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Keeping you informed about TecEco sustainability projects.  Issue 74, Jan 19, 2008

New Model of Gaia Engineering Proves it Can Work

Our new model of the Gaia Engineering process demonstrates that CO2 can be kept well below the arbitrary 450 ppm limit with legislation requiring that only 40-50% of new built environment must be man made carbonate phased in over a 15 year period.

TecEco have released on a limited basis a new draft spreadsheet model of the Gaia Engineering tececology which includes a number of new technologies including TecEco's kiln technology, TecEco cements and from others, magnesium and/or CO2 capture technologies.

Combined as Gaia Engineering, the new technologies represent technical challenge rather than constraint and are a way for the world to move forward as they represent economic solutions to the global warming, water and waste problems that deliver revenue every step of the way. Gaia engineers want a new direction aimed at achieving atmospheric CO2 balance as we do not believe the current direction involving constraint alone will work. The third world will not allow it on the basis that they are entitled to the same standard of living that we are.

TecEco Pty. Ltd. (www.tececo.com) have demonstrated that building with man made carbonate is achievable and potentially profitable and we challenge anyone interested to download the model from the TecEco web site site and see if they can find anything wrong with it. We welcome input!

This spreadsheet explores the outcomes if a new international agreement is struck that not only encourages energy efficiency and alternatives through carbon trading but in which governments agree to legislate for percentage (in the range 30-80%) of all building and construction materials to be man made carbonate with a phase in over a period starting as soon as 2008.

In asking for this radial shift in policy we point out that carbonate buildings have existed for thousands of years. The only difference between what we want to do and what has happened in the past is that the carbonate must be man made. This spreadsheets demonstrates that through such biomimicry we can solve the problems we face the same way as they have been solved in the past by nature.

Seawater has over 1.2 billion years supply of magnesium for the manufacture of magnesium carbonates at current needs for sequestration and Gaia Engineering involves extracting magnesium oxide (MgO) and/or magnesium carbonate (MgCO3) from bitterns, brine or seawater using a front end process that preferably itself uses renewable energy.

The MgO or MgCO3 extracted is used to make manufactured carbonate building components and aggregates and the Eco-Cement binder required to hold them together.

Solving the CO2, waste and water problems will be a co-operative effort and involve several companies with a number of proprietary, sometimes patented sub-processes.

The model is constructed with several predictive, needs flow setting spreadsheets to set total output quantities required and modular process spreadsheets, each able to accept input from other spreadsheets and in turn also provide output. Using this modular approach with a control panel to set the main parameters sequestration and other outputs can be determined. Although our estimates are still based on a preliminary figures the model gives us confidence that Gaia Engineering will be very profitable.

The new version or our Gaia Engineering model establishes the amount of CO2 that needs to be sequestered to avoid reaching a concentration of 450 ppm considered by many as an upper limit and then compares this target given various scenarios for Gaia Engineering which will be driven by market forces with some legislative assistance.

The Control Panel&Graphs spreadsheet contains the main control panel and most important graphs. Other spreadsheets works out the revenues, plant and process requirements. In this version the flows required are worked back from the requirement that a percentage that the user can input of all buildings must be man made carbonate with a specified phase in period starting 2008.

From this

The Tec-Reactor Hydroxide/Carbonate carbon capture process is not included because it does not add to net capture as the CO2 re-released goes back to a primary front end process. It is important however as it adds to the ability of Gaia Engineering to exact CO2 out of the air at relatively low concentration.

There are a number of possible front end processes and we are eagerly waiting on trials of the following:

Process: Inputs: Outputs: Links:
Greensols Seawater or brines, waste acid and CO2 Mineral salts, carbonate building materials and aggregates, Eco-Cements and fresh water Greensols Pty. Ltd.
Calera Process Salt water CO2 Scientific American
Hydropyrolysis of Bitterns Bitterns and water Mangesium oxide and chlorine gas (or hydrochloric acid). This process could be combined with the greensols process to supply acid.  
Ultra Centrifuges Seawater or brine Provided materials can be found to withstand the forces involved, potentially similar by products to the Greensols process.  


Carbonic anhydrase, saltwater or brines and CO2

Using carbonic anhydrase and other enzymes to mimic carbonate formation in nature. Catalysts like carbonic anhydrase could also feasibly be used with our cements to speed up the carbonation process.


In this version the only front end process modeled is Greensols, our preferred option

The model can be downloaded from downloads\tools

Why Geopolymers are Only Just Being Commercialised

Are there lessons for TecEco?

We congratulate Jannie Van Deventer and his group from Melbourne university for their recent commercial offering of E-crete geopolymer cement through the company Zeobond.

It seems like the science of geopolymers has progressed enough to offer non structural pre mix. According to the Zeobond web site under products (as at 19th January, 2008) "The initial release of 20, 25 and 32 MPa E-Crete products is intended for non-structural applications, paving, driveways, concrete cladding, barriers and other less demanding applications where the method of placement is via conventional means such as chute, pump or kibble. High performance E-Crete products will be released at a later date and will be able to fulfil all structural concrete needs, and take advantage of the full range of properties unique to geopolymer technology."

