Investors commit $10M to mineralized aggregate developer Blue Planet

A $10 million funding round positions Blue Planet Systems Corp. to advance a carbon capture and utilization system netting fine to coarse, concrete-grade synthetic limestone. The Los Gatos, Calif., company is approaching commercialization of a process that converts diluted carbon dioxide from fossil fuel-powered electricity generating stations, cement or steel mills, and petroleum refineries to carbonate for mineralization into calcium carbonate (CaCO₃).

With annual sequestration potential exceeding 50 gigatons, the construction aggregates market represents one of the largest potential CO₂ sinks, Blue Planet officials contend—making their solution to curbing global carbon levels scalable and economically viable. The synthetic limestone more than compensates for the carbon footprint that concrete exhibits due to portland cement, production of which is among the most widely cited industrial sources of CO₂ emissions. The Blue Planet process also creates upcycled concrete aggregate as a byproduct, reducing the need to mine limestone reserves.

Carbon capture methods typically require an energy-intensive CO₂ purification step for liquification, transport and injection. Blue Planet directly converts CO₂ diluted in flue gas to carbonate, avoiding what system developers note are the significant costs and parasitic loads of purifying the greenhouse gas from a dilute stream in order to liquify it for underground disposal. Instead, the synthetic limestone is ready for delivery to concrete plants and use in structures where the CO₂ is stored permanently. Synthetic aggregate production and market prospects make Blue Planet process operations profitable; plants can be underwritten, owned and operated under well-established project financing structures without subsidies.

The company’s first commercial plant is being constructed in Pittsburg, Calif., along the Sacramento Delta, affording barged material transport options and economy, and adjacent to a natural gas-fired power plant. Early Blue Planet aggregate concrete applications have included pavement at San Francisco International Airport Terminal 1.

A neutral accounting arbitrator has determined that no earnout payment from concrete pipe and precast giant Forterra Inc. is due to Germany’s HeidelbergCement AG under terms of a 2015 Hanson Building Products business spinoff, initially valued at $1.2 billion.

HeidelbergCement had sought a $100 million earnout payment based on the fiscal 2015 performance of Hanson Building Products, whose Dallas-based suitor, Lone Star Fund IX (U.S.) LP, adopted the Forterra brand. The Delaware Court of Chancery deferred an EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) calculation—central to the earnout payment clause—to the arbitrator in conjunction with a late-2017 dismissal of a HeidelbergCement suit.

“We have consistently held the view that no earnout payment was owed,” says Forterra CEO Karl Watson, Jr. “We look forward to moving on from this and continuing to execute on five improvement pillars which have created significant momentum over the past several quarters. Comparing our recent second quarter 2020 results to the second quarter of 2019, in each case on a last 12-month basis, we have increased our sales by 7 percent, gross profit by 26 percent, improved from a net loss of $34 million to net income of $28 million.”