Change Climate by inspiring our Engineers to think of the Environment

It was used as a political carrot, but it is now a call for the younger generation to change our perspective. Did you know that some older engineers and their companies still don’t believe in climate change? When I left university as a young chemical engineer some 30 years ago I believed that we could change the world, but the more engineering companies I worked for, the more I felt they dulled my thinking and forced me to be just another cog in the machine. I now feel that my idealistic belief that we can change things doesn’t seem to resonate as much with the older generation of engineers as it does with the younger ones, so now we need to entrust the safety of the planet to young engineers.

At UNSW chemical engineers have been taught to consider the carbon footprint of engineering processes. “For the past 10 years energy and emission impacts have been incorporated into our core learnings’ says Professor Rose Amal, “Chemical engineers need to consider the impact of their work on our planet. Nowadays chemical engineering graduates don’t just accept previous practices but they innovate with the environment in mind”.

EcoMag welcomes young engineers into the team and “we try to push their way of thinking to be as far reaching as possible” says Dr Tam Tran, chief scientist at Ecomag. “The only way we are going to adequately address climate change is to have all engineers focused on solutions”. EcoMag has the opportunity to show what can be achieved through resource recovery, without impacting negatively the environment.

EcoMag makes the purest magnesium for the food and pharmaceutical markets, a highly sought-after material for the wellness industry. Magnesium has moved up from number 4 to number 3 on the supplement register. The general community and even medical doctors have been surprised at how a diet higher in magnesium is able to relieve inflammation. This has led to a big demand for organic magnesium and there are only a few suppliers that can provide such high purity products. It is important to note that our magnesium comes from a concentrated form of ocean water, free from all harmful impurities and heavy metals.

Uniquely, EcoMag recovers its magnesium from highly concentrated magnesium reject bitterns/brines dumped into the ocean by solar salt fields or stored in tailing ponds by potash producers. These are waste streams that are produced from seawater or subterranean brines that have been sun dried for an extended time. As a result, EcoMag magnesium products have a far lower carbon footprint than any other commercial product currently on the market. Removing the magnesium further reduces the impact of the original waste during discharge rendering it more acceptable for ocean outfall.

In addition, EcoMag has also started developing processes for CO2 sequestration using the magnesium waste streams, taking this waste gas from a nearby industry and using it to make the pharmaceutical magnesium. In this respect, two waste streams are combined to make highly profitable products in a process that has true green credentials. At EcoMag we have the opportunity to make our magnesium pharmaceutical grade products, earning real money whilst treating the environment with care and respect.

‘Our work with UNSW and CSIRO extends into making MgO structures that are highly porous (mesoporous). These are used to hold CO2 to react with H2 to make renewable methane/methanol that can be used as fuel and chemical feedstocks”. Tam remarks “Australia has an opportunity to make use of its resources for the good of the world”  

Every young engineer who works at EcoMag are all inspired with this strategy, producing novel and disruptive products with great creativity and care for the environment. We are further developing building boards that are fire resistant and products having highly porous structure that can be used as drug carrier for slow-release applications. We are actively seeking potential partners to work in these areas toward commercialization.

We are thankful to the Western Australian and the NSW state governments for their grant support to conduct our work.

Media contacts:

  • EcoMag Ltd Communications

M: 0476 201 056, E: admin@ecomagnesium.com

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” – Idioms that ring true

An innovative Australian project to produce high-value magnesium products from existing waste-water streams from salt production in the Pilbara.  Processing plant construction activities start.

Having completed its land/resource access agreements, the secret that’s about to become public knowledge is that EcoMag Ltd, the maker of the purest specialty magnesium materials used as food and pharma-nutraceutical ingredients, has started the build on its demonstration project near Karratha WA. The company is the first of its kind to process a true waste, a reject bittern from solar salt operations, into high value products. It has been supported by the Western Australian Government as an innovative process, in which a resource is recovered without impacting negatively on the environment. Over the past few years EcoMag Ltd has received support from the State Government’s Regional Economic Development (RED) Grants Program.

The treatment of waste streams and tailings is becoming the new frontier for resource development. It works as long as there is an appropriate structure for Industry symbiosis.  Giving away waste is not as easy as it sounds when one of the main deterrents is the tightly regulated framework making it difficult and extremely time consuming for new entrants into the waste processing business. This is all sorted now for EcoMag Limited. The company has the necessary agreements to start its build and it has started cleaning up the site in Karratha ready to produce high purity magnesium materials with the lowest carbon footprint. The company has divided its production growth path into three phases, in order to allow for controlled market penetration and to secure investment through proven technology and proof of sales.

