Doorstop to launch CCUS Development Fund

Doorstop interview
Doorstop with University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky, and CEO of Mineral Carbonation International, Marcus Dawe, to launch the CCUS Development Fund.

Doorstop with University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor Professor, Alex Zelinsky, and CEO of Mineral Carbonation International Marcus Dawe

PROFESSOR ALEX ZELINSKY: Welcome the Minister for Energy and Emissions, Angus Taylor. Welcome Minister. And also the CEO of Mineral Carbonisation International, Marcus Dawe. They’ve got an important announcement to make. I was very pleased to be here, making sure that we are placed where the university, and industry, and government can come together in that research and that commercialisation of technologies that actually benefit Australia. So, I'd like to introduce to you now to the CEO of Mineral Carbonisation International, MCI, Marcus Dawe. Marcus has been collaborating with the University for 14 years - he is the brains, I guess or the visionary behind this technology. So, congratulations Marcus. It is a great achievement.

MARCUS DAWE:  Thanks Alex, and thanks Angus Taylor for coming here today to our Global Reference Pilot Plant. What you see today is $20 million of government and industry funding that's come together over seven years. What we've done is we've built this technology - it's a carbon platform that can take CO2 emissions, CO2 sources and convert them into valuable materials. We have things like plasterboard and cement products and many other industrial products that can take CO2 and actually turn it into a product. This creates value and this is a new paradigm in carbon capture and utilisation. My team here today - we've got chemical engineers, we've got geologists - and this team has brought together a platform that is going to move ahead with, hopefully, demonstration into industrial production. The world really needs solutions for climate change and emission reductions, and we believe that the carbon capture and utilisation processes will actually give us a value stream for industry to decarbonise. We need profitable pathways to move the dial to get rid of emissions, and we're hoping that with a demonstration project and a carbon fund from the government, that companies like ours and others emerging might be able to advance their technologies for Australia's prosperity. And I'll hand over now to Angus Taylor to make his announcement. Thank you.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks, Marcus. Thanks, Alex. Thanks for having us here today. University of Newcastle, absolutely fantastic at commercialisation of technology and have taken a great interest in raising industrial technology – really making a difference for job creation and employment. And Marcus, what extraordinary work he is doing here. As a government, we're focussed on technology, not taxation, when it comes to reducing CO2 emissions, and what we see here is a fantastic example of how smart Australian engineers are providing a solution to CO2 that adds value to the CO2, that strengthens the economy, that creates jobs, and that is exactly what we want to see. We don't want to see CO2 as imposing costs on the economy and destroying jobs. We want to see it as an opportunity to create jobs and investment, and that's exactly what we'll see here, with CO2 being turned into valuable products. CO2 that's produced in places like here in Newcastle, many of our industrial areas, that can be reused in a way which is positive for customers, positive for the economy. Now today, what we're announcing is $50 million through a grant process for projects just like this one. It'll be opening up from today and running over the next couple of months. We're looking to see projects like this applying for funding to scale up, to prove up the opportunities that we see out there for using technology to reduce emissions, to abate carbon, and in the process, to strengthen our economy and create jobs. This is an important program and its part of our Technology Investment Roadmap. We're investing in total $18 billion over the next 10 years in low emissions technologies that can help strengthen the economy and can help create jobs, particularly in industrial regions like here. There are big changes happening in these industrial parts of Australia and we want to make sure that that's as job creating as possible, it strengthens the economy, and our industrial areas are strengthened through reducing emissions, not weakened. What we see today with today's technology is exactly a perfect example of that. Carbon capture, storage and utilisation is one of five priority technologies the government is focussed on to achieve exactly that, being launched through our Technology Investment Roadmap. Whether it's hydrogen, soil carbon, low emission steel and aluminium - these are real opportunities for Australia. And as I say, we're putting real money behind those investments in the $50 million we've announced today, all part of making sure we realise that technology driven future, and the job creating opportunities it offers.

JOURNALIST: Minister, the grants process, will that be done separate from government? In hand with the government?

ANGUS TAYLOR: It's done as a normal grants process, as we always do them. I mean, the government is providing the grants process, and we'll assess them through objective criteria. And we'll be looking for projects that give us our best opportunity to develop technologies in Australia that can reduce emissions and reduce not just our emissions - this is a crucial part of it - reduce the world's emissions. This is a global problem, requiring a global solution. And if Australia can provide technologies to reduce our emissions, we are at the same time providing technologies that can reduce emissions in the United States, in Europe, in China, throughout the world, and that's exactly what we want to do.

JOURNALIST: Just so I'm clear, is that decided by the department? Or is an independent panel?

ANGUS TAYLOR: It's decided by the department through objective, merit based criteria.

JOURNALIST: And is this the first tranche? Is the whole 50 up for grabs now? Or are we going in stages?

ANGUS TAYLOR: The whole $50 million is up for grabs now, and we want great projects like this one to come forward. And as I say, we'll assess them as they come in and we're looking forward to seeing projects as good as this one coming forward to help us to reduce emissions and strengthen our economy at the same time.

