Thursday, December 31, 2020

The revolutionary green technology using old car tyres to make steel that could spell the end of Australia's coal exports

This is a big laugh. The cost problem is acknowledged but there are many other difficulties.

Biggest of all is that electric arc furnaces are big users of electricity and that current has to be delivered in a stable way. So where will they get all that electricity? From coal-fired power stations, almost certainly. So they are still using coal to make steel but in a more complicated way!

Also amusing is that the newspaper's copy reader does not know the difference between an ark and an arc. Noah's arc would be amusing

The heating up of old car tyres to make steel could one day spell the end of coal - threatening one of Australia's key exports to China.

University of New South Wales engineering and science professor Veena Sahajwalla has pioneered world-first 'green steel' technology where hydrogen and solid carbon are extracted from waste rubber to make metal.

The former judge on the ABC's New Inventors show told Daily Mail Australia her innovation, also known as Polymer Injection Technology, had the potential to one day make metallurgical coal redundant.

'Oh, absolutely. Absolutely,' she said. 'We are certainly looking at a future where the dependency on coal for steel making is completely eliminated.

What is green steel technology?

Green steel technology involves extracting hydrogen and carbon from waste tyres to make metal

This method, also known as Polymer Injection Technology, relies on an electric ark furnace instead of a traditional blast furnace powered by coking coal

'So the goal very much is to say that we want to get to zero coal and coke in the process of making steel.'

China, Australia's biggest trading partner, last year bought $10billion worth of Australia's metallurgical coal exports and it still relies on old-fashioned blast furnaces that are heavily dependent on this fossil fuel.

'It's basically asking the question: "Where will the tipping point be for many countries like China and others?",' Professor Sahajwalla said.

Most of the world's existing steel production involves heating coking coal in a blast furnace at 1,000C, but green steel technology is about phasing this out and replacing it with a new method of making liquid steel.

'A traditional blast furnace will always have coke not just from a heat point of view but coke also provides a structure - it is a solid product that sits inside a furnace,' Professor Sahajwalla said.

'The traditional coke that is used as a source in a furnace, we're talking about replacing that coke with, of course, waste tyres.

'The science shows that it works.'

A smaller proportion of steel production involves electric ark furnace which uses high-current electric arcs to melt scrap steel and convert it into liquid steel.

Green steel production relies on this method to turn rubber tyres into metal.

Newcastle mining materials supplier Molycop, a former division of Arrium, uses green steel technology to make replacement metal wheels for Waratah trains servicing Sydney, Newcastle, the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains, and Wollongong.

Michael Parker, the company's president, said its manufacturing, combining coking coal and oil with crumbed tyre rubber and the use of renewable solar energy - to power an electric ark furnace - produced 80 per cent less carbon emissions than traditional steel making.

The green steel method, for now, has significantly reduced the need for coal in steel production but is has not completely eliminated it.

'This polymer injection technology allows us to substitute probably about half of that with crumbed rubber,' Mr Parker told Daily Mail Australia.

'Use the carbon and hydrogen out of waste tyres to replace virgin, raw materials.'

As part of the green steel production, tyres are put into a high-temperature electric ark furnace to extract hydrogen so iron oxide can be turned into iron as part of a chemical transformation. 'It's the rubber that contains all these other elements,' Professor Sahajwalla said.

'It's the tyres that give you these other molecules like hydrogen which then participates in the reaction and that's what allows us to convert the iron oxide into iron which is what becomes steel.'

The finished product sold to customers depends on added alloys and additives.

Though rubber tyres can replace the need for coking coal, a lot of the success of green steel will also rely on recycling existing scrap metal.

Mr Parker said waste metal was unexpectedly in short supply. 'There's not enough scrap steel in the world to replace the demand for new steel,' he said.

British billionaire Sanjeev Gupta hopes to use renewable energy and scrap metal recycling to turn the old Whyalla steelworks in South Australia into a major supplier of new green steel.

He has a long-term plan to phase out old-fashioned blast furnaces and replace them with electric ark furnaces.

His GFG Alliance bought Arrium, which previously owned Molycop, before American private equity group American Industrial Partners rescued it in 2017.

Professor Sahajwalla said green steel was slowly replacing coking coal. 'Ultimately, the goal is full replacement,' she said. 'Are we already on that journey? The short answer's yes.'

Unlike coking coal, tyres can also produce hydrogen, which can be turned into gas or a liquid.

Nonetheless, Mr Parker conceded green steel production, involving an electric ark furnace instead of a traditional blast furnace, was still a costlier method of making steel than coal or iron ore-derived methods.

'The issue is the cost of producing hydrogen through electrolysis is very high so there's got to be some breakthrough technically to get it down to a cost where you can afford to use hydrogen to make or produce iron ore to go into something like an electric ark furnace,' he said.

Making steel out of old tyres at least solves the problem of landfill. 'It's about being clever, let's use it in a way that maximises value from this waste,' Professor Sahajwalla said.