Another Idiom which springs to mind, “The world is your oyster” also rings true for EcoMag as we are also completing our project work on using CO2 as one of our process streams. In fact we can provide some solutions to the CO2 sequestration debate, with useful materials made using waste CO2 instead of sending it to landfill for future generations to clean up. Imagine; a business that uses two waste streams to produce a sustainable and profitable material. Watch this company as it further develops its range of disruptive materials to be announced soon.

Lessons from Nature: Mimicking Photosynthesis to Capture and Transform Carbon Dioxide into Renewable Fuels

Despite the expanding transition to renewable energy sources, the atmospheric level of carbon dioxide (CO2) is projected to continue to rise for decades to come.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) acknowledge that large-scale technologies capable of removing CO2 from the air are critical to achieving a climate outcome aligned with the Paris Agreement.  So-called negative emission technologies (NETs) are vital for reaching net zero emissions by 2050, even in scenarios where the rapid deployment of renewable energy is realised. 

Tree cycle capturing Carbon DioxideEcomag MOF technology replicating trees

Once captured, the question remains of what to do with all the carbon?  One approach is to sequester CO2 underground in geologically stable reservoirs.  A complementary strategy is to take a cue from nature and transform the captured CO2 into something society can reuse.  The idea of closing the carbon loop mimics the way plants undergo photosynthesis.  When combined with renewable hydrogen, CO2 can be converted into an array of important chemical feedstocks currently derived from fossil fuels. 

The challenge is that carbon dioxide is a very stable molecule.  Therefore, a catalyst is required to effectively reduce the amount of energy required to transform the CO2 into something more useful. 

EcoMag is working with UNSW’s Particle and Catalysis Research Group led by Prof Rose Amal and the CSIRO to develop Magnesium-based materials that can bridge the gap between carbon capture and utilisation.  The class of porous materials being targeted are known as metal-organic frameworks.  MOFs are materials made up of metal ion ‘hubs’, linked together with organic ‘struts’ to make structures of ultrahigh porosity.  About a teaspoon of these remarkable crystals possess the same surface area as an entire football field.  With all this room inside, MOFs can be put to work as tiny sponges. 

Excitingly, Magnesium-based MOFs are particularly good at capturing carbon dioxide.  By doping these structures with active nanoparticles, we have shown that we can convert the captured CO2 into renewable fuels.  The idea is that these two components can work in unison.  The magnesium-based MOF can soak up the CO2 while the doped nanoparticles are able to facilitate the transformation. 

The collaborative effort is currently screening a variety of Magnesium-based MOFs to uncover the most commercially viable option.  EcoMag’s array of high purity magnesium products are a perfect platform for formulating these revolutionary structures.  By tuning the organic component used in material construction, it is possible to tune the pore size and chemistry of the resulting MOF, opening the door to a broad range of applications including air filtration, chemical sensing and drug delivery.  Feel free to share a link to our latest publication in Advanced Functional Materials:

https://doi.org/10.1002/adfm.202007624

ECOMAG’S SUSTAINABLE MAGNESIUM RECOVERY

EcoMag (www.ecomagnesium.com) is recovering  magnesium (Mg) as >99% pure hydrated magnesium carbonate (HMC) from waste bitterns and brines produced from solar salt fields or potash mines. These wastes are currently discharged to sea causing damages to marine life or stored as tailing at the mine sites.

HMC can then be further processed to Mg oxide/hydroxide and several high purity pharmaceutical and food grade organic salts (citrate, glycinate, etc.) used in Mg supplements, foods and drinks.

As the Mg feed to the EcoMag process is a waste, it brings zero CO2 input to the final products. As a result, EcoMag products have lower CO2 footprint compared to those produced from conventional technologies as confirmed in an independent study conducted by the German Aerospace Centre.

Mg recovery from mining magnesite ores or subterranean brine wells poses potential damages to the environment. Ground disturbance of open cut magnesite mine site requires extensive rehabilitation to return the site to its original state. Recovering Mg brines from subterranean wells potentially causes mine subsidence as experienced by Nedmag and similar operations in the Netherlands. Earthquakes and brine leaks to groundwater apart form mine subsidence have been of great concern as experienced by Nedmag  leading to strict government scrutiny of these operations (https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2018/09/earthquakes-leaks-salt-mining-under-scrutiny-as-problems-mount/).

EcoMag potentially is the first and only producer of high purity Mg specialty chemicals in Australia employing a sustainable and environmentally friendly process for production. EcoMag’s future operation in the Pilbara is also of significance to the development of regional Australia.

EcoMag is a proud supporter of the circular Economy

MAKING A DIFFERENCE WITH UNSW & CSIRO

Ongoing investment in specialty chemical product development is a key strategy for EcoMag to drive growth through an expanding product portfolio based on value differentiation. Find out about EcoMag’s collaboration with two of Australia’s leading research institution in this brief video.