JOURNALIST: Minister, despite the impressive looking kit around here, carbon capture and storage and use, if you like, is still regarded with raised eyebrows in most places and seen as a technology that has failed for 20 years. Are we putting money into the right thing?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I'm going to challenge that. That is not right. We're seeing over 60 carbon capture and storage projects around the world now. The IPCC has said this has to be part of a solution. The International Energy Agency has said this has to be part of the solution. Joe Biden has said he's going to double down on carbon capture and storage. We need to get beyond these ideological biases and see every technology that can reduce emissions and strengthen our economy as part of the way forward.

JOURNALIST: What are some of the reasons-

ANGUS TAYLOR: So, we will, we will always remain neutral on the technology. You can't get ideological about this. This is a practical problem requiring a practical solution. What we see today is a fantastic example. You said you see some impressive kit here. I do see that. But I also see some very impressive people. And that's what Australians can do.

JOURNALIST: Sorry, how would the risks be mitigated? Some of the risks with this process?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I'm not sure what risks you're talking about in particular. But look, at the end of the day, like every engineering project, you're working through how you minimise the risk and Mark might want to make some comments on that because that's exactly what they did here.

MARCUS DAWE: That's right. So, this is why a fund like this is really important for MCI and other technologies emerging, because we need to get to demonstration. There's a gap in technology development, which is really when you're coming from this where we've shown this at pilot scale, but then to bridge the risk for industry. Industry doesn't always want to get the first technology. But there are leaders and there are groups that want to do that and that's why a demonstration fund is typically important. And indeed, why it's appropriate for the government to do that. We have received very generous government funds previously and that was through a six-year process of tracking those funds, but to get to where we are now, some more funding for us and others will be very, very important.

JOURNALIST: Minister, can I ask with the, you've seen today, the utilisation. There are a lot of critics of sequestering carbon, they’re people that are agnostic who have spent decades looking and saying it's too expensive, too complex. Would you like to see more carbon utilisation and usage rather than storage?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I'd like to see both. I'd like to see both. We've got, as I say, utilisation projects going on around the world. I've seen several of them and they are working. There's no doubt about that. And so, the great benefit of utilisation is that you can reduce the costs even further. That's why there's a lot to like about it. The economics can really work, and Marcus was explaining that in very clear and simple terms today, and that's the beauty of what they're doing right here. It's why we funded it in the past, because we want to see it succeed in the future. Just in response to the risk and in terms of the commercial risk, and Marcus is exactly right, that's what this program is about. It's clear that when you're doing new things, there are commercial risks and economic risks as well as engineering risks, of course, and technical risks, and there's a role for government to help to de-risk to get plants to scale, get them working, prove them up and then get them out, scaled up across industry.

JOURNALIST: I think the risks we're referring to here is the risk of sequestering carbon dioxide as a liquid underground, and pressurised storage and hoping that that doesn't leak to a surface, as it must inevitably do. Surely it’s a harebrained idea to start with.

ANGUS TAYLOR: So, I'll make a quick comment on that. Sequestering is part of the answer. Sequestering in soil, sequestering in geological formations, but sequestering in products is a fantastic solution as well and of course offers us a great opportunity.


ANGUS TAYLOR: We should see sequestering as a whole range of opportunities. From an agricultural point of view, very near and dear to me, we know there's enormous opportunity to sequester carbon in the soil. Because every good farmer knows that when they raise the productivity on their land, they're typically doing that. So, there's a range of different sequestering opportunities. We're going to pursue them all because we need to have every option on the table to reduce emissions in a way which strengthens our economy.

JOURNALIST: Minister, could I ask a question for another topic?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Before we do that, any other questions on this topic?

JOURNALIST: Well, yes, on that.

ANGUS TAYLOR: We’ll come back to you.

JOURNALIST: So, Marcus, is there a confusion here between carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and carbon as a mineral? Yeah, people use them interchangeably and they're very different.

MARCUS DAWE: Not really, and that's the secret of our technology is we're transforming a gas into a solid. So, it's really that that, you know, transmission or that transformation, that's really important. So that's the key step in our technology, is to stop it being a gas, and it's the difference between CCS and CCU typically is the transformation.

JOURNALIST: So, it's a simple way to describe this, is you’re turning CO2 into C4?

MARCUS DAWE: Yeah. Exactly. Yeah, and they can be used beneficially in cements and other industrial products.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Any more questions on this?

JOURNALIST: Just a quick one. In terms of this process itself, is this intended, is this only being intended for reducing businesses like coal that are being phased out?

