Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Concrete: The big CO2 source Greenies have forgotten

In vowing not to close coal fired power stations until equivalent replacement generation is in place, the bidders for AGL – Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes and Brookfield’s Stewart Upson – have added realism to the “shut down coal frenzy” sweeping Australia.

For that, the nation can be grateful because, until now, the frenzy was not being moderated by that vital qualification. The frenzy has also obscured sources of carbon pollution which rival coal that few want to discuss, because they go to the heart of the current Australian and world economic stimulation. That is the use of concrete and steel in construction.

Twiggy Forrest’s Fortescue has highlighted the carbon content of steel production, but concrete is rarely talked about probably because, as a community, in most of our houses we are replacing stored carbon in the form of timber with concrete slabs and their associated carbon emissions.

If we are serious about carbon emissions, then we must not leave all the heavy lifting to coal – concrete must be part of the action. And just like coal, we can’t simply abandon concrete unless we develop techniques and materials to either replace it or make it differently. Late last week Frank Cerra, head of Perth based project engineers BG&E, sent me a note highlighting the size of carbon emissions from concrete.

– The global construction sector accounts for 25 per cent of the world’s emissions. And as the world increases its investment in infrastructure and new buildings, emissions are rising rapidly. It’s predicted the equivalent of one New York City will be built every month globally until 2060.

– The global cement industry produces 7 to 8 per cent of the world’s man-made carbon dioxide. Concrete is consumed at a rate of 33 billion tonnes per annum and is the most consumed material in the world after water.

– Currently, over 20 per cent of Australia’s GDP is attributed to infrastructure sectors, with 33 per cent of planned infrastructure project activity occurring in NSW and Victoria. Approximately 25 million cubic metres of concrete are used annually in construction.

Cerra says engineers understand the critical interdependence of structural efficiency and materials and are working with key players to reduce embodied carbon in their projects, but a lot more needs to be done.

Meanwhile NSW has launched a program to reduce carbon in infrastructure by developing “collaborative solutions which are practical yet ambitious while also ensuring our infrastructure is fit-for-purpose and built to last”.

Now to the “Bacchus Marsh” cement-making technology story. Soon after the turn of the century, scientist Mark Sceats concluded that for many furnace applications, including cement, it would be far better to use a cylinder heated to very high temperatures and to conduct the treatment process inside that cylinder. That method of operation would also allow electrification of the furnace.

Washington H. Soul Pattinson saw Sceats process as a potential way of making better bricks. A test plant was commissioned at Bacchus Marsh in Victoria, but Soul Pattinson pulled out with the plant not completed. The employees raised the money to complete the plant and managed to keep it operational. Sceats is now the chief scientist at Calix, the listed-Australian company that owns the technology.

Australian cement makers were not interested, but in Europe there was a crisis. Back in 2005, the enormous emissions from its cement makers were neutralised by huge carbon credit certificates which would have lasted many decades.

But the cement makers were greedy and didn’t take carbon seriously, so they sold their abundant carbon credits for a profit of some $8bn.

Now the European Union is being tougher on carbon but most of the credits have gone. So far the cement makers have not been able to find a satisfactory substitute for lime in cement so they are pursuing a strategy of developing technology to separate and collect the carbon emissions from the cement process. They will either use the separated carbon in industry or store it in old oil wells.

The Bacchus Marsh plant was able to separate carbon so the European cement makers trialled the Australian technology (officially called LEILAC-1) in a massive Belgium pilot plant. Other technologies were also tested before the Europeans declared last October that the Australian technology offers the cheapest way yet to decarbonise the cement industry.

Calix will receive royalties, but it is now pursuing non-cement uses for its technology.


Scott Morrison backs 'terrific bill' to ban transgender women from playing female sport

Scott Morrison has backed a new push to prevent transgender women who were born male from playing female sport.

The Prime Minister has thrown his support behind Liberal senator Claire Chandler's proposed law to prevent women's clubs from being sued for excluding a trans player to reduce the risk of injury and unfair competition.

'I support it, I think it is a terrific bill and I've given her great encouragement,' he said alongside the Tasmanian senator in Trianbunna on Tuesday.

'Claire is a champion for women's sport and I think she has been right to raise these issues in the way that she has.'

Senator Chandler has raised concerns about transgender participation, especially in contact sports where the risk of injury is higher, since entering Parliament in 2019.

'Women's sport was invented for people of the female sex and any suggestion that it is somewhat provocative or controversial to articulate this view I think is pretty ludicrous,' she told Daily Mail Australia in an interview in 2020.

In 2019 Sport Australia had issued pro-trans guidelines recommending that 16,000 sport clubs across the nation catagorise sport based on 'gender identity' not biological sex, meaning a person can chose whether to play men's or women's sport.

Senator Chandler, who received 'hundreds and hundreds' of emails and phone calls from parents concerned that girls' sport was being undermined, said the guidelines 'prioritise transgender inclusion over the health and safety of women'.

Her proposal - dubbed the Save Women's Sport Bill - would amend the Sex Discrimination Act to specify that 'offering single-sex sport is lawful'.

