Most people don’t realize how important activated carbon is in our day-to-day lives — or the role it plays in both emissions compliance and overall safety. Typically derived from sources such as coconut husks and coal, activated carbon is among the most common ways to filter contaminants from both water and air.
Activated carbon is so named because the process by which it’s produced oxidizes the carbon, ‘activating’ a series of small, low-volume pores that considerably increase its surface area. There are a few different methods for producing the material, including carbonization, gas treatment and chemical treatment.
Activated carbon is incredibly microporous. A single gram of the material has a total surface area of over a thousand square meters. This characteristic, along with its capacity to attract and retain organic chemicals, makes it invaluable for a wide range of use cases across multiple industries, including healthcare, chemistry, agriculture, oil & gas and even food preparation.
Of all these applications, it’s arguably in the industrial space that activated carbon sees the most use. Here, it’s used for everything from mercury scrubbing and groundwater remediation to drinking water filtration, air filtration and gas purification. These represent only a cross-section, however. The industrial use cases for activated carbon are not only far broader, but it is also rapidly expanding.
For large-scale industrial use cases, activated carbon typically comes in one of three forms: powdered, pellet and granular. Depending on how the material is treated post-oxidation, activated carbon can be tailored to a multitude of individual use cases. For large-scale use, material cost can range from US$2,000 per tonne to as high as US$6,000 per tonne, presenting a considerable opportunity in activated carbon.
Carbonxt Group (ASX:CG1) is positioned to take full advantage of that opportunity. An innovative manufacturer of custom activated carbon, Carbonxt has locked in a joint venture with US-based partner Kentucky Carbon Processing, forming the joint venture NewCarbon, and effectively expanding Carbonxt’s addressable market and gross margin.
Much of this growth will be courtesy of a new Kentucky facility focused primarily on water treatment. This facility will leverage two pieces of legislation recently announced in the United States — the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean Water Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal. The former aims to reduce pollution caused by polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), while the latter provides a total of $10 billion in funding to help companies reduce PFAS contamination.
PFAS are a set of widely-used chemicals that take an incredibly long time to break down. Found in soil, water, air, fish and humans, multiple studies have linked PFAS to severe health problems, which include birth defects, developmental delays, thyroid disease, high-blood pressure and increased risk of several types of cancer.
It’s why the EPA is cracking down hard on these chemicals, with additional regulations being proposed to further protect communities from the serious effects of PFAS. These regulations, which are set to begin enforcement between 2024 and 2028, will require the majority of companies in the water industry to upgrade their filtration systems.
Carbonxt provides products specifically targeting PFAS removal. Through the NewCarbon joint venture, the company intends to convert a waste-to-energy plant into an activated carbon plant, considerably increasing its production capacity and allowing it to directly serve the roughly 50,000 water utilities in the United States, which together account for roughly 50 percent of the granular activated carbon market.
If all goes as planned for Carbonxt, it will fully disrupt that market, unseating the current leader.
Carbonxt Group is a manufacturer of patented activated carbon products designed to treat toxic pollutants in both air and water. Carbonxt currently has an addressable US market of US$290 million with a 5 percent market share. Its recently finalized joint partnership with Kentucky Carbon Processing has the potential to increase this market to more than $900 million.Together, Kentucky Carbon Processing and Carbonxt will form the joint venture company NewCarbon, affording Carbonxt several advantages: Increased US-based production capacity to 21,000 tons with the potential for further expansion. Control over input costs, considerably improving base margins. High-quality raw materials.In the near future, much of Carbonxt’s growth will be driven by the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s increasing regulation of PFAS. There are currently 50,000 water utility companies in the United States, 4,000 of which serve 10,000 or more customers. Collectively, they account for roughly 50 percent of the granular activated carbon market with annual expenditures of over US$300 million. Carbonxt is well-positioned to serve these companies, providing activated carbon pellets that offer improved filtration with a lower pressure drop as a replacement for granular activated carbon. The company is working with Kentucky Carbon Processing to convert the Inez waste-to-energy plant into an activated carbon plant. It expects the new plant to be operational by the end of 2023. In addition to a highly experienced leadership team, Carbonxt’s strong revenue and earnings growth potential from NewCarbon make the company an attractive investment prospect.
