The father/son team of Mark and Drew Nelson created the system that became Nitrocrete. Courtesy Nitrocrete

Concrete cooling system spurs company growth

Keeping things cool is making NITROcrete LLC of Fort Collins one of the hottest companies across the nation in the concrete business.

Three years after going all in on their liquid nitrogen concrete cooling system, the owners saw a whopping 250 percent growth last year. The NITROcrete system was in about 75 batching plants by the end of the year, and was already in more than 100 in March.

“Right now we’re working hard to meet demand,” said Sandra Hopkins, marketing director for NITROcrete. “We’re growing very fast, and the demand is high, so we’re concentrating on training our team to work with customers.”

To help meet that demand, NITROcrete partnered with Greenwood Village-based Mantucket Capital in early February. Mantucket has a long history of carefully partnering with growing companies, said its managing partner, Brian Mankwitz, and was looking to help NITROcrete meet both national and international demand.

The business was founded as Peak Innovations in 2005 by father and son team Mark and Drew Nelson, who worked in a variety of industries, including designing concrete batch plants and creating an all-natural, bio-remediation process for oil and gas waste.

“We got the reputation for being able to handle the odd solutions (in batch plants),” Hopkins said. In 2015, the company designed its liquid nitrogen solution for a customer who needed a high-specification concrete but staffing problems were creating a bottleneck in icing the cement.

In 2017, the company introduced its product at CONEXPO-CON/AGG construction expo in Las Vegas and found it was a winner, Hopkins said. Soon afterward the entire 12-person Peak team was dedicated to the concrete cooling solution.

While most of us think of poured concrete as drying — and it does — the “hydration” process is actually a series of chemical reactions of cement with water that forms the binding material. Slow down that process by cooling the batch and the concrete can yield a much stronger product that can also spend more time in transport and extend the time in which the concrete can be finished. Cooling down the batch also creates a stronger and longer-lasting product, helping meet stricter specifications being set by highway engineers — and other building specialists across the country and globe.

Traditional batch cooling is often done with either cool water or ice, both of which cool only the cement. That’s where NITROcrete is different from those solutions; it cools the aggregate — the gravel and sand that are mixed in with the cement, much like whiskey rocks cool a drink without adding water.

With evolving standards, NITROcrete has allowed many construction projects to hit specs previously unachievable with previous cooling solutions, which the company has outlined in case studies for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation concrete road work bids and the Interstate 74 Mississippi Bridge project.

“There’s reduced cracking, improved slump retention and better workability,” said Technical Director Eric VanDixhorn. “Plus, a command center that addresses issues in real-time.”

Hopkins said the company employees actually designed the command center from the ground up, including programming that takes into account variables such as temperature, humidity, wind speed and transport time to set the cooling process to the right temperature for the perfect pour.

Commonly customers cool the aggregate 5 or 10 degrees, but some have cooled as much as 30.

The benefits of the system are actually larger than superior construction aspects, said CEO Drew Nelson, as there also are reduced labor costs and some significant environmental impacts. Outside studies showed that NITROcrete reduced CO2 emissions by 83 percent and emitted 87 percent less particulate matter. 

“We believe in helping everyone live a better life through our business,” said Nelson in a prepared statement. “That means more safety, more affordability and a product that is better for the environment.”

And the customers appear to keep on coming, Hopkins said. A typical customer is a batch operator working for a state department of transportation, or one supplying a major construction project with demanding specs, such as bridge decks or skyscrapers.

But, “We have a customer who uses us for curb and gutter,” she said. “The cooled concrete is smoother. Their machinery runs better, and they can run more yards (of concrete) through the curb and gutter machine because it doesn’t dry too fast.”

The NITROcrete team is also building quickly, she said.

“We were just talking about how diverse our team is now: Concrete engineers, cryogenic engineers, very proficient welders who build the system, along with sales people and accounting …”

Keeping things cool is making NITROcrete LLC of Fort Collins one of the hottest companies across the nation in the concrete business.

Three years after going all in on their liquid nitrogen concrete cooling system, the owners saw a whopping 250 percent growth last year. The NITROcrete system was in about 75 batching plants by the end of the year, and was already in more than 100 in March.

“Right now we’re working hard to meet demand,” said Sandra Hopkins, marketing director for NITROcrete. “We’re growing very fast, and the demand is high, so we’re concentrating on training our team to work with customers.”

To help meet that demand, NITROcrete partnered with Greenwood Village-based Mantucket Capital in early February. Mantucket has a long history of carefully partnering with growing companies, said its managing partner, Brian Mankwitz, and was looking to help NITROcrete meet both national and international demand.

The business was founded as Peak Innovations in 2005 by father and son team Mark and Drew Nelson, who worked in a variety of industries, including designing concrete batch plants and creating an all-natural, bio-remediation process for oil and gas waste.

“We got the reputation for being able to handle the odd solutions (in batch plants),” Hopkins said. In 2015, the company designed its liquid nitrogen solution for a customer who needed a high-specification concrete but staffing problems were creating a bottleneck in icing the cement.

In 2017, the company introduced its product at CONEXPO-CON/AGG construction expo in Las Vegas and found it was a winner, Hopkins said.…