We’ve been mass-producing concrete since the Romans built the Colosseum in 70 AD. Two thousand years on, annual production is 30 billion tonnes, roughly 8% of our global carbon emissions. But now, we can capture some of that carbon, with technology from a surprising source — the concrete-making industry itself.
A first for Australia
Enter Carbon Cure, an innovative, Canadian, carbon capture and storage (CCS) system and company. The ACT’s Hi-Quality Concrete (HQC) has just completed successful trials with Carbon Cure’s technology, in partnership with CE Construction Solutions. HQC’s Carbon Cure venture was launched in early August by His Excellency, Mark Glauser, Canada’s High Commissioner to Australia. Now their carbon dioxide-storing concrete is about to hit the market.
“The technology has been received positively by everyone, with a lot of interest from architects and engineers and the ACT Government — they’re all keen to see how it is in the field”
Mark Dawes — Director, High Quality Concrete
Stronger concrete — less cement
Recycled carbon dioxide (CO2) sourced from other industries is injected into the concrete mix, undergoing mineralisation (called ‘mineral carbonation’) to become permanently embedded. The method uses less cement, and the added CO2 produces stronger concrete.
“We’ve measured about a 7% strength gain after 28 days.”
HQC sources their recycled CO2 through BOC Gases, from Manildra Group’s Bomaderry fertiliser facility. Two NSW cement plants have also won grants to investigate carbon capture and are expected to be future suppliers, Dawes said.
Australia produced 10.4 Mt of cement in 2018-19, emitting around 8.5 Mt of CO2 in the process. Carbon Cure could reduce these emissions significantly. Dawes said that HQC is talking with Climate Active about an environmental product declaration (EPD) for the system. Carbon Cure is not yet registered for a Green Star rating, issued by the Green Building Council (Australia), but does achieve their cement reduction targets.
Coming to a building site near you
HQC will be introducing its Carbon Cure concrete into the market in the next couple of months to accommodate the growing interest.
“A couple of ACT engineering firms have already specc’ed CarbonCure concrete into a couple of government jobs and we hope to start using it very soon.”
The ACT government is very supportive of green initiatives, said Dawes.
Putting Australia back on the climate action map
Carbon Cure’s technology is used by concrete producers across 25 countries throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia, and has saved about 222,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, to date.
Now HQC and Carbon Cure are helping to put Australia firmly back on the climate action map.
Article was written for Climate Action Australia — August 2022. I also wrote a longer version for Cosmos, published on the 13th of July, 2023: https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/materials/carbon-dioxide-concrete/