Creating a Greener Future, One Tile, Brick, and Paver at a Time
Eco-preneur Chris Caskey of Montrose creates beauty out of local waste
Colorado farmers have built a robust local market by promoting the environmental virtues of local food. Now the green flag is being waved by a startup that produces ceramic tiles, bricks, and patio pavers.
Three-year-old Delta Brick & Climate Company, based in Montrose, uses clay that’s clogging the Paonia Reservoir to make products that will, when the plan is complete, be baked in kilns fired by methane captured from abandoned coal mines.
The venture makes for a neat parable about the complexities of curbing climate change. There are more than 100 closed mines across the North Fork Valley, burping vast amounts of methane.
Chris Caskey, 35, the chemist-founder behind Delta, proposes to plug some of the holes with sediment, then build a methane burner and kiln at the site where the diverted gas is emitted. Plugging alone won’t do, Caskey says, because the gas will find a way out. But wait, burning 1 ton of methane produces 2.75 tons of carbon dioxide: How is that good for greenhouse gas reduction? Answer: Methane is more potent of a greenhouse gas than CO2 and, over a 20-year time horizon, a ton of methane in the atmosphere is 84 times worse than a ton of CO2.
“Just like the beer scene or the food scene, there’s a slowly building recognition that process matters, local matters. There’s a willingness to pay just a little bit more.”
— Chris Caskey
The math means that “trading one for the other is worth doing,” says Caskey. Delta’s tile-making would only utilize a small amount of the energy produced, but Caskey hopes to attract other manufactures to join on site. He wants “glass makers, fruit driers, any other businesses that need heat, to saddle up.”
Delta has been using a leased factory space to produce bricks, pavers, and tiles in several shapes and with many colored glazes, using outside experts to verify and improve quality when necessary.
Delta is tiny and faces two hurdles: regulatory and marketing. Government agencies that control most of the old mine lands don’t yet have a clear path to leasing them for coal-gas capture. But, Caskey says, “This now has attention all the way up to our senators.”
The other job is convincing consumers and builders that local tiles, priced at the high end, have a virtuous advantage. Caskey is optimistic. “Just like the beer scene or the food scene, there’s a slowly building recognition that process matters, local matters. There’s a willingness to pay just a little bit more.”
Delta will take on custom shapes, finishes, and colors. Its products can be ordered at deltabrick.com.