Yorkshire Water facility to test vegetable-oil building blocks

A facility for testing building blocks made with vegetable oil is to open at a Yorkshire Water site near Leeds.

The firm behind the blocks, Leeds University spin-out Encos, hopes it could reduce the environmental impact of construction by providing an alternative to traditional cement, which is responsible for around five per cent of global carbon-dioxide emissions.

The masonry products are composed of graded aggregates recovered from various waste products bound together with vegetable-oil-based binders.

Encos describes the blocks and bricks as carbon negative because the plants used to make the vegetable oil have absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere.

‘We have a very low energy requirement in terms of our production and it’s turned negative once we incorporate that biogenic carbon-storage element,’ Encos chief executive officer Mark Nicholls told The Engineer.

The Knostrop test manufacturing facility will validate the lab-scale trials of the Encos binders and test their use with a number of different aggregates, including those recovered from non-hazardous waste streams.

These include ash produced in the wastewater-treatment process. After extensive testing and validation, product samples will be provided to specifiers and constructors for their evaluation.

The test plant was developed in partnership with Yorkshire Water, with financial contributions from Yorkshire Water and grants from Yorkshire Forward, CO2 Sense and the Carbon Trust. As well as the site, Yorkshire Water is also providing all utilities and certain test materials.