New technology could harness carbon dioxide emissions

Friday, 25 August 2017

Technology developed and now showcased in Australia could use carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as a resource and transform them into building products.

MCi CEO Marcus Dawe, NSW Minister for Resources Donald Harwin, UON lead researchers Professor Michael Stockenhuber and Eric Kennedy, NIER Director Professor Alan Broadfoot
MCi CEO Marcus Dawe, NSW Minister for Resources Donald Harwin, UON lead researchers Professor Michael Stockenhuber and Professor Eric Kennedy, NIER Director Professor Alan Broadfoot

Mineral Carbonation International unveiled their cutting-edge technology and research program at a public event at the University of Newcastle’s (UON) Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) facility today.

The public demonstration of the research pilot plant is the first opportunity for many to see carbon utilisation technology at pilot scale, demonstrating the potential to create value from CO2.

Over the past four years, the project has combined leading research from UON, University of Sydney and Columbia University with novel engineering to develop mineral carbonation processes to utilise CO2.

The unveiling of a first-of-its-kind semi-continuous research pilot plant marks a significant milestone for the project.

A first-generation batch plant has been in operation at the site since the beginning of 2016 and with both plants now operational, the MCi team is conducting intensive research to refine the process and generate carbonated materials for product testing.

The MCi mineral carbonation research pilot plant, located at the UON NIER facility works by reacting CO2 emissions captured from Orica’s nearby Kooragang Island operations with minerals, permanently binding the CO2 in solid carbonates.

Both carbonates and silica by-products have the potential to be used in building products such as concrete and plasterboard to create green construction materials.

Orica Chief Scientist, Jez Smith, said “By investing in this technology Orica seeks to help our own business and those of our customers to deal positively with CO2 emissions by providing a long term, safe, storage and utilisation option, which can also create valuable products. The MCi technology may eventually help entire supply chains lower their carbon intensity.”

Professor Kevin Hall, Senior Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation) said “Mineral carbonation research at the University of Newcastle is led by Professors Eric Kennedy and Michael Stockenhuber and a team of postgraduate students and experienced specialist postdoctoral researchers, which have expanded knowledge gained from laboratory scale research to develop larger scale mineral carbonation research pilot plant facilities at NIER.

“The University and this dedicated team are delighted to continue this nexus and look forward to the continued partnership established through MCi and the next phase of mineral carbonation research enhanced by the expanded facilities at NIER,” said Professor Hall.

Marcus Dawe, CEO of MCI said “We need solutions to climate change. We need technology that is ready and tested by the time we have solved the pricing of carbon in our economy. Like adoption of renewables in energy production, our technology aims to help decarbonise industries like cement, steel and chemical production.”

The public unveiling of the research pilot plant follows ten years of R&D undertaken by the joint venture partners University of Newcastle, GreenMag Group and Orica. The AUD$9.12M project operates with joint funding from the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments, Orica and is further supported by the R&D Tax Incentive.

The success of the MCi Research Pilot Plant has allowed the project to extend its focus into flue gas carbonation this year with a $2.4M Cooperative Research Centre – Projects Grant from the Commonwealth Government. This project could see mineral carbonation applied in a wider variety of industrial settings, creating valuable products directly from flue gas without the need for CO2 purification.

Mineral Carbonation International continues to develop global partnerships with industry as it moves into its commercialisation phase and the development of a demonstration scale plant.

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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.