The ultimate goal is to transform the captured CO2 emissions into carbonate rock 'bricks' for use in the construction industry, therefore both dealing with carbon storage needs and introducing new green building materials.
Funding totalling $9m has been secured from the Australian and NSW governments and Orica. The project will be managed by Mineral Carbonation International, a partnership between the University's commercial arm Newcastle Innovation, the GreenMag Group and Orica.
A multidisciplinary research team, including Professors Bodgan Dlugogorski and Eric Kennedy from the University's Priority Research Centre for Energy and Orica Senior Research Associate Dr Geoff Brent, have demonstrated the technology in small scale laboratory settings and led the funding bids.
Professor Dlugogorski said the research pilot plant would allow for larger scale testing and determine cost savings and emission reductions compared to other methods of storing CO2.
"The key difference between geosequestration and ocean storage and our mineral carbonation model is we permanently transform CO2 into a usable product, not simply store it underground," Professor Dlugogorski said.
The mineral carbonation technology replicates the Earth's carbon sink mechanism by combining CO2 with low grade minerals such as magnesium and calcium silicate rock to make inert carbonates. The process transforms the CO2 into a solid product that can be used in many ways, including as new green building materials.
"The Earth's natural mineral carbonation system is very slow," Professor Kennedy said. "Our challenge is to speed up that process to prevent CO2 emissions accumulating in the air in a cost-effective way."
The research pilot plant is the result of six years of R&D undertaken by a team including experts from the University of Newcastle, the GreenMag Group and Orica.
It will be built at the University's Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) and is expected to be operational by 2017.