ANALYST COVERAGE

Pitt Street Research (www.pittstreetresearch.com) – an independent analyst providing issuer sponsored coverage for small to mid cap ASX companies in the Technology and Life Science sectors – have completed an analysis of EcoMag.

In “Specialty chemicals upside – Attractive play on magnesium purity”, they provide a comprehensive overview of the project, drawing attention to particular items of merit:

  1. An inexhaustible resource with zero exploration risk and a positive environmental outcome.
  2. Massive scope for expansion at the initial site.
  3. Good access to critical infrastructure.
  4. Vertical expansion opportunities into multiple downstream products.
  5. A wide market across diverse industries.
  6. Successful pilot plant operation, buyer product testing and off-take agreements.
  7. Primary approval (mining tenure) in place.
  8. Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility funding in due diligence.
  9. A DCF valuation of ~A$347.6m based solely on the initial plant (excluding horizontal and vertical expansion opportunities).

Based on their DCF valuation, Pitt Street Research estimate a value in excess of $3 per share.

Download Pitt Street Research’s full report here.

A NET PUBLIC BENEFIT OF +$149 MILLION

Deloitte Access Economics has undertaken an economic analysis of EcoMag’s proposed magnesium recovery plant in Karratha, Western Australia, estimating that the project would create direct benefits for the Australian public over the first 20 years of operation valued at over $149 million. These are driven primarily by company taxes for the Commonwealth, and payroll taxes and royalties for Western Australia, in addition to infrastructure improvements for the Pilbara and environmental benefits.

The initial plant is designed to produce around 80,000t of hydrated magnesium carbonate annually, mostly for export, worth around $130 million a year at current prices. It would also generate over 100 jobs in construction, and require a substantial locally resident operational workforce.

EcoMag’s hydrometallurgy process is capable of recovering magnesium from a range of sources, but it is ideally suited to precipitating magnesium carbonate from hypersaline brines, a by-product of sea-salt production which, for decades, has been discarded and discharged into the ocean.

This gives EcoMag management and shareholders an opportunity to grow an environmentally and socially conscious business from the ground up, which is easier to achieve than trying to retrofit social ethics to a massive, long established corporate entity.

These sorts of opportunities have traditionally been rare but the world is changing. Environmental and social concerns are fast becoming a dominant driver of consumer and investor choices. It’s one of the emerging mega-trends of our times. Investors are no longer satisfied with the old two-dimensional focus on risk and return. Increasingly they are demanding that business leaders broaden their focus to the third dimension: impact – social and environmental.

View the full media release here.

HELPING UNITE AUSTRALIA WITH RESPECT – AND WITH ACTION

As a young business committed to the highest standards of environmental and social corporate citizenship, EcoMag is proud to formally launch its Reconciliation Action Plan during National Reconciliation Week.

EcoMag wishes to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of this nation, and to pay respect to past, present and future Elders, and to the cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“When we started thinking about Indigenous engagement, we sat around trying to think up ways in which we might contribute to local communities,” EcoMag Chief Executive Officer, Tony Crimmins said. “It wasn’t until we started talking to people outside the organisation that we realised we were making an all too common mistake. We were trying to guess what would be good for local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples rather than asking them.”

EcoMag searched for an appropriate framework for its Indigenous engagement, seeking a practical roadmap for action. Subsequent research took them to Reconciliation Australia, and to the concept of an action plan.

“We realised we were just at the start of a journey and that we needed guidance to take the first step in the right direction,” Mr Crimmins said. “We also knew that acknowledgement and respect were fine sentiments but essentially empty unless we also took action.” 

EcoMag’s Reconciliation Action Plan contains a sequence of achievable, measurable steps and the company commits to its engagement with Traditional Owners being guided by core principles:

Acknowledgement and respect — EcoMag’s non-Indigenous staff recognise that they cannot fully understand the experiences and perspectives of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and undertake to engage with Traditional Owners with respect for their diversity and their history.

Relationships and engagement — EcoMag is committed to building effective social and professional relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who may be affected by the company’s operations.

Capacity building — EcoMag recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ strengths and capacity to contribute, and seeks a collaborative approach to building skills and providing opportunities to support local communities.

Autonomy — EcoMag recognises the need for all people to have autonomy in their lives and undertakes to consult with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, to listen to their perspectives, and where possible to implement their preferred solutions.

