Toowoomba's rich-list Wagner family will form a joint venture company with India's JSW Group, a conglomerate turning over $11 billion and supplying 13 per cent of India's steel, to produce a material that replaces cement in the production of concrete and is poised to disrupt India's $36 billion-a-year cement market.
Most concrete worldwide is made with Portland cement, whose production involves the burning of limestone at 1450 degrees celsius and emits enough carbon dioxide for the humble material to account for 5 per cent of global emissions.
Before December's United Nations climate deal, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to reduce the emissions intensity of its economy by 35 per cent by 2030, yet forecast consumption of high-emission coal would double over the same period as it tried to put 300 million citizens living without electricity on to the grid.
The incentive for India to use "earth friendly concrete" was strong in light of this contradiction, said Joe Wagner, who runs Wagners' concrete division. A system of carbon credits operates in India, which has also introduced specific policies for reducing use of traditional cement.
The formula of Wagners' cement-replacement is secret but its foundation ingredient is slag, a byproduct of steelmaking and therefore available to JSW at little cost. The other foundation ingredient is fly ash, a byproduct of burning coal, however Mr Wagner said its lack of limestone clinker still meant that concrete made with the Wagners material emitted 80-90 per cent less greenhouse gas.
Wagners already uses the cement-replacement in the 50,000 cubic metres of concrete required for the runways at its Wellcamp Airport near Toowoomba, which it completed in 2014.
Despite the commercial traction it was gaining, Mr Wagner said the family had not patented the recipe for its cement-replacement.
It took eight years of trial-and-error to get its "earth friendly concrete" exceeding the performance of "normal" concrete, and Mr Wagner said the identity of the chemical activators required for it to do so are best protected internally.
"Not any one person knows absolutely everything," he said. "Some ingredients are made specifically for this product so people would struggle to break the chemistry around it anyway."
If you want to read this article in Japanese, please see the following link: