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Green cement company to jump into building market

Cement is everywhere, and it takes a lot of cooking to make. CalStar hopes to cut out the baking part.

CalStar Cement says it will tackle one of the unrecognized sources of greenhouse gases: cement.

The company, which is still operating in stealth mode, hopes to later this year unveil its plans for bringing a high-quality cement to market that requires far less energy to manufacture than the conventional stuff, according to sources close to the company. Consuming less energy directly results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

And cement takes a lot of energy. Making cement involves a mixture of burning limestone and clay together at very high temperatures ranging from 1,400 to 1,600 degrees Celsius. Many factories use coal-burning kilns to hit those temperatures.

According to MIT, 2.35 billion tons of cement get made a year. (Professors there are experimenting with ways to cut emissions with new cement formulas too.) Overall, cement accounts for 5 percent or more of the world's carbon dioxide emissions.

The company's business plan thus is similar to that of Serious Materials, which has developed an eco-friendly drywall. Serious' drywall will look and function like drywall, but it doesn't require all of the intense cooking procedures of conventional drywall. Serious, in fact, plans to run its first factory on a 100 kilowatt solar system.

Green-building materials invariably cost more than the conventional counterparts, but over time will drop as volumes increase, say advocates. But even with a price delta, green building companies say they will find customers because contractors can earn LEED certification points to "green" their projects by selecting these materials.

So far, CalStar has raised $3.4 million from Foundation Capital, among others, and has cut a deal to co-locate a manufacturing facility in the Bay Area. Foundation partners have spoken about their investments in green cement but have yet to mention the name publicly or list the company on its Web site.

CalStar isn't giving much more detail out either, other than they are just a bunch of Silicon Valley PhDs tinkering with cement.