Historically used in the paper and ceramics industry, kaolin is now viewed as a “white gold” new economy commodity, able to play a pivotal role in carbon reduction across a range of industries when processed into metakaolin or High Purity Alumina (“HPA”).
Now recognised as one of the best cement substitutes in concrete production, metakaolin can enable the associated CO2 emissions of concrete to be reduced by up to 40% through reducing the amount of cement required in the process. To put this into context, the cement/concrete industry currently generates 8% of global CO2 emissions and around 25% of industrial emissions. If viewed as a country, this sector would be the third largest emitter behind China and US with every tonne of cement produced generating up to a tonne of CO2.
Improving concrete’s performance
Studies have also shown metakaolin can improve concrete’s flexibility and strength whilst reducing its permeability.
HPA is in increasingly high demand as it is used in smartphones, LEDs and – most significantly – lithium-ion batteries. Traditionally produced from aluminium metal, new technologies mean HPA can now be produced more economically from kaolin. This is now fuelling an ever-growing interest in, and demand for, high quality kaolin.
Dependent on quality, processed kaolin can fetch up to $400/t, untreated $10-20/t in bulk.