Tackling gigatonnes of CO2 from energy-intensive industries

Planet A Ventures
4 min readDec 7, 2022

Carbon Re is on a mission to accelerate the decarbonisation of hard-to-abate industries. By leveraging AI technologies they are able to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions — starting with the highly pollutive cement industry. Here’s why we decided to join them on their journey.

Energy-intensive industries such as cement, steel, and chemicals account for more than 20% of global emissions. However, improving efficiencies in these production processes is challenging to say the least. Let’s take cement, for example. After water, it’s the most widely used substance on the planet. And while cement offers many benefits, such as its resistance and versatility, it is also one of the most destructive materials we produce.

In order to reduce emissions from cement, we must tackle a range of different challenges at different stages of production. It is important to understand, that while the production process is standardized each factory is different: it has different combinations of equipment, different conditions and different operators. And this is where it gets tricky.

Each cement plant requires highly-skilled operators who must balance hundreds of processes and variables while producing and handling vast amounts of under-utilized data. Every day operators have to find the right combination of fuel feed rate, fan speed, kiln rotation speed, kiln heating, and many other parameters. So, how do we optimize this process and make it less pollutive for our planet?

Tapping unused data to reduce CO2

Currently, about 40% of the total cement emissions are energy-related. Carbon Re, a spin-out company from Cambridge University and UCL, has found a way to leverage the vast amounts of data produced and tackle the energy-derived emissions.

Through AI technology their software Delta Zero uses data created during production processes to create an accurate model, also known as a digital twin, specifically tailored to each cement plant. The software focuses on the pre-heater and kiln process stages in plants (see chart 1), which account for all thermal fuel use as well as emissions. It produces live, specific, and quantified recommendations on how plant operators and engineers can increase the energy efficiency of their manufacturing.

A solution with instant impact

The remaining CO2 budget to stay within 2 degrees of warming is depleting fast. Carbon Re`s solution is an important way to cut greenhouse gas emissions at speed. In just two years, the software is already being used in pilot projects to cut fuel use and CO2 emissions by up to 10% at cement plants in Europe, Asia and the Americas. The AI technology creates a near-live positive impact by empowering operators to save up to 50 kilotonnes of annual CO2 emissions per plant and up to €2 million in fuel costs. For comparison, this means each installation of the software saves as much CO2 as taking 11,000 cars off the road. Read on the positive impact in our life-cycle assessment.

Sherif Elsayed-Ali, CEO of Carbon Re said “Carbon Re is connecting the biggest challenge of our time — climate change — with the biggest opportunity — advances in AI. Our cement plant trials have demonstrated that Delta Zero can deliver dramatic CO2 savings on a near-live basis. This latest funding round will enable us to accelerate our mission to reduce carbon emissions by gigatonnes every year.”

Sherif is a leading expert in the tech for good space. He previously worked for Element AI, was co-founder and director of Amnesty Tech at Amnesty International, and was also on World Economic Forum Global Future Council. He founded Carbon Re with his three Co-Founders Aidan O’Sullivan, Buffy Price, and Daniel Summerbell.

Delta Zero doesn’t stop at cement

More and more industries recognising the urgent need for action. Just last year the Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA), which represents 40 of the world’s biggest producers and about 80% of the industry outside China, pledged to reduce emissions by 80%.

While Delta Zero is already being piloted in the cement industry, they just raised €4.7m from Planet A and other investors to develop and expand into further energy-intensive industries. The strong, science-based team will scale their world-class AI technology to save gigatons of emissions in the steel, glass, and chemical industry.

“Carbon Re’s state-of-the-art AI solution has the potential to tackle some of the toughest challenges on the road to a carbon-neutral future. Starting with fuel efficiency in cement, Carbon Re has the ambition and capability to develop a large portfolio of advanced solutions across multiple industries — and substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Christoph Gras, Partner at Planet A, follows.

It’s clear that AI technology is a powerful tool to accelerate our decarbonisation. We are very proud to partner with the stellar team at Carbon Re and join them on this journey.

Let’s get to work and save gigatonnes of CO2!

--

--

Planet A Ventures

We support founders tackling the world's largest environmental problems.