New low-carbon cement plant could bring 70 jobs to region

Holyoke City Hall

Holyoke City Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By JAMES PENTLAND

Staff Writer

Published: 11-03-2023 5:04 PM

HOLYOKE — A Somerville company pioneering a method of producing low-carbon cement is eyeing construction of a Holyoke production plant that could bring 70 new manufacturing jobs to the city.

Holyoke has approved five-year tax increment financing (TIF) valued at $351,000 for Sublime Systems Inc., and the state Economic Assistance Coordinating Council approved tax credits of $1.05 million.

Company officials declined to speak about their plans but issued a statement confirming that they are advancing.

“The first commercial plant for producing our low-carbon cement is a considerable investment, and we are in an active diligence period for parcels on Water Street in Holyoke,” spokeswoman Erin Glabets wrote.

“Climate tech businesses like ours have a unique role to play in simultaneously improving our planet’s health while creating new economic opportunities.”

Glabets said that Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia and the City Council have shown a keen understanding of this and have been incredibly resourceful and creative in making the city of Holyoke a hospitable place for such opportunities.

“We hope to have more to share on this in the near future,” she wrote.

Sublime states that it uses an electrochemical process that entirely bypasses the need for extreme heat, typically requiring the burning of coal or other fossil fuels, in the traditional method of producing cement.

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Its process also makes use of “non-carbonate rocks ... that don’t release CO2 when decomposed into cement at ambient temperatures,” the company states on its website.

The end result is cement that is as strong and durable as any conventionally produced cement, according to the company.

“Sublime has been steadily expanding its operation, from small reactions in (a Massachusetts Institute of Technology) lab to a pilot facility that can produce about 100 tons of cement each year,” Casey Crownhart wrote in a recent piece in MIT Technology Review.

“The company’s next step is to build a larger demonstration facility with the capacity to produce over 10,000 tons of cement each year, which it plans to bring online by 2026.

“Finally, a full-scale commercial plant, which would produce a million tons of material each year, should be operational by 2028,” the firm says.

If Sublime scales up successfully and finds the market receptive, its low-carbon cement could have a real impact on global emissions.

Mixed with water, sand and gravel, cement is used to make concrete, one of the most widely used substances on the planet. Crownhart states that production of cement currently accounts for about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Valley Malt growing

Also getting a boost from tax credits and TIF financing is Valley Malt LLC, which moved its operations from Hadley to Holyoke in the spring of 2022.

The Economic Assistance Coordinating Council said Valley Malt plans to buy the building it’s leasing and add a second malting bin to double its malt production capacity.

Financing of the expansion, expected to create five new jobs, includes private investment of about $2.4 million, $75,000 in state tax credits and a special city tax assessment, according to the council.

James Pentland can be reached at jpentland@gazettenet.com.