The highly anticipated Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in Britain - and millions of doses are expected to land in Australia in just two months

The Australian Government invested more than $3billion through agreements for four separate Covid-19 vaccines to be rolled out, with Mr Hunt predicting all Australians will receive the jab by the end of October.

'The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is progressing well both in terms of results and in terms of its passage through the UK, US and European processes.

'First, it's not just on track, but we are hopeful that we will have both domestic production and international import ahead of schedule. And I think that's reassuring, reaffirming, and an important point of hope.'

The health minister said the data from the final assessments of the vaccine by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) were expected in late January or early February.

Fifty million doses of the jab will be produced onshore by biotech company, CSL.

Australia has also secured 10million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine which is expected to be rolled out in March, going first to aged care residents and health workers.

The Novavax vaccine is also expected to hit Australian shores around May next year.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, which has been described as a 'game changer', was given the green light by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency . The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine - enough to vaccinate 50 million people.

The United Kingdom was the first country to approve the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which has a lower cost and is easier to store than other vaccines that have already been approved.

The vaccine – called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 – uses a harmless, weakened version of a common virus which causes a cold in chimpanzees.

Researchers have already used this technology to produce vaccines against a number of pathogens including flu and Zika.

The virus is genetically modified so that it is impossible for it to reproduce in humans and cause infection.

Scientists have transferred the genetic instructions for coronavirus's specific 'spike protein' – which it needs to invade cells – to the vaccine.

When the vaccine enters cells inside the body, it uses this genetic code to force the body's own cells to produce the surface spike protein of the coronavirus.

This induces an immune response because it makes those cells look like the virus, which effectively works as a training aid for the immune system to learn how to fight the virus if the real thing gets into the body.

Health secretary Matt Hancock hailed the approval of the critical vaccine on Wednesday saying it means the UK will be 'out' of the coronavirus crisis by the Spring

AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot said deliveries would start tomorrow, adding: 'Vaccination will start next week and we will get to one million a week and beyond that very rapidly. We can go to two million.'

The Oxford vaccine is the second vaccine that has been given the green light for public roll-out after the Pfizer vaccine - which has also been approved in the US. The UK was the first country in the world to approve the vaccine for public use.

Studies have shown that the vaccine has an average efficacy rate of 70 percent, with this number rising to 90 percent when half a dose was followed by a full dose.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, which has been described as a 'game changer', was given the green light by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: 'The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to authorise Oxford University/AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine for use.

'This follows rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA, which has concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.'

Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and chief investigator of the Oxford trial, said: 'The regulator's assessment that this is a safe and effective vaccine is a landmark moment, and an endorsement of the huge effort from a devoted international team of researchers and our dedicated trial participants.

'Though this is just the beginning, we will start to get ahead of the pandemic, protect health and economies when the vulnerable are vaccinated everywhere, as many as possible as soon possible.'

Data published in The Lancet medical journal in early December showed the vaccine was 62 percent effective in preventing Covid-19 among a group of 4,440 people given two standard doses of the vaccine when compared with 4,455 people given a placebo drug.

Of 1,367 people given a half first dose of the vaccine followed by a full second dose, there was 90 percent protection against Covid-19 when compared with a control group of 1,374 people.

The overall Lancet data, which was peer-reviewed, set out full results from clinical trials of more than 20,000 people.

Among the people given the placebo drug, 10 were admitted to hospital with coronavirus, including two with severe Covid which resulted in one death. But among those receiving the vaccine, there were no hospital admissions or severe cases.

The half dose followed by a full dose regime came about as a result of an accidental dosing error.

However, the MHRA was made aware of what happened and clinical trials for the vaccine were allowed to continue.

The overall Lancet data, which was peer-reviewed, set out full results from clinical trials of more than 20,000 people.

Among the people given the placebo drug, 10 were admitted to hospital with coronavirus, including two with severe Covid which resulted in one death. But among those receiving the vaccine, there were no hospital admissions or severe cases.

The half dose followed by a full dose regime came about as a result of an accidental dosing error.

However, the MHRA was made aware of what happened and clinical trials for the vaccine were allowed to continue.

Does it differ from Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine?

Yes. The jabs from Pfizer and Moderna use messenger RNA (mRNA) to trigger immunity to Covid-19.

Conventional vaccines are produced using weakened forms of the virus, but mRNAs use only the virus’s genetic code.

An mRNA vaccine is injected into the body where it enters cells and tells them to create antigens.

These antigens are recognised by the immune system and prepare it to fight coronavirus.

No actual virus is needed to create an mRNA vaccine. This means the rate at which the vaccine can be produced is accelerated.

What about antibodies and T-cells?

The Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines have been shown to provoke both an antibody and T-cell response.

Antibodies are proteins that bind to the body’s foreign invaders and tell the immune system it needs to take action.

