Another story from the far west I discovered whilst whiling away the nine hours from Dubbo to Broken Hill. I learnt that there was a company at Warren, some 100 kilometres north west of Dubbo that had achieved world prestige for its technology used in recycling rubber tyres. A technology to replace the age-old processes of shredding, burning or burying old tyres. It is hard to get a solid estimate of the numbers of tyres that are disposed of each year, possibly one billion tonnes of tyres discarded globally each year, while across Australia but certainly the numbers are well in excess of 50 million per year, with only a small proportion being reused or recycled in some way.
Green Distillation Technologies have found a profitable way to recycle waste tyres through the process of controlled pyrolysis in the absence of oxygen and have set up a plant at Warren to do this. In 2015 GDT was awarded a bronze medal in the Edison Awards, the world’s top prize for innovation.
End of life tyres are loaded into a process chamber. No processing of the tyres, such as chopping or crumbing is required. The chamber is sealed and evacuated of air. Heat is applied, acting as a catalyst for the chemical reaction, and the tyres are decomposed into hydrocarbon vapour, which is condensed into oil, and carbon and steel wire that can be collected and used. At the end of its useful life one huge 3.5 tonne tyre from a mine site will yield up to 1500 litres of oil, 1.5 tonnes of carbon as well as steel reinforcing wire. The carbon black powder finds many uses including in plastics, rubber products and toners and printing inks. Throughout the process all emissions are captured which means another bonus for the environment.
Originally published in Newcastle Herald on August 28 as "Rubber meets the road in far west firm's tyre-less work"
All ages attended the 2017 Hunter Science Festival at the Newcastle Museum. The Hunter Science Festival capped off a number of events that ran throughout the region during National Science Week.
The Tom Farrell Institute gave the public a preview of the fun of the Hunter Valley Electric Vehicle Festival, with kids able to build and race the mini-EV solar cars. This was very popular with families visiting the Hunter Science Festival.
National Science Week is Australia’s annual celebration of science and technology, which aims to encourage younger people to be fascinated by the world we live in and to encourage interest in science pursuits.
Beyond Zero Emissions launched their latest book "Rethinking Cement" at NeW Space @ University of Newcastle.
Making cement is responsible for 8% of all global emissions (more than all the cars in the world). Modernising cement is achievable and affordable, and Rethinking Cement shows how Australia can lead the world with zero carbon cement.
Approximately 110 people came along to find out how we can change cement making to achieve zero emissions in the industry within 10 years using already commercialised technologies.
The first stage of cement making is to transform limestone (calcium carbonate – CaCO3) into lime (CaO), the process of which releases carbon dioxide (CO2) as a waste product. Over half of cement-related emissions are due to this chemical process. A further third of the emissions is from heating required for this process. The remaining emissions are from mechanical actions such as grinding the product.
The report lists five strategies that can get Australia to a zero carbon cement industry in 10 years, and potentially to negative carbon emissions!
Geopolymer cement can be produced without the need for Limestone and is produced without releasing carbon dioxide. Furthermore, it can utilise waste products fly-ash and blast furnace slag. There is over 400 million tonnes of fly-ash from coal powered thermal power stations. The first strategy is to source 50% of cement production from geopolymer cement.
Regular cement can also be blended with other materials, such as fly ash, and slag, reducing its carbon intensity. The second strategy is for the remaining 50% of cement to be blended up to 70% with this replacement material.
The third strategy involves using Mineral Carbonation. Mineral carbonation is a “carbon capture and utilisation” process where waste carbon dioxide is diverted, captured and chemically sealed within a mineral such as magnesium carbonate. This utilises magnesium silicate, found in serpentine, of which Australia has large deposits.
The fourth strategy involves using less cement by designing buildings and other structures to use concrete more efficiently, utilising high strength cement, and replacing concrete with timber such as high tensile laminate.
The fifth strategy gets us to negative emissions with Carbon Negative Cements. Although early days, the development of magnesium-based cements would have the ability absorb carbon dioxide, and therefore have negative emissions.
Newcastle’s own Dr Bonnie McBain was the MC for the night. Speakers included Vanessa Petrie CEO BZE, Jordie Bates, Michael Lord BZE Project Director, Marcus Dawe CEO Mineral Carbonation International, and David Sparkes, Newcastle President of Engineers Australia. Following the speakers, a lively Q&A session ensued with Michael Lord, Marcus Dawe, David Sparkes, who were joined by Bernard Hockings (who built a house with zero carbon blocks) and Alan Morrison CEO Ultrafloor.
The Tom Farrell Institute teamed with Engineers Australia, Mineral Carbonation International and Housing Industry Australia to support the launch in Newcastle of Rethinking Cement.
The development of Rethinking Cement was funded in part through a crowdfunding campaign in memory of Jenn Bates. Jen Bates was the Newcastle coordinator for BZE, and was tragically killed in 2016. The book Rethinking Cement is dedicated to the memory of Jennifer Bates.
HEPPP Project Report:
Early Engagement – Tertiary Success: Sustainability meets Statistics and STEM
August 6-17, 2017
Prof Tim Roberts and A/Prof Peter Howley have taken Sustainability, Statistics and STEM to rural and remote communities, travelling the NSW countryside for a fortnight visiting schools and running teacher workshops, as part of their equity-oriented HEPPP grant project
“Early Engagement – Tertiary Success: Sustainability meets Statistics and STEM”
(won along with A/Prof Maree Gruppetta, Wollotuka Institute).
The project aimed to engage students and teachers with innovative and industry-oriented practice, and assist those in low SES, remote and rural regions connect with, aspire to, and succeed in, higher education.
The team delivered activities targeted at addressing barriers to higher education success, namely an understanding of science and statistics.
Electric vehicles, mushroom kits, designing clinical trials for new medicines, modelling human features in forensic anthropology and reflections about pizza were but some of the activities and discussions within this cross-disciplinary outreach in environmental sustainability (renewable energies), statistics and STEM.
Research questionnaires were used (before and after our engagement) to assess changes in teachers’ and students’ interests, attitudes, knowledge and aspirations towards higher education and self-perceived ability to make sustainability changes in their schools and local areas.
The research team visited Dubbo, Broken Hill, Griffith and Orange, and promoted the National Schools Poster Competition, Electric Vehicles and other aspects of sustainability as examples of potential investigations for student projects, along with the importance of coding, engineering and technology, the Science and Engineering Challenge and the UoN’s Ma-Morley scholarships .
The Road Trip engaged 85 teachers from 16 schools and 408 students from 8 schools across 4 NSW locations. It was an exhilarating experience.
Teachers and students enthusiastically learnt about the practice of Statistics and Environmental Sustainability, bringing industry engagement to schools and informing schools about the practical application and careers in Statistics and Environmental Sustainability.
The team was able to share pathways to University; teachers and students participated in developing their own investigations, engaging with and even building their own electric vehicles from kits.
Joining Tim and Peter were Latha Lewis (Project Officer, Tom Farrell Institute) and Korbinian Kraus – an undergraduate student (Management of Renewable Energy) from Germany who arrived in Australia two days before heading off on the roadshow, as part of his work-integrated learning experience. Korbinian is visiting the TFI as an intern for one semester – a period of six months, and will be working with Tim, Peter and the Tom Farrell Team.
The research surrounding this work will inform STEM Education and Outreach at state and national levels.