ANGUS TAYLOR: There's a whole range of applications for capturing carbon, using it and or storing it. And we see, whether the CO2 comes from a traditional thermal electricity generator or it comes from a fertiliser plant or it comes from an ammonia nitrate plant, like we have here in Newcastle - all of those sources are relevant sources for decarbonisation. And we are interested in all of them. I mean, the world has to find every option that's viable both technically and commercially to bring down emissions. And we see this as having a portfolio of ways to do that and this is one area where we've got great interest in and see enormous potential

JOURNALIST: And you're impressed by what you've seen today?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I'm not just impressed by the kit, which is very impressive, as you see behind me, but impressed by the people. I mean this is, Australia has so much to add in this area and this region with its background, because we have smart people who can solve hard problems. And that's ultimately what's going to get emissions down and strengthen the world economy at the same time. Smart people solving our problems. And that's what I see here today.

PROFESSOR ALEX ZELINSKY:  I want to thank the Minister for coming. I know you're a very busy man. And we always welcome Federal Government Ministers into the Hunter and you're always welcome. So with this, I think there's going to be some other questions. So we'll take a step away from this.

JOURNALIST: Minister, do you think the Cabinet Minister accused of historic rape should be stood aside?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, there's a police referral that has happened. That's the appropriate process, and that's where we should leave it at this point.

JOURNALIST: Should there be an independent investigation into those claims?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I'd respond in exactly the same way. This has been referred to the police, the AFP and the New South Wales Police and should be left to run through those processes.

JOURNALIST: What about the Federal Labor MP who has been accused? Should the Labor leader take action against that?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, my response is the same. The Prime Minister got very clear advice from the AFP Commissioner on this. These issues should be referred to the police and left with police, and that's absolutely appropriate.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned, then, about these allegations happening around Parliament House on both sides of politics?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Any allegation that's serious, of this nature is, of course, something we should all be concerned about. We should be concerned in particular to make sure these things don't happen again in the future. I've certainly spent time with my team, making sure that they understand the situation, and most importantly, they understand the channels for them to deal with any issue that might occur in the workplace. It's very important that we have our teams right across the Parliament, right across both sides, all sides of politics, feeling that they have a safe, effective working environment. And certainly, I'll be doing everything I can to make sure that's true, as I have in the past.

JOURNALIST: The PM made the deadline for the energy industry to fill the shortfall with a gas plant by April. The Federal Government has said it will step in to build one. AGL has made it very clear that they're not going to make a decision on their peaking gas plant by April. Does that mean that the Federal Government is inevitably going to commit to building that gas plant in Kurri Kurri or will there be-

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, there's a number of private sector proposals that I know are being worked on, so we'll await those outcomes. We're not going to pre-empt the outcomes of what the private sector is doing. But our position has been very clear. We will, if necessary, replace the capacity being lost from Liddell. And that capacity matters not just for reliability, for keeping the lights on, it also matters for affordability. We're determined to make sure it is replaced. And if we do it, we'll be looking to create jobs in the Hunter region. So that's our focus. Again, I don't want to pre-empt the outcome of that process. There's others like Energy Australia that are working on proposals right now, and we'll see how they come out.

JOURNALIST: It's my understanding that Energy Australia has also said they can't make a decision by April. The Prime Minister specifically said it's linked to AGL's decision.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, as I say, I'm going to wait and see what we hear from those companies. We would prefer the private sector to get on with it. But of course, we can't leave a gap in the market. We saw what happened when there was a gap in the market in South Australia and Victoria. When Northern in South Australia shut, and Hazelwood shut in Victoria, we saw very sharp price rises, we saw a loss of reliability. This is on a similar scale. We can't afford to have that kind of gap in the market. And we'll step in as we need to. I'm heading off to Kurri Kurri after this and I'll be taking a good look at the site. I know that Snowy has been doing an enormous amount of work on this. We're ready to go if we have to.

JOURNALIST: Minister, the electricity grid is a historical thing that has state, federal regulation, private and public sector. Is there anyone in charge of the grid as such? And is that one of the problems that we don't have a clear mandate to make decisions?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We have a federation. We love our Federation. It creates challenges for us at times. There's no doubt about that. Whether it's dealing with the virus or dealing with energy issues. We work with our state colleagues. And, of course, the Federation has served Australia extremely well for a long period of time. It's not to say there aren't challenges in the electricity grid, in the energy system we have that we're going to have to deal with in the years to come as we're dealing with them now, and we do. It's important that all state ministers, as well as obviously federal ministers, to work closely together to get the right outcomes. But I'll tell you, the outcome we want is affordable energy, keeping the lights on, and bringing down our emissions, and I'm confident we can if we work together the right way to achieve exactly that. This is a good example of how we will play our role as the Federal Government to achieve that outcome.

JOURNALIST: Minister, the New South Wales Government is taking a step towards banning, one more step from banning PFAS in firefighting foams. What's the national, Commonwealth plan to do that and should there be more of a national approach?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, look, my colleague, Marise Payne, the Foreign, sorry - Linda Reynolds, the Defence Minister, is dealing with that issue. So I'll leave it to her to comment on that. Marise dealt with it in the past, obviously. But Linda's dealing with it now. So I'll leave that to them.