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Research to turn CO2 emissions into green building materials

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Mineral Carbonation International (MCI) and Orica have announced a joint venture to trial a technology that transforms captured carbon dioxide emissions into solid carbonate rock for use as green building materials.

MCI received funding from Orica to set the research pilot plant up at the University of Newcastle and carry out further industrial research into mineral carbonation technology.

The research is looking an innovative way to permanently and safely dispose carbon from emissions of fossil fuel electricity generators and other industrial processes.

This would close the loop on carbon and prevent it from building up in the atmosphere.

The research pilot plant will look at whether it can scale-up and commercialise, including reusing captured carbon dioxide, in sustainable building products for the construction industry.

MCI’s project will run over four years on a budget of $9.12 million. It will receive $3.04 million each in funding from the Australian and NSW Governments, and Orica.

The mineral carbonation technology imitates and speeds up the Earth’s own carbon sink mechanism by combining carbon dioxide with low grade minerals to make inert carbonates.

This is similar to baking soda and has various uses like building materials like bricks and pavers.

“Orica views the MCi joint venture and research pilot plant project as providing a safe and sustainable solution in the future mitigation of CO2 emissions,” MCi said in a statement.

“Orica will provide its technical expertise and commitment to innovation to support the technology’s development to help reduce the environmental footprint of mining operations.”

The University of Newcastle, GreenMag Group and Orica have been conducting research for six years.

Orica managing director and CEO Ian Smith said the company viewed the project as a sustainability commitment.

Orica said its global carbon abatement activities were as effective as removing 150,000 cars from the road in the 2012 financial year.

While it is already capturing some of its carbon dioxide emissions at its Kooragang Island manufacturing facility in Newcastle, it is looking for an appropriate disposal technology solution for itself and the industry.

MCI CEO Marcus St. John Dawe believes the technology is ideal for NSW as it has large amounts of low grade mineral deposits that meet environmental criteria and do not compete with farm land.

He believes there is potential for job creation in NSW in a cleaner energy industry.

“The technology is proven in the lab and we now want to see if we can scale it to reduce the cost to be in line with a future carbon price,” he said.

“The major difference between this and geosequestration is that we are permanently transforming CO2, not just storing it underground.”

Handling the project will be a multi-disciplinary team of researchers, chemical and industrial engineers, led by Dr Geoff Brent from Orica and Professors Bogdan Dlugogorski and Eric Kennedy at the Priority Research Centre for Energy at UoN.

Brent said mineral carbonation was an exciting chance to develop a secure and potentially large-scale approach for carbon emissions and produce useful by-products.

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