There seems to be some momentum building in the cement industry behind carbon capture. Last month, a consortium led by CarbonCure Technologies demonstrated the first integrated carbon capture and utilisation from cement and concrete production. The project involved capturing CO2 from Argos USA’s Roberta cement plant and then transporting it for use at Argos USA’s Glenwood ready-mixed concrete plant in Atlanta, Georgia.
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The project made good headlines; its value lies in the technology’s availability, its low set-up cost, scalability, and ability to deliver an extra revenue stream to the cement plant. In contrast, fully-integrated full-scale carbon capture solutions are not yet ready for widespread roll-out within the industry.
The industry needs to start carbon capture as soon as possible. According to a recent report by CDP, the cement industry in its current form “is not compatible with the commitment taken at COP21 in Paris and needs a significant change in business-as-usual practices to align to a two-degrees trajectory.” Of the companies surveyed by CDP, there was an average reduction in emissions intensity of 1% per annum over the last four years. This “would need to more than double to meet a two-degrees target.”
CarbonCure’s Technology demonstration is therefore welcome, as are the various carbon capture and storage/utilisation projects underway around the world (e.g. at Norcem’s Brevik cement plant, the LEILAC project, Taiwan Cement’s calcium-looping plant in Hualian, etc.). It is, however, not all about carbon capture. The Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI) identifies four “carbon mitigation levers”: in addition to carbon capture and storage/utilisation, these are improving energy efficiency, switching to alternative fuels, and reducing the clinker-to-cement ratio. The CSI also acknowledges however that “existing technologies alone cannot reduce cement industry CO2 emissions indefinitely. Further dissemination of state-of-the-art technologies […] is needed.”
Some cement companies are stepping up. According to CDM, which ranked 13 cement companies on their readiness for a low-carbon economy transition, Indian producers Dalmia Bharat and Ambuja Cement are leading the way, while Shree Cement comes in at four. Cementos Argos and LafargeHolcim also make it into the top five. Yet of the 11 carbon-emissions goals among these 13 companies, only three are sufficient to meet a two-degrees goal.
There is thus significant work ahead for the industry. Good-news stories – such as CarbonCure Technology’s success in the US – should spur researchers and companies on. There is also a key role to be played by governments and regulators in supporting technological development, while the industry as a whole needs to do more to change public perception of the industry. At the moment, cement plants are often met with local opposition when attempting to change their operating parameters to (for example) cofire alternative fuels. A better public image of the industry would allow for smoother approvals of such vital initiatives.
Here at World Cement, we will also continue to cover the development of cleaner cement technologies. So if you have an environmental project underway and would like to see it featured in the magazine, please do get in touch by email (email@example.com) or connect with us on social media. We are @World_Cement on Twitter; you can also find us on LinkedIn and Facebook. I hope you enjoy the issue!