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23 Sep 2021

Quarry rock dust can make big contribution to recovering CO2

Broadcasting live from a newly planted forest in the Brecon Beacons, Charles Nicholls of charity The Carbon Community described how quarry waste can make a significant contribution in recovering carbon dioxide from the air when used in conjunction with new woodland creation.

He told a webinar organised by Mineral Products Association Wales that as part of a new forest of 100,000 trees near Llandovery, Carmarthenshire a 28-acre test site has been established to research accelerating carbon sequestration. One of the tests being evaluated is treating the ground with crushed basalt. Research shows that crushed basalt can absorb between 8 – 12 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for each hectare treated.

Charles said: “Rock weathering is one of the primary nature-based solutions that can be used to recover carbon emissions at scale; sucking 8-12 tonnes of CO2 per hectare from the air is really significant. Best of all, we’re accelerating a completely natural process . Our test at The Glandwr Forest is a world first where we are combining multiple nature based solutions together. We are excited about the potential.”

The Glandwr Forest is a new forest of approximately 100,000 trees, with 25,000 within the test site. The basalt dust for the project was supplied from Hanson Aggregates Builth Wells quarry in Powys. The aim of the webinar was to describe how the mineral products sector in Wales could support the transition to net zero.

Charles added that given the basalt was produced as a bi-product of making aggregate for asphalt and concrete, the projected CO2 recovered from the air far exceeds the emissions from both transport and tree planting. This potentially represents a  new way to make forest creation entirely carbon negative.

Welsh Government’s deputy director of climate change and fuel poverty, Christine Wheeler set the scene by reminding the audience that while Wales had seen a 31 per cent reduction in a variety of greenhouse gases by 2019 the challenge of hitting a 63 per cent reduction of emissions by 2030 was a very steep slope to climb, and Wales had to accelerate the transition process.

Christine said: “We’ve already seen forest fires and excessive flooding in the industrial areas of South Wales in 2020. If we carry on as we are by 2080, we can expect sea levels to rise in South Wales by 42cms; we can expect more days of temperature over 40 degrees; wetter in the winter and storms producing large volumes of rain.”

Almost half the emissions in Wales are produced by business, industry and energy production and Dr Diana Casey, the Mineral Products Association’s director of energy and climate change gave an industry perspective, outlining how the cement and concrete industry could go beyond net zero by 2050.

She stated that cement and concrete only represented 1.5 per cent of UK greenhouse gas emissions and the industry was undertaking a number of initiatives to work towards the 2050 target. These included switching away from the use of fossil fuels to burning waste, and demonstrating the use of hydrogen in the cement making process.

Diana said: “our biggest challenge is to move away from fossil fuels, achieve zero carbon combustion and capture carbon dioxide from the cement making process but it is important that governments and industry work together.”

She also emphasised the importance of thermal mass in concrete buildings and carbonation which is a process that captures and stores carbon dioxide.

“The thermal mass of concrete in buildings reduces the need for air conditioning and heating. Buildings must be designed to maximise this feature which can reduce sector emissions by a further 44 per cent beyond net zero compared to 2018.”

The webinar, which was arranged by the Mineral Products Association Wales and facilitated by MPA Wales Chairman Simon Grey of Tarmac, attracted a diverse audience of more than 120 delegates.


About the Mineral Products Association:

The Mineral Products Association (MPA) is the trade association for the aggregates, asphalt, cement, concrete, dimension stone, lime, mortar and silica sand industries. With the merger of British Precast, and affiliation of the British Association of Reinforcement (BAR), Eurobitume, MPA Northern Ireland, MPA Scotland and the British Calcium Carbonate Federation, it has a growing membership of 520 companies and is the sectoral voice for mineral products. MPA membership is made up of the vast majority of independent SME quarrying companies throughout the UK, as well as the 9 major international and global companies. It covers 100% of UK cement and lime production, 90% of GB aggregates production, 95% of asphalt and over 70% of ready-mixed concrete and precast concrete production. In 2018, the industry supplied £16 billion worth of materials and services to the Economy. It is also the largest supplier to the construction industry, which had annual output valued at £172 billion in 2018. Industry production represents the largest materials flow in the UK economy and is also one of the largest manufacturing sectors.

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