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HeidelbergCement and RWTH Aachen launch "CO2MIN" project

HeidelbergCement and Aachen University of Applied Sciences (RWTH Aachen) have launched a three-year research project to explore the absorption of flue gas carbon dioxide (CO2) by the minerals olivine and basalt. In the future, the carbonised minerals could be used as a value-added additive in the production of building materials.

HeidelbergCement is one of the world’s largest building materials companies. With the acquisition of the Italian cement producer Italcementi in 2016, the company became the global number 1 in aggregates production, number 2 in cement, and number 3 in ready-mixed concrete (photo courtesy HeidelbergCement).

Germany-headed HeidelbergCement AG, one of the world’s largest integrated manufacturer of building materials and Aachen University of Applied Sciences (RWTH Aachen) in Germany have launched a joint research project to investigate binding carbon dioxide (CO2) from flue gas emissions in minerals olivine and basalt. In the future, the carbonised minerals could be used as a value-added additive in the production of building materials.

Called “CO2MIN” the three-year project began June 1 and is supported by the Potsdam Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) and the Dutch start-up Green Minerals along with EUR 3 million in funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

CO2 usage a high priority

According to a statement, the use of CO2 as a raw material has high priority in the climate strategy of HeidelbergCement. Olivine and basalt are minerals that are able to bind CO2 over their entire life-cycle. However, with natural absorption, it takes decades until the minerals are saturated with the greenhouse gas (GHG).

The research project intends to speed up the absorption process. If successful, carbonised minerals can be used for various product applications.

We are already reducing the CO2 emissions of our plants very successfully by using alternative fuels and raw materials and by optimising the efficiency of our kilns. In order to reduce CO2 emissions even further in the future, we have to develop and test new approaches. One of them is the binding of CO2 by minerals, explained Jan Theulen, Director of Alternative Resources at HeidelbergCement.

Three-phase project

In the first year, the research will focus on the investigation of different minerals in small-scale experiments. The carbonation of the most suitable minerals will be tested under realistic process conditions in the following year. The experiments will be conducted by the Institute of Process Metallurgy and Metal Recycling (IME), which also is the coordinator of the RWTH group.

Life-cycle assessments by RWTH, as well as analyses of economic aspects and social acceptance by IASS complete this project phase. In the third year, marketability and acceptance will be further optimised through intensive cooperation with customers.

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