In a CO2 waste enriched environment it is important to come up with a material of value that can be formed using waste CO2. If we treat CO2 as any valuable waste stream we should start to develop processes that combine the CO2into structures that hold onto it, maintain their integrity and most importantly add real value to our businesses. The message from scientists measuring the changes in CO2 emissions and the effect of these changes, is that we need to act now as a matter of urgency. However acting in haste creates its own regrettable inefficiencies. Governments and investors rush in and focus their energies on ideas that have investment support but when you dig deeper, you realise that only half the real story is being disclosed. We know that CO2 emissions can be reduced by either not generating it in the first place, or by collecting the waste CO2 and storing it for long time. It is about finding the right path that doesn’t create further collateral damage.
Why is it so difficult to find a working solution to this problem?
There are two issues with CO2 production, the first relates to its concentrated collection and the second is using this concentrated CO2 in processes that substitute for other inputs for further utilization or entrap CO2 for sequestration. On the concentration collection the drive is to have clean waste CO2 in a pure form. The problem with aiming for high purity is that most CO2 generated comes from burning fossil fuels which are not clean. You cannot use this CO2 for gassing beverages for example as the issue of purity creates other problems. The concentrated CO2 is generated but now needs to be collected and stored. You can put the CO2 under pressure and store in cylinders that can be transported to be used in other processes. To do this we must be mindful not to be adding in more energy to do this task and therefore generating CO2. This in itself defeats the purpose of reducing the CO2 because it generates even more CO2. This is where it becomes easy pickings for people who are not committed to CO2 reduction, they see it as a problem that inhibits a new money-making venture.
|Is there a solution?|
We don’t want to overcook the solution. What is needed is a process that does not need pure collected CO2 waste, as cleaning it for example for use in carbonated beverages costs a lot in time, money and energy (TME). Entrapping CO2 in underground/ocean ex-oil cavities is also high in TME and it also runs the risk of CO2 leakage acidifying the oceans which is potentially disastrous. Other great ideas include mineralisation for limited re-use, that is making a product that might end up storing it as waste, which is a total loss of TME
EcoMag has the answers!
EcoMag has a material that is made from waste CO2 that has real value as it stores CO2 in functional building products. So as long as we continue to build structures to live in we can also make and use material that stores CO2. This material is Hydrated Magnesium Carbonate (HMC). This HMC is a unique material and can be made in large quantities at EcoMag’s site in Karratha. The EcoMag site is situated over a waste magnesium stream that is currently discharged directly to sea. This is reacted with a saturated CO2 waste stream that has been collected from nearby companies that are generating waste CO2. The CO2 is not pure, but it does not need to be for the EcoMag process which can be easily collected and concentrated. The abundant source of the waste CO2 in Karratha is 22km from EcoMag. Shorter transport routes mean a lower amount of energy is used. Once at the EcoMag site it is mixed with the magnesium waste stream and from there we combine two waste streams to create a building material.
|What is HMC to the Building Industry?|
It is a breath of fresh air. HMC is 1/3 the weight of materials commonly used in plasterboard, strong as cement, water, rain and heat resistant and more importantly acts as a fire retardant when faced with extremely high temperatures. HMC can be used inside and outside buildings and provides great thermal insulation. MgO boards have been known to absorb moisture causing corrosion of the metal framework.
There have been issues with stable supply from China and hence was difficult to guarantee for a long-term future. The building industry wants reliable supply of raw materials as they are bound by many codes and regulations, which means introducing a new product is expensive and surety is very important. EcoMag is all Australian and can expands its current planned production of 50,000 tpa HMC to several times more before it runs out of the yearly magnesium supply.