Car­bon-cap­ture firm wins grant

Sky­onic’s $25 mil­lion award to go to­ward plant for con­vert­ing car­bon diox­ide to bak­ing soda

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS & PERSONAL FINANCE - By Brian Gaar

An Austin com­pany that plans to build an in­dus­trial car­bon cap­ture plant in San An­to­nio has won a $25 mil­lion grant from the Depart­ment of En­ergy.

Sky­onic Corp. re­ceived the largest of six grants, part of the fed­eral eco­nomic stim­u­lus pro­gram, that the depart­ment an­nounced Thurs­day. All of the re­cip­i­ent com­pa­nies are work­ing on projects that con­vert in­dus­trial car­bon diox­ide emis­sions into prod­ucts such as fuel, plas­tics and fer­til­iz­ers, ac­cord­ing to the En­ergy Depart­ment.

Sky­onic’s San An­to­nio plant will con­vert car­bon diox­ide into bak­ing soda and other chem­i­cals that can be resold, said Jack Lynch, the com­pany’s chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer.

“We’re ob­vi­ously re­ally ex­cited and grate­ful for the sup­port,” he said of the grant.

In all, $106 mil­lion was al­lo­cated from the Amer­i­can Re­cov­ery and Rein­vest­ment Act, which is be­ing matched with $156 mil­lion from the pri­vate sec­tor.

“These in­no­va­tive projects con­vert car­bon pol­lu­tion from a cli­mate threat to an eco­nomic re­source,” U.S. En­ergy Sec­re­tary Steven Chu said. “This is part of our broad com­mit­ment to un­leash the Amer­i­can in­no­va­tion ma­chine and build the thriv­ing, clean en­ergy econ­omy of the fu­ture.”

The grant — the sec­ond of its kind that Sky­onic has re­ceived — will help fund the com­pany’s Capi­tol-Sky-mine project at the Capi­tol Ag­gre­gates Ltd. ce­ment plant in San An­to­nio. Ear­lier this year, Sky­onic re­ceived $3 mil­lion from the Depart­ment of En­ergy to­ward the same project.

Com­pany of­fi­cials say the plant is tar­geted to cap­ture 75,000 met­ric tons of car­bon diox­ide from the flue gas emit­ted by the ce­ment plant. It will also off­set an ad­di­tional 200,000 met­ric

Con­tin­ued from B tons of car­bon diox­ide, be­cause none would be needed to cre­ate the chem­i­cal byprod­ucts from other sources.

Con­struc­tion on the plant should be­gin later this year, and it should be fully op­er­a­tional by 2012, Lynch said. In all, the to­tal cost will be in the $100 mil­lion range, he said.

The rest of the money for the Capi­tol-Skymine plant will be pro­vided by pri­vate in­vestors, he said, with­out nam­ing spe­cific par­ties.

Sky­onic plans to op­er­ate at a profit through the sale of byprod­ucts and gen­er­ate more than 200 jobs in Texas, com­pany of­fi­cials have said.

The com­pany was founded in 2005 and has been sup­ported largely by Cal­i­for­nia in­vestor Carl Berg. Berg also is founder of and a ma­jor in­vestor in Va­lence Technology Inc., an Austin-based maker of recharge­able lithi­u­mion bat­ter­ies.

Sky­onic re­cently re­ceived a patent re­lat­ing to its process to cap­ture and min­er­al­ize car­bon.

Lynch said his com­pany is “grat­i­fied by the vet­ting of our technology” by the Depart­ment of En­ergy. “I think it speaks vol­umes.”

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