Tackling the hardest challenge in the low-carbon transition

The Heavy Industry Low-Carbon Transition (HILT) CRC has been awarded funding in Round 22. Professor Gus Nathan, the Research Director, and Susan Jeanes, the Chair of this CRC, talked to the CRC Association about their bid.  

They were overjoyed by the good news. 

Susan said “I was just so pleased for Gus. I see the whole CRC effort as Gus bringing together the best team. I can’t tell you how excited I was when Gus rang me.”  

The vision for the HILT CRC was developed by the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Energy Technology.  ‘It was very exciting to see this come to life through the bid process’, said Gus. 

“As we established strong industry partnerships, structure for the leadership, and prepared for the interview, we realised the importance of having a national framework that industry can invest in and collaborate under. Otherwise, they have to compete.” 

“The CRC framework allows all partners to lower the costs and risk of undertaking the low-carbon transition. Without it, the investment would beyond the capacity of any one industry group to bear alone.”  

Gus considers that the best way to establish such a collaborative framework is through the CRC Program.  

“The CRC model provides a funding mechanism that gives strong leverage, together with a mechanism for knowledge sharing.  This allows industry to justify investment at this kind of scale. 

“Furthermore, the CRC Program has a well-established history that industry is familiar with. 

“Because everyone understood more or less what a CRC is, they could have confidence that this scheme is a well-established pathway.”  

 Susan stressed the importance of the value proposition for industry. “We can show that decarbonisation is actually good business because it taps into Australia’s competitive advantage.”  

“The low-carbon transition has enormous potential to create value for Australian Heavy Industry’, Gus added. ‘Australian industry has the potential to attract a disproportional share of the estimated $5 trillion of global investment needed to transform the sector to carbon neutral by 2050, because of the coincidence of our mineral and renewable energy resources’. 

“Although it costs more to make a low carbon material, the impact of the final product is very small. For example, decarbonised cement may be almost double the cost of cement with current technology, but the cost of a green building is only a few percent extra. 

“Since the market is ready to pay for a small increase, this investment will generate new opportunities to make Australian industry more competitive, and to differentiate us from other products in international markets. 

“The only way we compete internationally is if we remain at the forefront of industry transformation.”   

A feature of the HILT CRC is that it is not just about the steel industry, or the cement industry, or the aluminium industry by themselves. It’s about finding synergies between them. These are also Australia’s three biggest heavy industries.  HILT will generate new synergies and new opportunities for cost-share between these industries.   

 “International players are watching closely to see which opportunities we will develop to make new construction materials from the by-products of other two processes. These can help in positioning the industry to be sustainable and competitive for the 2050 horizon,” said Gus. 

The CRC’s goal is to demonstrate new low carbon products of each of these industries – both for local consumption and for export. 

Research is vital to the heavy industry low-carbon transition. “The PhD program will have industry-embedded positions, so students will be able to get direct experience with industry. 

“We see this as being a really important growth industry and transformational sector for 2050 period. There’s going to be massive investment in this area for transformation to a much more sustainable system that is carbon neutral. It’s being part of the future and being part of the solution and not part of the problem.” 

“This is going to attract the next generation of top-quality researchers, scientists and students who want to be part of this transformation.” 

“Our education and training program will show researchers that there are jobs coming for them and will provide people to our industry partners who are appropriately trained.” 

The HILT CRC will establish several regional hubs throughout Australia in areas where heavy industry is based. They will establish partnerships with local communities, particularly with First Nations people, to include them in their process of transforming these regions to be more sustainable.  

“We’re looking at employment and local opportunities. Indigenous communities are a key stakeholder in these processes.”  

Susan shared some final thoughts on the future of HILT CRC 

“By 2031, I hope Australia will have made and will continue to make a material effort to decarbonise not only heavy industry but a lot of what we’re going to do can trickle down to other areas of industry. Heavy industry is the hardest, so we’re tackling that and in doing so, providing the technology and knowhow to the world.” 

The CRC Association warmly congratulates Gus and Susan and their team at the HILT CRC for their bid approval. 

To learn more about The Heavy Industry Low-Carbon Transition (HILT) CRC click here