Construction materials from recycled CO2



 

Mineral Carbonation International (MCi), an Australian company, is conducting research into a technology for the capture and storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) by means of mineral carbonation. Its aim is to make use of waste CO2 as a raw material for the production of “green” construction products, with a view to reducing global CO2 emissions.

Fig. 1: Carbonate bricks.

Working with other companies as part of a joint venture, MCi is analysing the entire processing chain. The world’s first pilot plant to investigate this technology has been constructed at the University of Newcastle (UON) in Australia.

CO2 is generally accepted as one of the most important contributory factors responsible for the greenhouse effect and global warming. MCi teamed up with the GreenMag Group, Orica – the world’s biggest supplier of commercial explosives, and mineral processing chemicals such as fertilizer – and UON to form a joint venture which aims to prove the technical feasibility and economic viability of mineral carbonation as a sustainable industrial solution for the capture, storage and utilisation of CO2.

The world’s first pilot plant for mineral carbonation has been up and running since 2013 in the UON. Technology from Siemens is used for plant automation.

Tried and tested automation

In support of the project, the joint venture has received generous research funding from the government and from Orica. This has enabled MCi to gather and license the necessary expertise to allow captured CO2 to be used as a raw material for the green production of construction materials such as cement and plasterboard.

Fig. 2: Batch pilot plant.

By creating value, the costs of the transformation are covered, meaning that the technology offers potential from both the economic and the ecological perspective to close the carbon loop without creating hazardous waste.

In the pilot plant, CO2 captured from the production of ammonium nitrate, a component of both fertilisers and commercial explosives, can be used to manufacture solid carbonate and amorphous, i.e. non-crystalline, silica.

Alongside research into the scalability of mineral carbonation processes for industrial use, the pilot project is also looking at the development of new technologies for storing CO2 which are economically viable and can be used on a large scale.

For this, the pilot plant is equipped with a distributed control system (DCS) from Siemens, which ensures compliance with the plant’s stringent automation and process reliability requirements. This equipment ensures that MCi is able to retain a high degree of flexibility, with a view to upscaling the current basic technology.

The DCS hardware is composed of two frequency converters for control of the various tank agitators and the high-performance grinding mill. The system helps MCi to keep a close eye on every step of its implementation, and also offers it scope to record all the process data required for detailed analysis of the energy requirements and the overall process output.

Fig. 3: Semi-continuous pilot plant.

For a clean future

The results to date indicate that with further process optimisation, mineral carbonation may certainly be expected to become an economically viable method of “CO2 recycling”, which will ultimately help to reduce industrial carbon emissions and global warming, paving the way for a cleaner energy future.

Contact Keshin Govender, Siemens, Tel 011 652-2412, keshin.govender@siemens.com

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Source: EE plublishers

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