Slag Heaps to Save Us From Climate Change? British Scientist Will Try To Prove It

By Staff Writer | Apr 24, 2017 12:23 PM EDT

Slag heap may be the product of waste material from coal mining that could have contributed to the ongoing environmental problem, but a scientist is here to prove that it could be part of the solution for climate change. A British scientist is planning to develop his studies on the slag heap and how it could help solve climate change.

In an article published in The Guardian, Phil Renforth has been granted with £300,000 by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) for his studies on the feasibility of using iron and steel slag deposits in order to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The three-year project will start in Consett, County Durham, and Port Talbot, South Wales.

Cardiff University's professor, who is inclined with the studies of earth and ocean sciences, has laid out his plans on his studies of the slag heap. He said that the first step he will do is to actually make more industrial waste piles.

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In the process of steel-making, Renforth will mix the iron ore with limestone or dolomite and heated to extremely high temperatures. The results would be steel and slag, which is a waste mixture of calcium and magnesium silicates and oxides.

In an earlier research by him, the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere would be absorbed by material inside slag heaps. He said that if we can improve the rate of the absorption, we could make reductions in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide in the near future.

The project will then proceed in two stages: drilling into one of these old, historic slag heaps and observe what would happen over the years. It would also make them understand what chemical processes would have been going on.

The second stage would be creating a mini-heap and play with its chemistry to try to run and optimize its ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

The United Kingdom produces 3-4m tons of slag each year. Currently, the total global production is estimated to have 500m tons a year at present.

"We are going to have to think about ways of not just limiting carbon emissions but of actually removing greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere and it may well be that technology based on slag leftovers from the steel industry could play a key role," Renforth said.

What could be the other use of slag heaps? Check this video below.

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