Year/Course: 2013-2014, Easter 2014

Contact: Michael Priestnall, Cambridge Carbon Capture & Dr Vasant Kumar, Materials Science
Mentor: Wouter Meuleman, Illumina

The inventors have been working jointly with researchers in Cambridge and Sheffield to develop a 2-stage chemical process that adds value to large-scale magnesium-containing mineral silicate rocks and metal-ore wastes through conversion and recovery of higher value materials.  One high-volume, low-cost product of the process – low-carbon magnesium hydroxide powder – can be used to strip CO2 from exhaust gases and even from the air around us.

Commercial discussions so far have revealed a range of different interests in this process and its outputs. This includes turning low-value and large deposits of minerals such as serpentines, olivines and ultramafic shales, which currently have limited market size & can be quarried at costs as low as $1.50 per tonne, into high value products such as magnesium hydroxide and precipitated silica which currently sell at $400-1000 per tonne. For a mining company, this takes existing assets and dramatically increases their commercial value.  Similarly the process may be useable on the waste outputs of mining operations, and may help to extract valuable trace metals from those wastes.

As a second step, the CCC processes also create a potentially huge market use and demand for magnesium hydroxide, by using it to capture industrial CO2. This is not centralised power-station CO2 capture & sequestration (CCS), which is expected to be in place commercially in the 2020-30’s, but an immediately deployable distributed CO2 sequestration process for distributed and intermittent generators of CO2 such as industrial combustion processes, small power generators, ships, gas turbines, and potentially even road vehicles.

The question for the i-Team is to investigate both of these possibilities, and advise on the areas where there is greatest market need and demand.