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Ammar Elhoweris, Speaker at Renewable Energy Conferences
Gulf Organisation for Research and Development, Qatar
Title : Carbonate based building materials from CO2 and seawater brine


As the world combines in its efforts to comply with the Paris Agreement in reducing greenhouse emissions, the Middle East region faces unparalleled barriers due to the vast scales of hydrocarbon production, surge in the construction sector and the harsh climates limiting forestation and agricultural development. As one of the highest CO2 producers – the state of Qatar has pledged to take action and has invested in climate change mitigation across all of the major sectors: from improvement of existing industrial practises to research for appropriate environmental solutions which take into account the unique climate of Qatar. One of the considered options is carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) technologies, whereby CO2 is collected from point sources and is reused, for example, for the precipitation of carbonates.

The title presentation will cover the principles of a novel Mg-carbonate cement production from desalination brines, as a potential eco-efficient alternative to conventional plaster and the associated products (slabs, boards). The presentation will discuss the advantages of the product in terms of its mechanical properties and environmental profile.

The introduced product is entirely synthetic, formed at ambient conditions from aqueous solutions containing CO2 and Mg2+ ions from either sustainable or waste sources. The precipitated Mg carbonates (Nesquehonite) envelop more than 30% of CO2 by weight, which remains fixed within the final product hence offering permanent carbon storage solution. Since the board production does not include gypsum, certain safety concerns regarding material disposal and recycling are avoided. Most importantly, Mg-carbonate based boards outperform the traditional counterparts in terms of compressive (average 10 MPa) and flexural strengths (average 4 MPa) and come at a comparable density at approx. 750 kg/m3.

The material is designed to make a positive environmental impact in the construction industry, which faces intractable challenges in the attempts to disrupt current practises. Hence, the processing of the introduced synthetic carbonates mirrors the calcination and rehydration processes of gypsum plaster, and so the technology can be easily adopted within the means of the existing industry.

Audience take away:

  • Carbon capture and utilization should match existing demand of products or services in the highest possible scale; the most suited for such purpose is the market of construction materials.
  • In addition, CCU solutions have to be understood as a local -oriented solution. The existence of near-by resources (Mg-brines and flue gases) and a growing demand of construction products makes Qatar a more than suitable location for the proposed solution.
    Although some other authors have already identified the same Mg carbonates as CCU product, they propose their use mostly as a substitute material for cement. However, the ability of this new route makes the product to be "self-cementitious" providing (a) the highest captured CO2 per unit of final product, and (b) the chance for carbon negativity in a Life-Cycle perspective


Dr Ammar Elhoweris is the Head of the Materials Research Group at the Gulf Organisation for Research and Development (GORD), responsible for the development of innovative building materials with a focus on promoting sustainability best practices. His expertise lies within chemical engineering, process design and cement chemistry. In addition to his contribution towards the support, technical management and supervision of the applied research projects at GORD Institute, his current role focuses on the upscale and commercialization of low carbon and sustainable alternative building materials. He was part of the formulations team of the QSTP funded Green Concrete Project (£2.8M) between 2012-16 leading its pilot trials and process development. He is currently acting as LPI and PI in two QNRF funded projects: “Development of a Low Carbon and Economically Competitive Cement” and “Solar Thermal Conversion of CO2 into Valuable Nanomaterials” respectively.