Innovation and continuous improvement delivers significant CO2 emission savings for RCPA
RCPA uses a high output, low waste, cleaner and safer process (vertical dry cast) for pipe manufacture to develop a new low carbon pipe that doesn’t use normal Portland cement, which has high carbon content. The company aims to extend its reach across Australia by progressively rolling out new technology, high output manufacturing processes, innovative high performance products and a superior service model.
Reinforced Concrete Pipes Australia (RCPA) is a wholly Australian owned manufacturer of steel reinforced concrete pipes, large steel reinforced box culverts, fibre reinforced concrete pipes and associated products. These are used for infrastructure works such as road and rail construction and also in housing, industrial and commercial subdivisions. The company has five plants – in Western Australia, two in Queensland and two in Victoria, with a sixth plant under construction in NSW. There are over 60 employees in Victoria.
RCPA was established in 1995 when they first introduced the innovative vertical dry cast concrete pipe manufacturing processes to Australia. Today they are the only Australian producer of low carbon concrete pipes where cementitious materials (primarily fly ash and slag) are substituted for normal Portland cement. Key clients include large national civil contractors and a diverse group of smaller contractors that operate in the housing and commercial subdivision markets.
Group General Manager of RCPA Stuart Jacquet reinforced the importance of collaborating with a tertiary institution on research and development.
“Over recent years we’ve worked in partnership with the University of Melbourne to develop alternative materials for use in concrete. This is important because, after water, cement is the second most used material globally. And cement manufacture makes up 5 to 8% of all CO2 emissions, the third-highest emitting sector. With growth in Australia and globally, cement production is predicted to double by 2030, which will increase emissions even more. We wanted to find a more efficient way of doing things.
“We were lucky to have a world expert at the University in Melbourne who was keen to commercialise and understood our needs. Together we’ve come up with a low carbon, zero Portland cement concrete pipe that can directly replace a standard steel-reinforced concrete pipe and deliver up to 80% CO2 emission savings compared to a Portland cement pipe.”
RCPA’s point of difference is its pipe manufacture process, which uses high-tech equipment to produce and mould concrete with much lower moisture content than other conventional casting techniques. Using this technology they have achieved significant production efficiencies, typically 30% higher than traditional methods of concrete pipe manufacture.
“Our new product – eCP – contains no normal Portland cement. Instead, this component is replaced by specially activated waste products flyash and granulated blast furnace slag in the concrete mix to produce a geopolymer concrete pipe,” explained Stuart. “Using recycled waste materials in this way reduces embedded energy by up to 80%. We developed this product at our pilot plant at Kilmore and now, with the necessary approvals from VicRoads, commercialisation of the product range is underway.
“There are quite a few challenges in developing new products, for example handling elements that have safety implications. Also, dry casting is a very sensitive process and the materials need to be handled differently than you would for Portland cement. Sourcing advice on how to get it right was challenging. But the University of Melbourne were great. They came out on site and worked with us. It’s this type of collaboration that bridges the gap between science and commercial practicality.”