“As the name suggests, our Traditional Custodians have a long history of protecting and managing the land and sea that has sustained them for tens of thousands of years,” Mr Crimmins said. “We recycle and help to rehabilitate a waste stream which flows into the ocean. I like to think that we draw inspiration from our Traditional Custodians in this regard and I’m quite sure we can learn from them. I firmly believe that if the planet is to sustain us for tens of thousands of years into the future, we need to learn these lessons. The EcoMag team is excited about starting this journey and proud to be taking the first small steps, learning and hopefully contributing over time.”

EcoMag’s Reconciliation Action Plan is a public document, lodged with Reconciliation Australia, and available here.

TURNING PILBARA WASTE-WATER INTO A NEW BILLION DOLLAR EXPORT INDUSTRY

Modelling undertaken as part of a recently completed study has confirmed the volume of bitterns available for processing is much larger than initially considered, and could potentially support vastly higher production levels.

As part of the ongoing regulatory approval process, EcoMag is providing bitterns dispersal modelling to the W.A. Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, taking into account 45 years of data for evaporation rates, rainfall patterns, tides, and extreme weather events such as the cyclones that occasionally strike the area.

“On average, we utilise only ten percent of the total waste stream,” EcoMag General Manager Shaun Triner said. “That’s not to say we could reliably expand production ten-fold because there is significant variability from year to year, but it looks like the resource could support production levels around six to eight times the initial plant.”

EcoMag Chief Executive Officer Tony Crimmins said that even at the initial proposed plant capacity, the project would add significantly to Karratha’s manufacturing output, generating around $130 million of revenue per year, almost all of it from exports.

“Karratha’s annual manufacturing output is around $740 million, so our initial plant would represent a significant boost,” he said. “But if, down the track, we were able to expand eight times, it could more than double current manufacturing output. It could potentially bring the region a billion dollars in annual revenue, not to mention raising around $25 million annually in royalties for Western Australia.

“However, it’s not all about the money. The potential social and community benefits are equally important.”

Initial plant construction is expected to generate 110 jobs and the company has a strong policy of preferring local suppliers.

“This reflects EcoMag’s commitment to the regional community,” Mr Crimmins said. “It also ensures that local expertise and specific knowledge of EcoMag’s operation is available for maintenance and expansion.”

“Any new project offers regional benefits of course,” Mr. Crimmins said. “What sets EcoMag apart is that our business is entirely outside the boom and bust cycle and the fly-in-fly-out employment practices of the resources industry that dominates the region. We would offer both permanent employment and economic diversification.”

The City of Karratha has long recognised the benefits of resource related investment but has also stressed the importance of diversifying the region’s economic base.

Specialty chemicals is a trillion dollar industry worldwide, but there are very few specialty chemicals businesses in Australia. EcoMag’s magnesium recycling plant utilises a proprietary process developed in South Korea to produce magnesium carbonate at extremely high purity levels.

“That’s important in two ways,” Mr Crimmins said. “Firstly, in speciality chemicals markets, price is driven by purity, and we produce the highest levels available. Secondly, our product is unusually flexible. The more you understand international magnesium markets the more astonishing you realise this metal is. Most people know that it goes into human health supplements but they don’t realise it’s used in plastics and rubber, steelmaking, fertilisers, toughened glass, water treatment, and a wide variety of foods and beverages, just to name a few applications.

“Critically, magnesium buyers don’t just want magnesium. They look for a particular compound of magnesium with minimal impurities and specific particle sizes, surface areas, etcetera. Most producers find it very difficult to meet these requirements but we’ve been providing samples to distributors for a year now, verifying that we can meet their stringent requirements with relative ease. This is partly because of the nature of our process and partly because our Chief Technology Officer, Professor Tam Tran is a world leader in hydrometallurgy.”

“That’s why we see such scope for expansion,” Mr Crimmins said. “It’s why we’re see EcoMag as conceivably a billion dollar business in the making with the potential to drive a specialty chemicals renaissance in Australia.”

LAUNCH OF ECOMAG DIRECT SPECIALTY CHEMICALS

EcoMag is delighted to announce the launch of EcoMag Direct Specialty Chemicals.

Academic and commercial research labs, industrial engineers, scientists and innovators can now order EcoMag specialty magnesium chemicals online for delivery Australia wide.

Initially EcoMag Direct sells Hydrated Magnesium Carbonate, Caustic Calcined Magnesia, Hard Burned Magnesia, and Magnesium Citrate, and in the not too distant future, we plan to add Dehydrated HydroMagnesite, Magnesium DiHydroxide, HydroTalcite, Magnesium Hydrogen Phosphate and more. Subject to regulatory approvals we’ll also extend our sales to labs overseas.

All products are laboratory reagent quality and over time we plan to become a first choice supplier of best-in-class magnesium materials to the science and research community world-wide.

For more information, visit ecomagdirect.com.

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