For the record TecEco have no inhibitions at the stage as to where TecEco cements are used (i.e we can provide structural and non structural concretes) provided the user is prepared to undergo appropriate testing to verify fitness for purpose as we do not suffer the same variability problems as promoters of geopolymers.

The term geopolymer was first coined by Joseph Davidovits for a type of cement that Glukhovsky and Krivenko, two Russians, first started working on in the 50's that are related to alkali activated cements. Like Eco-Cements, geopolymers are a new green material, however they achieve this status in a very different way. Eco-Cements are green because they have the potential of absorbing vast amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. Geopolymers on the other hand are green because of their low energy requirements. Both products can in many formulations utilise wastes.

Many of the commercialisation problems geopolymers have had are technical and will most likely be overcome, if not chemically by engineering around them. In our view some are also probably because some proponents are going about commercialisation the wrong way.

There is nothing that can be done about the biggest problem which is the morass of patents that surround the technology. This has led to an intensely competitive and secretive approach to research development and deployment that has arguably slowed down the process. TecEco at least do not have this problem as our patents are very broad.

Unfortunately there are a number of other problems as well. Companies that are potentially commercialisation angels are not only wary of breaching patents but concerned about nano-porosity, process issues and inconsistency or variability.

Geopolymers are inherently nano permeable because of their rather open atomic structure and although one day this may be overcome (TecEco have some patentable ideas on this), it is better to understand the issue and work around it by testing aggregates for reactivity in the environment the geopolymers are to be placed. According to some UK contacts there is also potentially a problem with bacterial growth in these nano pores.

Process issues have dogged the technology from inception and are also connected to the lack of consistency. Geopolymers are made by breaking up silicates and aluminates with strong alkalis and then reassembling them with the alkali metal cation incorporated into what is essentially a mineral polymer. The extreme alkalinity required results in high viscosity causing placement issues. As water is so critical and very small changes in concentration result in big changes in properties this leads to inconsistency.

In the short term the best way to get around the process and consistency problems is to initially make geopolymers in a controlled factory environment where exact and repetitive methods that work can be developed and this is starting to happen although not yet on a large scale. Products such as concrete bricks, blocks and pavers are usually made with dry mixes and ideally suited. They do not have to be of super high strength and slight variability, provided it results in above standard specs, can to some extent be tolerated. There are other products that would benefit from the acid and fire resistance of Geopolymers such as pipes that could be made in such a controlled environment.. TecEco will investigate making its kiln using geopolymer as the company wants to fire at less that 750 degrees centigrade and geopolymers can potentially stand higher temperatures.

Malthus, the Club of Rome and Recent Predictions

Malthus and his successors appear to be right after all so why aren't we talking about solutions to the problem of explosive population growth?

I was intrigued to read in the Mercury of Friday January 18th, 2008 that we may be facing a worrying world food shortage. Prof Julian Gibb from the University of Technology in Sydney was reported as saying that the security of our food supply was "the global scientific challenge of our time" and that the problem was more urgent than climate change because it would get us first through famine and war. The Mercury reported Prof Gibbs as saying that by 2050 we will have to feed the equivalent of 15 billion people bringing with it the real possibility of regional and global instability.

Given sufficient co-operation and resources I believe we can solve the problems of global warming, water and waste but I despair when I think about the human problems we have. Many of us don't get on, our belief systems seem to get in the way and we war over them, resources and just about everything else. Some think it is their divine right to breed like flies and it is not politically correct even amongst educated people to think otherwise. I will probably receive a barrage of abusive email for saying anything at all about the emerging crisis.

Are Thomas Robert Malthus (1766 - 1834) and his successors right after all? Malthus is famous for his prediction that the population of the Earth would steeply rise after the industrial revolution. His "Principle of Population" depended on the idea that population, if unchecked, increased at a geometric rate (i.e. 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, etc.), whereas the food-supply grew at an arithmetic rate (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc.). He predicted that eventually we would run out of food just like bacteria in an agar dish..

More recently the Club of Rome published a book called "The Limits of Growth" in which they used innovative computer modeling to predict a crisis of resources, food per capita and general resources in the mid 21st century. Is this previously strongly criticised prediction coming true as Prof Gibbs seems to think? 2050, the date he mentions is about midway through the 21st century.

There is no doubt that there are too many of us but how can we restrain ourselves? It would seem impossible. We most certainly need one world government yet how can we possible get there given the human problems I mention earlier.

Ocean Fertilisation

The world is not yet ready for this kind of large scale experiment with our environment

Every now an again I come across a paper advocating dumping large amounts of iron into the oceans with a view to causing algal blooms to take up carbon dioxide. This is fiddling with the global system on a grand scale and before it is done requires a lot more research. I see now that others agree with my position on this.