High-performance Activated Carbon
Carbonxt designs specialized activated carbon products for its customers, which consist primarily of industrial sector organizations and power utilities. Available in pellet and powder form, the company’s oxidizing, non-brominated activated carbons are non-corrosive and designed to remain efficient throughout their entire lifecycle. Although Carbonxt’s origin and listing is in Australia, its products are manufactured and distributed exclusively within the United States.
Carbonxt is currently focused on developing an activated carbon manufacturing facility in Kentucky, the result of a joint partnership with Kentucky Carbon Processing. Once this facility is operational, water utility companies are expected to form a much larger part of its customer base. The facility is also expected to re-invigorate the company’s industrial pellet market sales.
Strong Market Outlook: Industry demand for powdered and pelletized activated carbon remains strong. Prices have trended considerably upwards over the past year and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Pricing Trends: Carbonxt’s primary competitors in the activated carbon market have both announced price increases ranging from 15 to 40 percent. The company’s activated carbon products have the potential to offer better filtration at a considerably lower price point. Looking Up: Carbonxt has also recently improved its existing carbon manufacturing facilities. This is expected to translate to a 28-percent increase on gross margins for the first half of 2023.Making a Good First Impression: Carbonxt’s high-specification sample products have been well-received by end customers. Management is currently in talks with numerous water utilities to purchase capacity from the company’s new facility once it comes online. Use Cases: Carbonxt currently manufactures activated carbon products for the following: Powdered activated carbons for mercury and flue gas component removal. Customers for this use case include coal-fired power plants, cement plants and industrial boilers & incinerators. Carbonxt manufactures a specialized activated carbon for each type of customer. Pelletized activated carbon for the removal of VOCs and hydrogen sulphide from gas streams.High-quality pelletized activated carbons designed to remove drinking water contaminants as well as taste and odor compounds.
David Mazyck – CEO and Director of Technology
Dr. David Mazyck is a world-leading expert on activated carbon (AC) and its applications including mercury capture. He has developed AC products for major multinational AC manufacturers and has regularly consulted them on technical issues. Mazyck is the former chairman of the Activated Carbon Standards Committee for the American Waterworks Association and has developed products for NASA.
He received his PhD in environmental engineering from Penn State University, where he also earned a PhD minor in fuel science.
Matthew Driscoll – Chairman
Matthew Driscoll has significant experience across several industries, including online technologies, financial services, fintech, cleantech, property and resources. He has more than 30 years’ experience in capital markets and the financial services industry and is an accomplished company director in roles across listed and private companies.
He has significant experience in international business growth, mergers and acquisitions, equity and debt raisings and building strategic alliances. His current directorships include NED Energy Technologies, NED Blina Minerals, NED Eco Systems, and NED Smoke Alarms Holdings.
Warren Murphy – Managing Director
Warren Murphy has led a large number of acquisitions and financings across the energy, resources and infrastructure sectors. This includes the development of over 2,000 MW of Greenfields power stations and the acquisition of over 3,000 MW of generation assets.
He was co-head of the Australian Infrastructure & Project Finance Group and Head of Energy at Babcock & Brown based in the Sydney office and led the development of Babcock & Brown’s energy sector capability in Australia and New Zealand, including the founding of Infigen Energy and its unlisted predecessor, Global Wind Partner, where he served as a director from inception until June 2009.
Murphy was also a director of the ASX-listed Alinta and Sydney Gas, as well as the unlisted Coogee Resources.
Dr. Regina Rodriguez – Senior Executive
Dr. Regina Rodriguez has a PhD from the University of Florida, where she received the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Student Fellowship. She currently sits as the chairperson of the Activated Carbon Standards Committee for the American Waterworks Association.
Rodriguez holds nine patents. Her leadership has resulted in one-of- a-kind sorbents and systems for power stations and water treatment.