This week the Heavy Industry Low-carbon Transition Cooperative Research Centre (HILT CRC) was officially awarded the funding to help Australia’s heavy industry sector transition toward zero net-carbon emissions by 2050.

Through the Commonwealth’s CRC scheme, the program will receive $39 million from the federal government over 10 years, helping to unlock over $45 million in cash and more than $130 million of in-kind support from non-government partnerships.

A cooperative of several universities and industry partners, the HILT CRC will enable the highly polluting heavy industry sector transition to manufacturing carbon-neutral materials such as green steel, alumina, cement and other processed minerals.

“Heavy industry produces materials such as steel, aluminium and cement, which are vital to the national and global economy,” explained University of Adelaide’s Professor Gus Nathan, director of the Centre for Energy Technology and the deputy director of the Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources, who led the successful bid for the HILT CRC.

“It is critical to the global economy and job markets because it produces things that we all need, while also supporting the countless industries and businesses that depend on it.

“However, while tackling its contribution to the planet’s climate change is a challenge, it is also an economic opportunity because of the growing demand for new, higher value, green products.”

Research organisations involved include the University of Adelaide, which led the bid, the Australian National University, CSIRO, Curtin University, University of Newcastle, Swinburne University, Queensland University of Technology and international partners Arizona State University, German Aerospace, MINTEK and the University of Canterbury.

Chair-elect of the HILT CRC, Susan Jeanes explained that transitioning Australia’s heavy industry manufacturers was a financial imperative as well as environmental.

“Decarbonising Australia’s heavy industry will position it to be competitive in the rapidly developing, global low carbon markets for green iron and aluminium products that have higher value than our current exports,” Jeanes said.

“These new markets are being driven by our trading partners in countries like China, Japan and Europe, which are introducing a range of financial measures to meet their carbon targets, such as EU’s Carbon Border Tax.”

Heavy industry currently accounts for around 20 per cent of Australia’s CO2 emissions.

“Unlike electricity and transport, large and bespoke processing plants cannot use off-the-shelf technologies to tap into renewable energies like solar power and hydrogen fuel,” Nathan said.

“The HILT CRC will help achieve technology-driven solutions for low-carbon industry transformation with an inter-disciplinary approach engaging all key stakeholders. In addition to developing the new technologies with both the suppliers and users of the technology, we will engage with communities and trading partners to develop solutions that are both desirable and implementable.”

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