Capitol Aggregates to invest in carbon-capture technology

Capitol Aggregates to invest in carbon-capture technology
Published: 08 July 2011

Austin-based carbon-capture firm Skyonic is expanding its local operations and upgrading its senior management team as it prepares to start construction of its first full-scale manufacturing facility.

The changes are part of the company’s evolution — after years of testing and fundraising — into a true commercial operation, said CEO and founder Joe Jones. "It’s a lot of growth coming together at the same time," Jones said.

Started as a one-man operation "at a favourite table at Starbucks," Jones said, Skyonic now has 14 full-time employees in Austin and has moved into new offices. The company this week announced the hires of Mario Zampieri as director of engineering and Scott Gardner as chief financial officer.

But most important for the company’s future is the status of its first true industrial plant, which will be on the site of Zachry Corp-owned Capitol Aggregates Ltd cement plant in San Antonio. Construction is set to start in mid-August. When operational, Skyonic’s facility in San Antonio will use the company’s signature SkyMine technology to capture 75,000t of carbon dioxide from the cement plant’s flues, Jones said.

The SkyMine technology converts the carbon dioxide released by the flues of industrial facilities into baking soda, hydrochloric acid and other chemicals that can then be resold. The process also filters sulphur oxides, nitrogen dioxide, mercury and other heavy metals from the flue streams.

The Skyonic plant’s construction, which is expected to take two years, will create 200 construction jobs and will eventually lead to about 55 full-time positions at the facility, Jones said. Skyonic put together US$135m in funding for the San Antonio plant, Jones said. About US$23m of that came out of two federal grants totalling US$28m, and the rest came from venture investors, he said.

Jones said Skyonic is in the "pre-revenue" stage and that he expects the plant to generate income by late-2013. The company also expects to license other applications of its technology in the interim, he said.

"The first 10 years, I think we’re going to be able to significantly affect carbon emissions," Jones said, "and maybe be able to help change carbon policies because there will be a real technology out there to do it with."