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CO2 captured in tiles: Cambridge Carbon Capture pilot under way

Cambridge Carbon Capture (CCC) has won the first phase of a UK Research and Innovation competition to pilot its game-changing CO2LOC carbon capture and utilisation technology.

The conversion technology, which converts CO2 to magnesium carbonate (MgCO3), has been taken on by Dreadnought Tiles, which has been making clay tiles in the West Midlands since 1805, and leading construction solutions company Tarmac, which recently installed the Abbey Chesterton bridge over the River Cam.

The project will involve the capture of CO2 and NOx emissions from a clay roof tile kiln at Dreadnought Tiles’ production facility in Dudley, and convert it into a solid mineral by-product which will be made into concrete blocks at Tarmac’s facility in Wolverhampton. If successful, the second phase of the project would involve the construction of a building made from the captured CO2.

Alex Patrick-Smith, CEO of Dreadnought Tiles, says: “This exciting project has the potential to turn our CO2 emissions from a cost and a major challenge for our business, into a value added and a path to help achieve net zero targets.

“The purpose of the carbon capture plant is to capture the CO2 from the emissions of Dreadnought’s roof tile tunnel kiln. This is necessary to demonstrate a commercially viable pathway to reaching UK Government’s legally binding emissions reductions targets by 2050. Current technology solutions for deep decarbonisation are not yet commercially viable or do not fit with the production requirements at Dreadnought, as we seek to continue to fire our clay products with natural gas to achieve the reduction atmosphere required for the physical and aesthetic properties of our roof tiles and bricks. Other potential fuel sources such as hydrogen would not deliver the kiln atmosphere required and has the side effect of making steel brittle.

Dreadnought Tiles in West Midlands
Dreadnought Tiles in West Midlands

“The trial hopes to demonstrate capture and commercial use of CO2 emissions from Dreadnought’s industrial emissions. The technology allows the production processes at Dreadnought to remain largely as they currently are, protecting existing kiln investments in the factory. The CO2 is captured from the kiln flue gas emissions and will therefore not interfere with day to day production. The scrubbing equipment takes up a small area of the service yard and will be fed via duct work from the kiln exhaust, the fact that the technology will have little impact on the production processes at Dreadnought, is a major advantages of this technology.”

For CCC, the project is the next step towards putting its CO2 conversion technology into widespread use, as CEO Michael Evans explained.

“The technology is in two parts,” he said. “Initially we take abundant minerals made from a mixture of magnesium and silica – 80 per cent of the earth’s crust is made from a combination of these elements – and split the magnesium from the silica using our patented process.

“In doing this we also access metals in the minerals, such as nickel, platinum and cobalt. These are essential metals needed for batteries and electric vehicles, so will be in increasing demand. The silica can be used for car tyre manufacture and construction and the magnesium we produce is what we use to capture CO2 in our second stage.

From left are internTom Gillespie with Dr Antony Cox and CEO Michael Evans. Picture: Keith Heppell
From left are internTom Gillespie with Dr Antony Cox and CEO Michael Evans. Picture: Keith Heppell

“The pilot we are building at Dreadnought is our second-stage process. Here we are taking magnesium hydroxide and adding it to water to make it into a slurry. We then use this in a modified scrubbing system, being developed by our partners Parsons, to scrub the CO2 and NOx from the emissions from their kiln. The magnesium hydroxide slurry changes to magnesium carbonate as it absorbs the CO2. This slurry is then de-watered and the slurry cake mixed with cement and formed into blocks at the Tarmac facility in Wolverhampton.

“We are also exploring other construction products such as light-weight construction blocks, insulation panels, and its use in ready-mix.”

The funding will be provided through the government’s industrial strategy by Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation. The Sustainable Innovation Fund (SBRI) phase one provides funding to carry out a feasibility study to deliver a technology demonstration project in phase two of the competition.

Michael adds: “Through this project, we aim to demonstrate a route to making CO2 sequestration profitable. This would unlock significant investment, delivering a technology which could make a sizeable contribution to the UK reaching its emissions reduction goals.”

Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) will need to form a key pillar of efforts to put the world on the path to net-zero emissions. A net-zero energy system requires a profound transformation in how we produce and use energy – and can only be achieved with a broad suite of technologies. Alongside electrification, hydrogen and sustainable bioenergy, CCUS will need to play a major role.

CEO Michael Evans showing the fire resistance of the CO2 capture material. Picture: Keith Heppell
CEO Michael Evans showing the fire resistance of the CO2 capture material. Picture: Keith Heppell

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