“It takes 20 years to take technology from lab to commercial scale. This is the journey I am leading with my brilliant and committed team at MCi Carbon to develop one of the large-scale solutions needed to avoid emissions through our race to net zero. We are now 16 years into that journey.”
Marcus Dawe is a climate thought leader, serial tech entrepreneur, and the CEO and co-founder of MCi Carbon (MCi), an Australian-based global clean technology company transforming carbon dioxide (CO2) into building materials and other valuable industrial products for the circular economy. The process is called mineral carbonation, taking a source of CO2, whether it be from industrial flue gas or partnering with Direct Air Capture (DAC), and diverting it from a harmful waste into a source of value. MCi Carbon is one of the world leaders in carbon capture and utilisation (CCU), preventing emissions from entering the atmosphere while also creating negative emissions materials.
“After meeting with WWF through our advocacy forums in 2021 it made sense that MCi would join MECLA, being part of the new supply chain for low-carbon embodied materials,” says Marcus. “Our team has been working closely with sustainability companies like Interface and a select group of local and overseas building materials companies. MECLA has done very well in NSW, and I have been excited by the national growth experienced in 2022.”
For over a decade, Marcus has secured continuous funding from Australian state and Federal Governments, industry partners and investors, for the ongoing development of the technology. In 2021, MCi secured a $14.6 million Federal Government grant to assist in the scaling of the technology and to build the 1,000-3000 tonne p/a capacity MCi Demonstration Plant at Orica’s Kooragang Island manufacturing site. The plant will operate in campaigns, each focused on a customer feedstock and flue-gas combination, enabling the facility to demonstrate the technical performance and business case for multiple customers each year. The facility will also produce bulk quantities of MCi products for assessment by potential offtake partners.
Last month, MCi Carbon and RHI Magnesita signed a long-term strategic cooperation agreement, advancing a partnership to decarbonise components of RHI Magnesita’s operations. The global market leader of the refractories industry has made a multi-million-dollar investment into MCi’s carbon capture and utilisation technology.
As MCi’s first global commercial customer, RHI Magnesita intends to explore the deployment pathway of MCi’s decarbonisation solution to significantly reduce their Scope 1 emissions, supporting an industrial scale-up of the technology on Kooragang Island in Newcastle, NSW. This long-term commitment aligns with the priorities of Mission Innovation’s Net Zero Industries initiative, co-led by Austria and Australia.
Operating since 2016, MCi Carbon’s semi-continuous research Pilot Plant in Newcastle, NSW is one of the first-of-its-kind in the world and last year was awarded the Clean Technology Award as part of the 2022 NSW Sustainability Awards, presented by the Banksia Foundation. MCi Carbon are a finalist in the Circular Transition category for the 34th National Banksia Sustainability Awards, with winners to be announced at the upcoming awards ceremony on March 23.
The pilot plant conducts intensive industrial programs to refine the patented mineral carbonation process, delivering global customer projects, and generating low-carbon materials for product testing as part of MCi Carbon’s greater circular transition initiative. Located at the Newcastle Institute of Energy and Resources (NIER) facility at the University of Newcastle, the plant reacts industrial emissions with feedstocks, such as low-grade minerals, creating both carbonates and silica by-products for use in building materials, such as concretes and plasterboards, demonstrating the potential to create value from CO2.
“MCi has been able to design a scalable system that is modular to combine various industrial emissions and feedstock sources to create a variety of output products,” says Marcus. “It is this flexible design that will allow MCi to rapidly validate customer projects and dramatically reduce timelines for final investment decisions on future decarbonisation plants. This year, MCi will begin exploration for suitable feedstocks and will begin construction once DA approvals are completed.”
MCi Carbon sits firmly within a portfolio of carbon utilisation technologies that will ultimately be required to meet the Paris Agreement climate change targets. MCi is creating negative emission and low-carbon embodied materials for the circular economy, transforming CO2 into powder-like materials to be used in a range of products with climate benefits.
In addition, MCi utilises waste products, such as steel slag or mine tailings, as a resource in the mineral carbonation process, increasing resource-use efficiency across those hard-to-abate industries that cannot immediately achieve emission reduction targets through renewable energy adoption alone. Through local industry partnerships, such as the ones facilitated by MECLA, MCi has been able to identify the most effective pathways to reduce embodied carbon when manufacturing materials in Australia. MCi is also helping decarbonise international customers in industries like steel, cement, mining, chemicals, manufacturing, and energy. These sectors emit more than six billion tonnes of CO2 annually into the atmosphere.
“MCi Carbon are proud to be a founding member of MECLA. The MCi team is in total agreeance with the mission to bring together industry and community to celebrate and accelerate our collective ambitions for net zero”, says Marcus. “2023 will be a big one for activating key partnerships in the pursuit of low-carbon embodied material policy and pathways.”
Scaling decarbonisation technology from Australia to the world creates the opportunity for whole new industries to emerge in the just transition. These industries capitalise on key comparative advantages of Australian skills and endowments, particularly resource processing and bulk handling, and can be used for sustainable industries.
“The deployment of growth of decarbonisation technology out of New South Wales creates an opportunity for Australia to aid trading partners and the world to decarbonise,” says Marcus. This in turn is creating avenues for diplomacy, strong competitive advantages, and future commercial outcomes for Australian solutions like MCi Carbon.”