Mineral Carbonation International wants to transform Carbon dioxide emissions into useful building materials. The Australian firm just unveiled a pilot plant at the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources that will attempt to mimic, but speed up, the weathering process by which rainfall produces rocks.
MCi launched their technology with a demonstration of their process to transform CO2 into building products. They capture the CO2 from mining company Orica’s Kooragang Island operations. According to The Guardian, CO2 bonds with the rock serpentinite to create solid carbonates in an hour-long process. On their website, MCi says the material could potentially be used for cement, bricks, or plasterboards.
At the same site at the University of Newcastle, a first-generation batch plant has been operating since 2016, but the university described this new semi-continuous pilot plant as the first of its kind, and said with both plants running MCi will be able to conduct research to hone the process and generate materials for testing. MCi hopes to be generating 20,000 to 50,000 metric tons of the material for use in building by 2020.
MCi CEO Marcus Dawe said in a statement, “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 the adoption of renewables in energy production, our technology aims to help decarbonize industries like cement, steel, and chemical production.”
University of Melbourne geologist Peter Cook said MCi has shown the technology works chemically, but it may not offer a single solution to the large issue of climate change. He told The Guardian, “I think it’s one of these processes where you’ll be able to make money from it in the local area. The difficulty is, for instance we’re getting 36 billion tonnes of CO2 per annum from our use of fossil fuel.” He did say he didn’t want to diminish the great value in MCi’s work.