will be a stepping stone to a larger plant, a megaton scale that Sublime plans to eventually build near a quarry.

Catch up quick: Sublime Systems was spun out of MIT in 2020 by two battery scientists: Leah Ellis, and professor and serial entrepreneur Yet-Ming Chiang.

  • While most cement production uses blazing hot kilns to heat up crushed rock, Sublime uses an electrochemical process at an ambient temperature, making it far less energy-intensive.
  • Co-founder and CEO Ellis describes the process as "the electric vehicle of cement making."
  • The company has raised over $50 million from investors including Lowercarbon Capital, The Engine, Energy Impact Partners and Southeast Asian cement producer Siam Cement Group. It was also supported by the DOE's ARPA-E.

What's next: The company will need to raise funding to finance the plant, as well as find partners to help build it out.

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