Mineral carbonation plant opens at University of Newcastle
Australian start-up company Mineral Carbonation International (MCi) has unveiled a semicontinuous research pilot plant at the University of Newcastle’s (UON) Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER), showcasing cutting-edge technology that could see carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions used as a valuable resource that can be transformed into building products.
The mineral carbonation research pilot plant 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.
Over the past four years, MCi’s carbon utilisation (CU) project has combined research from UON, the University of Sydney and Columbia University with novel engineering to develop mineral carbonation processes to utilise CO2. The $9.12m project operates with joint funding from the Australian and NSW governments as well as Orica, and is further supported by the R&D Tax Incentive.
“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,” said Orica Chief Scientist Jez Smith. “The MCi technology may eventually help entire supply chains lower their carbon intensity.”
A first-generation batch plant has been in operation at the NIER facility since the beginning of 2016. Now, with both plants operational, the MCi team is conducting intensive research to refine the process and generate carbonated materials for product testing.
“We need technology that is ready and tested by the time we have solved the pricing of carbon in our economy,” said MCi CEO Marcus Dawe. “Like adoption of renewables in energy production, our technology aims to help decarbonise industries like cement, steel and chemical production.”
Professor Kevin Hall, Senior Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation) at UON, said mineral carbonation researchers at the university 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,” he said.
The success of the 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 federal 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.
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