Ocean iron fertilisation (OIF) is one of several marine-based methods proposed for mitigating rising atmospheric CO2. Research since 1993 has shown that releasing iron onto the ocean surface can stimulate the growth of plankton. The efficiency with which OIF sequesters carbon from the atmosphere and retains it in the deep ocean is still uncertain and unintended ecological impacts are not yet fully understood.

What concerns me is that despite the scientific uncertainties, private companies are currently planning larger-scale iron releases to generate the sale of carbon credits.

According to Prof Andrew Watson of the University of East Anglia "While we do envision the possibility of iron fertilisation as an effective form of carbon offsetting, we believe larger scale experiments are needed to assess the efficiency of this method and to address possible side effects. There remain many unknowns and potential negative impacts."

I also agree with Prof Watson, Dr Richard Lampitt of Southampton University's National Oceanography Centre and others that it is premature to sell carbon offsets from the first generation of commercial-scale OIF experiments unless there is better demonstration that OIF effectively removes CO2, retains that carbon in the ocean for a quantifiable amount of time, and has acceptable and predictable environmental impacts."

Research performed at Stanford and Oregon State Universities suggests that ocean fertilization may not be an effective method of reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because it only reduces carbon dioxide in the atmosphere if the carbon incorporated into the algae sinks to deeper waters. This process, which scientists call the "Biological Pump", has been thought to be dependent on the abundance of algae in the top layers of the ocean. The more algae in a bloom, the more carbon is transported, or "pumped", from the atmosphere to the deep ocean.

According to a press release from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, to test this theory, researchers compared the abundance of algae in the surface waters of the world's oceans with the amount of carbon actually sinking to deep water. They found clear seasonal patterns in both algal abundance and carbon sinking rates. However, the relationship between the two was the opposite to what was expected. Less carbon was transported to deep water during a summertime bloom than during the rest of the year. According to Dr. Michael Lutz, now at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science this "suggests that the Biological Pump leaks." and "Ocean fertilization schemes, which resemble an artificial summer, may not remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as has been suggested because they ignore the natural processes revealed by this research."

This study closely follows a September 2007 Ocean Iron Fertilization symposium at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) attended by leading scientists, international lawyers, policy makers, and concerned representatives from government, business, academia and environmental organizations.

Topics discussed included potential environmental dangers, economic implications, and the uncertain effectiveness of ocean fertilization. It was concluded that to date none of the major ocean fertilization experiments have verified that a significant amount of deep ocean carbon sequestration occurs. Some scientists have suggested that verification may require more massive and more permanent experiments. Together with commercial operators they plan to go ahead with large-scale and more permanent ocean fertilization experiments and note that potential negative environmental consequences must be balanced against the harm expected due to ignoring climate change.

According to a press release from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science,during the Ocean Iron Fertilization meeting at WHOI Dr. Hauke Kite-Powell, of the Marine Policy Centre at WHOI, estimated the possible future value of ocean fertilization at $100 billion of the emerging international carbon trading market, which has the goal of mitigating global warming. However, according to Professor Rosemary Rayfuse, an expert in International Law and the Law of the Sea at the University of New South Wales, Australia, who also attended the meeting, ocean fertilization projects are not currently approved under any carbon credit regulatory scheme and the sale of offsets or credits from ocean fertilization on the unregulated voluntary markets is basically nothing short of fraudulent. She concluded by saying 'There are too many scientific uncertainties relating both to the efficacy of ocean fertilization and its possible environmental side effects that need to be resolved before even larger experiments should be considered, let alone the process commercialised" and that 'all States have an obligation to protect and preserve the marine environment and to ensure that all activities carried out under their jurisdiction and control, including marine scientific research and commercial ocean fertilization activities do not cause pollution.

According to Rayfuse, Ocean fertilization is 'dumping' which is essentially prohibited under the law of the sea. There is no point trying to ameliorate the effects of climate change by destroying the oceans -- the very cradle of life on earth. Simply doing more and bigger of that which has already been demonstrated to be ineffective and potentially more harmful than good is counter-intuitive at best.' We agree wholeheartedly.

Indeed, the global study of Dr. Lutz and colleagues suggests that greatly enhanced carbon sequestration should not be expected no matter the location or duration of proposed large-scale ocean fertilization experiments.

According to Dr Lutz "The limited duration of previous ocean fertilization experiments may not be why carbon sequestration wasn't found during those artificial blooms. This apparent puzzle could actually reflect how marine ecosystems naturally handle blooms and agrees with our findings. A bloom is like ringing the marine ecosystem dinner bell. The microbial and food web dinner guests appear and consume most of the fresh algal food."

The findings of Dr. Lutz and colleagues coincide with and affirm the recent decision of the London Convention (the International Maritime Organization body that oversees the dumping of wastes and other matter at sea) to regulate controversial commercial ocean fertilization schemes.