Australian firm to build concrete out of carbon emissions

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Mineral Carbonation International, an Australian company which develops carbon utilisation technologies is launching a pilot project aiming to capture carbon emissions and store them in building materials.

The technology and research programme will launch officially on Friday, at the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources.

The initiative was announced last year, and is expected to cost $9m over the next four years.

During the inauguration, the company will demonstrate the one hour-long process bonding stored in large cylinders CO2 with crushed serpentinite from the nearby Orica Koorang Island operation- a process that will permanently convert the carbon-filled cylinders into solid carbonates.

Mineral Carbonation International said: “This mimics but greatly speeds up the natural weathering by rainfall which produces common types of rocks over millions of years”.

“These carbonates and silica by-products have the potential to be used in building products such as concrete and plasterboard to create green construction materials”, they added.

The company has targeted a 20,000 to 50,000 tonnes of ‘green’ concrete for construction companies by 2020, anticipating that the process will be economically viable even with a low carbon price.

Marcus Dawe, Chief Executive of MCI expressed its optimisms on the pilot initiative by implying that the company is aiming to satisfy the “big demand among consumers for green building products”.

He added that “the interest around the carbon brick has been extraordinary, but we are going beyond that”.

Talking about the innovative entrepreneurship, Dawe remarked that serpentinite was a readily available ‘feedstock’, able to absorb CO2 and is found all over the world.

“Nowhere in the world had anyone scaled up enough to create enough material to give to manufacturers, to experiment and test them and find out what products they can make from them”, he said, underlying the correlation of scale and profitability.

However, the mining of serpentinite is associated with environmental concerns- similar to those associated with any type of mining.

But Dawe claims that serpemtimite is “the only thing on scale to deal with the carbon problem we have”.

Environmental scientists have suggested that an acceptable substitution is fly ash and bottom ash from coal fired power stations, but Dawe commented that “it’s more likely we’ll be mining than to make negative carbon concrete and cement”.

Geologist and Professor Fellow at the University of Melbourne, Professor Peter Cook supported the idea of making concrete out of carbon with the help of serpentinite, but expressed concerns over the scale that is required.

“We need to be realistic about it, it’s not going to be the solution to the problem of global warming and climate change,” he said without diminishing the “great” value in what MCI was attempting. 

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