Australian low carbon cement technology gets European backing

The Low Emissions Intensity Lime And Cement consortium has secured $13.5 million (€12m) funding over five years from the European Commission Horizon 2020 Grant programme.

The consortium, led by technology provider Calix, and comprising Heidelberg Cement, Cemex, Tarmac, Lhoist, Amec Foster Wheeler, ECN, Imperial College, PSE, Quantis and the Carbon Trust, aims to apply and demonstrate a breakthrough technology that will enable Europe’s cement and lime industries to reduce their carbon footprint.

Calix plant in Australia
Calix plant in Australia

The consortium will also contribute a further $10million towards the project.

The cement and lime industries have made continuous efforts to improve their environmental performance and have successfully reduced CO2 emissions from the production process. As around 60 percent of CO2 emissions are released directly and unavoidably from the processing of the raw materials, cost effective carbon capture technologies are needed on a large scale, to help reach the European Unions’s 80% emissions reductions target by 2050.

The consortium project aims to help the European industry to achieve these targets effectively and economically. Calix’s Direct Separation process provides a common platform for carbon capture in both the lime and cement industries. This can help these sectors to thrive in the face of tighter international CO2 emissions regulations, where the only options may be to capture and store CO2 instead of emitting it into the atmosphere.

Two-thirds of CO2 emissions from cement and lime production are generated through the breakdown of limestone into lime and CO2 in furnaces. Calix’s technology re-engineers the existing process flows, where it is capable of capturing almost pure CO2 released from the limestone – potentially with no additional energy costs or environmental impact.

The system design is unique, as the furnace exhaust gases are not in direct contact with the limestone. In this indirectly heated reactor, the energy from the heating gases is transferred to the limestone via a special steel vessel. The CO2 released from the limestone can therefore be separated in an almost pure form, offering a unique opportunity as the technology can capture these emissions without significant additional costs or increased energy use. The technology is complementary with other carbon capture methods already developed in the power and cement sector, such as oxyfuel, and can make use of alternative fuels.

During the first three years, the project will focus on finalising the design of the demonstration plant, to be constructed at the HeidelbergCement plant in Lixhe, Belgium once the necessary permits have been secured. The high temperature Direct Separation Calciner pilot unit will then undergo two years of extensive testing in a standard operational environment, at a feed rate capacity of 240 tonnes per day of cement raw meal and 200 tonnes ground limestone respectively, over a continuous basis for several weeks.

Fundamental research on the process demands and performance will be carried out to demonstrate that the technology works sufficiently and robustly enough to be scaled up to full operational use. The project results will be shared widely with industry at key intervals during the testing.

Calix, an Australian specialty minerals processing technology company, has undertaken the initial technical steps required to develop Direct Separation at scale, expanding from pilot scale tests to commercial-scale operations in just six years, with a 30kTpa reactor running successfully in Australia on a variety of mineral feed-stocks. The technology is proving highly prospective for a wide variety of other energy and industrial applications, Calix says.

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