T-cells are a type of white blood cell which hunt down infected cells in the body and destroy them.

Nearly all effective vaccines induce both an antibody and a T-cell response.

A study on the AstraZeneca vaccine found that levels of T-cells peaked 14 days after vaccination, while antibody levels peaked after 28 days.

Boost for Aussie business as China calls for broken relationship with Australia to be fixed as 'early as possible'

They are the ones hurting now, with widespread electricity shortages etc

Trade and political hostilities between Australia and China could be on the mend after relations between the nations escalated into a bitter year-long $20billion war.

China's foreign minister Wang Yi has indicated he wants relations repaired 'as early as possible' - but added the ball is in Australia's court.

Antagonism rapidly escalated after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an independent inquiry into the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic from its source in the Chinese city of Wuhan back in April.

China responded by slapping tariffs on Australian wine and barley, adding sanctions on beef, wheat, timber, cotton, lamb, coal and lobster.

Mr Wang hinted at a possible truce at a recent live-streamed private event, where he was asked by former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd whether a practical way of re-stabilisation relations could be accommodated.

In a transcript obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Wang conceded improving relations would be difficult if Australia continues to see China as a threat.

'If Australia sees China not as a threat, but a partner, then for the issues between us there are better chances that we find solutions. So I would kick the ball to Australia,' he said.

'We hope that the relationship can come back to the right track as early as possible and we would welcome efforts by all who want the relations to improve to make some efforts.'

Mr Wang also expressed concern about the 'largely negative' views about China in Australia.

His comments come days after Australia made an official complaint to the World Trade Organisation to investigate the 80 per cent barley tariff imposed by Beijing.

Australian wine also incurred 212 per cent import taxes in November, following months of trade intimidation against beef, lobster, timber, lamb and even coal exporters.

ANU's National Security Colleges head Rory Medcalf described Mr Wang's comments 'at best mild and conditional'.

'There's no admission that China bears any fault in the deterioration in ties, or even acknowledgement that it is using ongoing coercive measures – economic restrictions or hostage diplomacy – against countries like Australia and Canada,' he told the publication.

Australia wheat exports poised to deliver $6b windfall

Australian grain is flying off farms regardless of China’s trade sanctions, and wheat shipments alone are set to hit 4 million tonnes in December.

A whopper wheat crop, now predicted to be Australia’s biggest ever, could reap $6 billion in export earnings as grain flows back into traditional and rarely accessed markets.

While a flotilla of coal-carrying vessels sits in limbo off China, the action will be non-stop at Australia’s grain port terminals well into 2021.

Australian grain is being helped by doubts about supply out of Russia, where the government is trying to control domestic inflation by slapping a $US25 a tonne tax on grain exports.

GrainCorp port terminals that gathered cobwebs last year are now booked solid through to August-September.

It is a similar story for the operators of port terminals from Newcastle in NSW all the way around Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia as shipping slots are gobbled up by hungry grain traders and marketers.

The export program includes about 1 million tonnes of wheat bound for China over the coming weeks.

It is understood some grain traders, particularly multinationals operating in Australia, did not support the Morrison government’s decision to appeal against China’s 80.5 per cent barley tariffs to the World Trade Organisation.

Nearly all have refused to endorse Australia’s WTO appeal out of concern about reprisals, despite most farmers supporting the move.

Grain industry experts are tipping the harvest will wind down to produce 34-35 million tonnes of wheat and about 13 million tonnes of barley.

If so, it will be the biggest wheat crop Australia has grown and the second biggest barley crop. It also puts Australia on track to export about 22 million tonnes of wheat and 7 million tonnes of barley by September 30.

CBH marketing and trading boss Jason Craig said Australia was exporting from nearly all ports, something it had not done since 2016-17. He said it was price competitive into most overseas markets.

“We are going to places, East Africa for example, where we haven’t been since 2016-17,” he said.

“There has been strong selling and Australia is very competitive in the marketplace for wheat, barley and canola.
“People are covering their requirements as supply out of the Black Sea has been a little uncertain and that is encouraging people to come back to Australia.

“In particular you are seeing south-east Asia returning to Australian grain as their base. We would expect that for the majority of next year.”

Wheat sales into Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea are strong and the Middle East has emerged as the biggest buyer of barley in the absence of China.

There is also the prospect of stronger wheat prices for Australian farmers as Russia is set to impose its tax from February through to at least June. The benchmark wheat price at Kwinana in WA has already climbed from $300 a tonne on December 9 to $315 a tonne following the doubts about Russian exports.

Egypt bought wheat this week at a higher price than its last tender after no Russian wheat was offered for sale.

Emerald Grain chief executive David Johnson said there was strong demand for Australian wheat and barley across markets in Asia, the Middle East and the east coast of Africa. “The shipping stem [port terminal capacity bookings] in Australia is being populated very rapidly,” he said. “It is good for everyone. The cupboard was bare coming into this season after two years of well-below-average production.




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