By Max Clarke

A Kent company founded by academic scientists who use carbon dioxide gas to treat industrial wastes and contaminated soils, have achieved a world first by manufacturing aggregate products for the construction industry at the same time as capturing carbon dioxide directly from landfill gas.

Carbon8 Systems Ltd. provides solutions for the treatment of industrial wastes and contaminated soils. The five-strong team have created a technology called accelerated carbonation, that can not only capture CO2 generated by the degradation of waste but also uses waste to absorb CO2 brought in from other sources and which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.

The methane emitted by the decomposing waste is burnt in a specially designed boiler to generate a CO2 rich gas stream that is used to treat ash generated by waste incineration. The ash, after taking on its load of CO2, is then ready for use as an aggregate material for construction or in the manufacture of concrete blocks. Carbon8 are now planning to license the process overseas with assistance from UK Trade & Investment (UKTI).

Carbon8‘s Managing Director, Dr Paula Carey, who has been working on the development of accelerated carbonation for the past 10 years, said: “Accelerated carbonation has a significant positive environmental impact in that it prevents a hazardous waste going to landfill, reduces the need for natural aggregate and captures carbon dioxide from the environment, helping to fight global warming.”

With expertise in aggregates, rocks and soils in the construction industry, particularly their durability in service, Dr Carey and her team are considered pioneers. She is a chartered geologist and was a principal lecturer at the University of Greenwich’s School of Science, within the Centre for Contaminated Land Remediation before committing full-time to the company, last year.

Carbon8 has worked alongside major organisations including Shell and BP and recently through the University of Greenwich, has been working with Viridor, a leading waste management firm to develop the technology through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership.

Realising the potentially global applications of its processes and concrete block solution, in 2009 Dr Carey approached UKTI South East to discuss taking the company’s business on to an international stage.

Terry Enga, an International Trade Adviser (ITA) with UKTI South East, worked with Dr Carey to prepare an overseas strategy, and she subsequently joined the Passport to Export programme (P2E) of advice and support for new and relatively inexperienced exporters.

Dr Carey said: “Carbon8’s technique not only renders polluted waste and soils inert, it is also low cost and extremely fast — taking just minutes, rather than the days or sometimes even weeks required by other methods. If widely adopted, these processes could be responsible for capturing more than one million tonnes of waste carbon dioxide and contributing to achieving the UK carbon emission reduction target.”

The company has recently licensed the technology for the treatment of incinerator ashes in the UK to a new company Carbon8 Aggregates which is currently securing funding for its first commercial plant.

Carbon8 Systems is now exploring opportunities in the USA and Canada, where it already has patents, and in Europe and Australia.

Terry said: “The global market for low-carbon goods and services is an ever-growing one, already worth over £3 trillion and expected to exceed £4.5 trillion by 2015. The work and research conducted by the team at Carbon8 is truly pioneering. With the Government keen to reduce CO2 emissions and carbon footprint, services like those at Carbon8 are going to be more in demand than ever before.”