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Sublime Systems selected by US Department of Energy to receive $87M investment

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World Cement,

Sublime Systems – which is advancing a fossil-fuel-free, scalable, drop-in replacement for traditional cement in concrete – was selected by the US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED) to begin award negotiations for up to US$87 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act funding as part of the Industrial Demonstrations Programme (IDP).

Sublime’s First Commercial Electrochemical Cement Manufacturing project was selected as one of 33 projects across more than 20 states to receive up to a total of US$6 billion to demonstrate commercial-scale decarbonisation solutions needed to move energy-intensive industries toward net zero while strengthening local economies, creating, and maintaining high-quality jobs, and eliminating harmful emissions that jeopardise public health. Sublime had previously announced it selected the site for its first commercial manufacturing facility in Holyoke, Mass., a city that once manufactured most of the paper in the United States.

“Access to sufficient capital for industrial-scale demonstrations is the single biggest obstacle preventing breakthrough innovations from reaching the scale humanity needs to combat the climate crisis”, said Sublime Systems CEO and Co-Founder Dr. Leah Ellis. “The Department of Energy has cleared this obstacle through funding from OCED’s Industrial Demonstrations Program, embracing its unique role in supporting the deployment of the decarbonised technologies of tomorrow. We look forward to collaborating with them on funding our first commercial manufacturing scale-up, which will ship our clean cement while creating meaningful economic opportunities for the surrounding community.”

OCED applicants were required by the DoE to submit Community Benefits Plans (CBPs), in which they must show that they will engage communities and labour, create quality jobs, and prioritise economic and environmental justice for disadvantaged groups. Sublime was guided to Holyoke through screening tools created by Justice 40, an initiative that directs 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments to flow to disadvantaged communities.

Sublime expects to create hundreds of jobs during the construction phase of the project and 70 – 90 ongoing roles once the plant is operational. The company has signed a strategic partnership agreement with the United Steelworkers (USW) — which represents approximately half of unionised cement workers in the US today — focused on operational positions in the Holyoke plant. Sublime has also signed Memoranda of Understanding to negotiate project labour agreements with the region’s building trade unions, for the construction phase of the project.

“The USW congratulates Sublime on being selected to receive this groundbreaking funding from the Department of Energy”, said USW International President Dave McCall. “We look forward to continuing our partnership and building the skilled union workforce necessary to advance Sublime’s breakthrough clean cement manufacturing technology.”

Bolstering Sublime’s CBP is a collaboration with the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC). Through early and frequent engagement with Holyoke stakeholders, it became clear that there is a shared community goal of building up an educational ecosystem that prepares residents to capitalise on high quality career opportunities in STEM. The OCED selection includes funding to bring SSEC’s educational programming resources to bear in support of that goal.

"This support facilitates the Smithsonian Science Education Centre’s ability to offer programming to the Holyoke Public Schools that will enhance students’ understanding of complex global issues such as decarbonisation and equip them with the skills and knowledge necessary to become agents of change”, said Dr. Monique M. Chism, Smithsonian Under Secretary for Education. "Programmes such as this enable students to grasp firsthand how advanced technologies, developed in their own backyard, support global efforts to fight climate change — and the actions they can take to promote life on a sustainable planet.

Cement is the key ingredient in concrete — the most consumed material on earth after water — and its production is currently responsible for 8% of global CO2 emissions. Today’s ordinary Portland cement (OPC), is made with a 200-year-old process that thermally decomposes limestone, a rock that is nearly half CO2 by weight, in fossil-fuelled kilns running at temperatures as high as 1450°C.

Sublime launched in 2020 with a mission to have a swift and massive impact in cleaning up production of this essential building material. It has since scaled its electrochemical cement manufacturing to a pilot capacity of 250 tpy. The Holyoke first commercial facility will open as early 2026 and will produce up to 30 000 tpy of Sublime Cement, without the fossil fuel pollution – such as NOx, SOx, mercury particulates, and kiln dust – that are often characterised by industrial growth.

“Spurring on the next generation of decarbonisation technologies in key industries like steel, paper, concrete, and glass will keep America the most competitive nation on Earth”, said US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Thanks to President Biden’s industrial strategy, DOE is making the largest investment in industrial decarbonisation in the history of the United States. These investments will slash emissions from these difficult-to-decarbonise sectors and ensure American businesses and American workers remain at the forefront of the global economy.”

Holyoke Mayor Joshua A. Garcia said, “Thanks to the dynamic interplay between federal, state, and local policy, we are ushering in a new era where economic opportunity and fighting climate change go hand in hand – both in our community and so many similar former industrial hubs throughout the United States.”

Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey, who has proposed a US$1 billion, 10-year investment to make the state a leader in climatetech, added, “Sublime represents the tremendous potential the climatetech industry has to transform and grow Massachusetts' economy – from its beginnings at an incubator to its expansion in Holyoke for manufacturing. Sublime's ingenuity, boosted by state and federal funding, is creating good-paying jobs and boosting our economic competitiveness. We congratulate Sublime on this exciting achievement and will continue to advocate for our Mass Leads Act to replicate this success with other climatetech companies."

Dr. Emily Reichert, CEO of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, added, "I've been able to see Sublime Systems grow from the startup space at Greentown Labs to its latest expansion to manufacture its low-carbon cement product in Holyoke. The Healey-Driscoll Administration is working to make Massachusetts the climate innovation capital of the world. We are proud to see the solutions to climate change being built across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Sublime Systems shows us this is possible."

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