Ecocem gets €22m investment from Bill Gates's climate fund
Irish low carbon cement company Ecocem has announced €22.5 million in equity investment from Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) and Breakthrough Energy Ventures-Europe (BEV-E), venture capital funds that are part Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy coalition, which seeks to accelerate the global drive towards net zero carbon emissions.
“Everyone at Ecocem is very excited at what we can achieve with the support of BEV and BEV-E,” said Donal O’Riain, founder and managing director of Ecocem. “We share the conviction that rapid decarbonisation of cement manufacture is vital for the planet, and that it can be achieved through innovation and the diffusion of new technology. Together we can now meet this challenge with renewed urgency and ambition.”
The manufacture of cement generates about seven per cent of global CO2 emissions. Progress in decarbonisation has been limited by the high level of process-related CO2 emissions of cement clinker manufacture. The sector faces high investment and high operating costs from the deployment of carbon capture beyond 2030.
Ecocem has long been a pioneer of cement based on ground granulated blastfurnace slag (GGBS), a steel industry by-product, and has processing facilities in Dublin, France and Spain. Ecocem said that the new investment would enable it to bring new “ultra low carbon” cements to the market over the coming years. “These new products will draw on Ecocem’s deep knowledge in slag-based cements and incorporate new materials and technologies developed by the company,” it said.
“Ecocem’s new technologies will enable the global cement industry to reduce its CO2 emissions rapidly and without excessive cost, providing high-performance cements with significantly lower clinker content."
BEV's board is chaired by Bill Gates and also includes Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, media mogul and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. Another of BEV's senior members, Carmichael Roberts, welcomed the announcement. “There’s no question the cement and concrete sector is a massive contributor to global carbon emissions and one of the hardest to abate," he said. "That’s why we’re excited about the work Ecocem has been doing in Europe, and its continued focus, working with the existing cement industry to deploy new technologies and accelerate the adoption of ultra-low carbon cements. This type of cross industry collaboration is needed to drive real change.”
Mariya Gabriel, Europe’s innovation commissioner, also welcomed the news. “Europe and its partners support Ecocem, an independent company in the cement industry, one of the hardest to abate sectors. Ecocem’s low carbon solutions can impact not only industrialised countries but also the emerging economies. With this third transaction in 2021, I am satisfied to see BEV-E adding to a portfolio of highly innovative enterprises in Europe, across sectors and challenges such as green hydrogen, renewable carbon sources, and today, cement,” she said.
BEV will also nominate a director to Ecocem’s board of directors.
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