When she introduced her bill earlier this month, Senator Chandler said: 'Australia's Sex Discrimination Act 1984 has always acknowledged that sex is relevant in sport, but under recent interpretations has unacceptably limited the circumstances in which single-sex sport can be offered.

'As a result, sports clubs, associations and volunteers are threatened with legal action if they exclude males from women's sport.'

Equality Australia has rejected the bill as 'divisive and unnecessary'.

The inclusion of transgender athletes in elite women's sport has been intensely disputed in recent years.

Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, who transitioned in her 30s, sparked controversy when she won a gold medal for New Zealand in women's events at the Pacific Games in Samoa in July 2019.

She then won two gold medals at the Roma World Cup in January 2020.

Broadcaster Piers Morgan said 'women's rights to equality and fairness were being slaughtered at the alter of political correctness'.

Former Australian Olympic middle-distance runner Tamsyn Lewis told Sydney radio station 2GB in March 2020: 'There's been a lot of people who are scared to come out and say anything because of political correctness.

'You don't want to get to the point where we haven't tackled this issue head on and in a respectful manner, that in 20 years time we're seeing our kids grow up and compete in sports that they just actually can't win,' she said.

In 2018 Australian women's handball player Hannah Mouncey, a trans woman who is 1.88metres tall and weighs 100kg, withdrew her nomination from the draft for the Australian Football League's professional women's competition.

She said the toll of trying to meet the AFL's standard - which demands that players can prove that their testosterone levels have been maintained below a threshold for at least two years - had proved 'too great'.


Muslim father jailed for 'unspeakable' murder of daughter and son-in-law

A Melbourne father who gunned down his own daughter and her husband, partly because he was not invited to their wedding, has been jailed for life over the "cold-hearted" and "cowardly" killings.

Osman Shaptafaj, 57, today appeared in the Supreme Court of Victoria where he was ordered to serve two life sentences concurrently after pleading guilty to murdering Lindita Musai, 25, and Veton Musai, 29, at Yarraville about two years ago.

Shaptafaj will have to serve at least 35 years, meaning he will be in his nineties before he becomes eligible for parole.

Confronting details were aired in the Supreme Court about how Shaptafaj lay in wait for the couple for almost two hours before shooting them both in the head at point-blank range.

Leaving his daughter and son-in-law lying on the porch, Shaptafaj then rang the doorbell of the house so that they could be found by Mr Musai's distressed family members.

He then walked to nearby grasslands where he shot himself twice while being watched by onlookers.

Shaptafaj claims he has no memory of what happened and the Supreme Court heard that he believed he was stuck in a "glitch" of the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops, a first-person shooter game set during the Cold War.

Justice Andrew Tinney called Shaptafaj's crimes "cowardly".

"You've taken away two young lives. Your crimes were premeditated, carried out upon two members of your family who should legitimately have expected you to be their protector, not someone who would kill them so savagely," Justice Tinney said.

"Yet you allowed your unjustified feelings of resentment and anger towards then to drive you to commit unspeakable crimes.

"In view of your current age … the long non-parole period required to be passed would you have you ineligible for consideration of parole until you're quite elderly.

"If the result of that is that you go forward from today with the expectation that you will likely die in prison, that is an unavoidable by-product of your heinous crimes."

By the time Shaptafaj had made the decision to murder his daughter, Lindita, and her husband Veton, their relationship had been in tatters for some time.

Prosecutors previously told the court that the 57-year-old had been a violent husband and father, which ultimately sparked his divorce and left his children loathing him.


BlueScope’s $1 billion blast furnace rebuild indicates ‘green steel’ isn’t coming anytime soon

BlueScope Steel (ASX:BSL), the steel business carved out of BHP (ASX:BHP) two decades ago will press ahead with a study on a $1 billion furnace reline at the Port Kembla steelworks.

It is a surefire indication those in the know do not view the transition to so-called ‘green steel’ as a near-term shift.

The reline of the mothballed number 6 blast furnace will have a 20 year life and cost up to $300 million more than BlueScope initially planned, setting the firm up to maintain its domestic supply of steel from 2026, helping BlueScope through the energy transition ahead of its 2050 net zero target.

BlueScope’s position is the furnace reline will provide a “challenging but credible timeline” for the development of low emissions steelmaking technologies.

“The reline does not lock BlueScope in to blast furnace steelmaking for the full 20 years if technology is ready earlier,” the company said.

“However, achieving this will be dependent on several enablers including access to low cost green hydrogen, firmed and affordable renewable energy, the development of suitable raw material supply chains and appropriate policy settings.”

It follows comments last week from South32 (ASX:S32) CEO Graham Kerr, a supplier of metallurgical coal to BlueScope, that coal would have a use in the steelmaking process for at least 20 years given the infancy of low emissions technologies like green hydrogen.

BlueScope is well stocked to deploy capital at the moment after reporting record first half underlying profit of $1.57 billion, up 373% on the same period in 2021.




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