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Editorial comment

I don’t know about you, but I have been hoping for an energy miracle. Whether or not you’re a believer in manmade global warming, climate change is a concern that has to be taken seriously – even if only because governments are taking it seriously and that has a sizable impact on business. But now, it’s time for a reality check. There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to sustainable, efficient, affordable energy. Without new science and new technology – both things still worth striving for – the future will be a mishmash of solutions, comprising traditional fossil fuels, new fossil fuels, renewables, nuclear and ‘other’. We are going to have to get used to a bittier energy picture.

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Admittedly, I am late to the party: for many cement plants this picture is already in place. Disregarding the fuel that heats the pyroprocess – an area where we know much progress is being made – and focusing just on power, plants use the national grid, captive power plants, solar, wind, waste heat recovery and more. Energy choices are contextual and are often limited by the resources at hand. Some countries are able to take the stability of their national grid for granted, while for others the production process is continually interrupted by power outages. For these countries, it makes sense for industry to opt for doorstep solutions that increase energy security and bring down logistics costs, which are themselves dependent on energy prices. (Isn’t everything?)

With the shale boom, coal prices have plummeted, making this environmentally unattractive option more appealing. One answer is to use the coal but deal with the emissions. This month’s keynote article from Kline Consulting looks at carbon utilisation – a far more sustainable solution than carbon storage, but one that is in an earlier phase of its evolution. Again, new science and new technology will bring about advances in this area that I firmly believe will generate viable commercial-scale solutions for industry worldwide. Meanwhile, the cement industry is working on its endless tick box list, which I imagine looks something like this (abridged, obviously):

  • Upgrade to best available technology.
  • Develop new technology; upgrade again.
  • Replace traditional fuels in the pyroprocess with alternatives.
  • Find new alternatives. Replace again.
  • Constantly maximise energy efficiency.
  • Reduce clinker factor.
  • Reduce clinker factor further.

Developments in this latter area are the topic of discussion for this month’s regional report, which by chance includes two articles looking at innovations in blended cements in Brazil brought about by necessity as much as invention. We hope you enjoy this issue of World Cement and if you picked up a copy at the FICEM-APCAC Congress in Mexico City, don’t forget you can visit to subscribe and receive more world-class technological updates from the international cement industry.