Two Milwaukeeans have a recipe and a dream, but they need $7 million to mass produce the new cement they say could tap a worldwide market.
David Lisowski and John Miglautsch have patented a new formula for fly-ash cement. Fly ash is a byproduct of coal burned in power plants and has been used as an alternative to limestone, the main ingredient in Portland cement.
The two have tested their cement in small batches, but the new material will not catch the attention of structural engineers and architects until it is mass produced in a cement plant, said Miglautsch, chief marketing officer for Reco Cement Products LLC, Hartland.
“It is proven at the scale that we can do it,” he said.
The two are considering leasing land near the Port of Milwaukee to build an up to $7 million plant.
The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee on Thursday voted to let Reco use low-interest government bonds to borrow money for the project. The plant would need up to 5 acres, and could employ 28 people, said Lisowski, CEO of Reco.
Reco’s cement is cheaper than Portland cement — $80 compared to $135 per ton, Lisowski said. It could give projects points toward meeting green-building standards because it takes less energy to produce and recycle fly ash that otherwise would be sent to a landfill, he said.
Giles Engineering Associates Inc., Waukesha, has tested the material, and it holds up well compared to Portland cement, said Charlie Gresser, manager of the Giles materials testing division. But a plant would give the material standing in the industry and convince builders to use it, he said.
“They’re going to have a lot of footwork to do,” Gresser said. “They’re going to have to talk to a lot of architects and engineers to make sure it gets in the specs, and then they’re going to have to talk to the contractors.”
Architects, excited by the prospect of a new green-building product, have reacted well to the concept, Lisowski said. Reco also is working with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to see if the cement can be approved as a material for highway projects, he said.
But the plant has to come first, he said.
“It was kind of the chicken-and-the-egg situation,” Lisowski said.
The initial plant planned for Milwaukee would be designed for an expansion, Lisowski said. If the cement is accepted, the initial $7 million project could be followed within two years by an up to $15 million expansion, he said.
He said he expects the product to sell out. The company also is looking for places to build plants in California and around New Orleans, he said.
Still, it’s just an ambitious recipe until a shovel hits the ground.
“But it’s hard to do the next step,” Miglautsch said.