- 19 August 2022
- Posted by: Canberra Innovation Network
- Categories: Coworking, General News, Startup Stories & Profiles
Australian startup Mineral Carbonation International (MCi), which aims to cut carbon emissions in so-called hard-to-abate sectors such as steel, cement and heavy industry, has partnered with construction firm Taisei Corporation of Japan to promote its technology for converting carbon into cement and other products.
Global interest in technology that uses captured CO2 to produce solid materials known as carbonates is accelerating.
MCi last year struck a deal with Itochu Corporation for the Japanese company to invest millions of dollars in exchange for exclusive rights to develop market applications for the carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) technology with other Japanese firms.
In the first such deal, MCi – 34 per cent-owned by Orica – and Itochu said they had signed a deal with Taisei that would accelerate the development of a technology heralded as a solution to reduce carbon emissions.
MCi adopted CCU technology developed in the 2000s by the US Department of Energy that was abandoned in favour of carbon capture and storage (CCS), and has spent 15 years developing and perfecting it.
The technology speeds up the natural weathering process that embodies carbon in other materials from geological timescales to factory production timescales.
It aims to combine readily available materials such as magnesium silicate and calcium compounds dug out of quarries or found in fly ash and steel slag with CO2 captured from steel, cement, chemicals and other heavy industries to form solids that can be used to make useful products.
These materials, such as magnesium carbonate and calcium carbonate, emerge as white powders which can be converted into products such as cement and plasterboard substitutes, fire retardant materials, plastic fillers and refractory linings for steel making that can store carbon permanently and have commercial value.
Chief executive Marcus Dawe said the process developed by MCi, with the help of engineers originally seconded from Orica and now on MCi’s staff, worked at low or virtually ambient heat and pressure and did not require acids or other corrosive materials.
One tonne of the material contained 400 kilograms to 500 kilograms of carbon, and the process would be commercially viable without a carbon price.
“We lock it away permanently,” Mr Dawe said. “We have shown that we don’t need a carbon price to be viable. The sale of the products that we create far exceeds the cost.
“If our plans go the way we want them to, we’ll be building more than 30 of these plants around the world and we’ll be getting rid of carbon dioxide and then creating these materials which are in high demand from manufacturers and other carbon-intensive industries.
“We have got so many manufacturers saying, ‘When can you supply us with these materials?’.”
MCi has a demonstration plant at Orica’s Kooragang Island site in NSW, which takes CO2 from ammonium nitrate production.
Mr Dawe said MCi was working mainly with the steel, cement, manufacturing and mining industries to reduce hard-to-abate carbon emissions that are intrinsic to their production processes, rather than a byproduct of the energy used in production.
But the company is less keen on helping fossil fuel power stations reduce their emissions.
“We are driven by a values process. We’ll get rid of emissions on the way to net zero, but we are not going to be enabling emissions,” he said.
Before its latest deal, Itochu was already investigating various applications of the technology and developing decarbonisation plants to showcase the MCi technology in Japan.