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Capturing Carbon In Canada

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World Cement,

Stephanie Voysey, Lafarge Canada, discusses a carbon capture unit installed at its Richmond plant as well as the growing focus on the utilisation and sequestration elements of CCUS.

Lafarge Canada, a member of the Holcim Group, is Canada’s largest provider of sustainable building solutions including cement, aggregates, ready-mix and precast concrete, asphalt and paving, as well as road and civil construction. Across Canada, Lafarge has five cement plants in operation in the provinces of British Columbia (BC), Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia.

The Lafarge Richmond cement plant, located in British Columbia, has a rich history. It was the first plant constructed by Lafarge S.A. outside of France in 1956 with two wet kilns and later modernised into a five-stage preheater precalciner kiln in 1996. Sustainability has always been at the forefront of operations at Richmond, with the plant leading the production of Portland Limestone Cement (PLC) in Canada beginning in 2011. Today, the Richmond plant is the first of Lafarge Canada’s facilities to produce 100% PLC and continues its drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions per tonne of cement produced onsite.

Over the past 20 years, the Richmond plant has succeeded in lowering the carbon footprint of cement produced onsite through the reduction of the clinker factor in the manufacture of PLC and reducing combustion-related emissions through the use of alternative fuels, diverting non-recyclable material from landfills. The remaining hurdle is the process emissions from calcining. Up to 70% of the total emissions from the cement manufacturing process are unavoidable due to the use of limestone as a raw material in the production of clinker, but solutions are becoming more readily available, and Lafarge Canada continues to be a leader in their deployment.

Carbon capture in Richmond

In 2019, in partnership with Svante and Total S.A., Project CO2ment was installed at the Richmond plant. A first-of-its-kind carbon capture plant, the project captures 1 tpd of CO2 from cement manufacturing using Svante’s proprietary Metal-Organic Framework (MOF) advanced sorbent.

Utilisation has been the greatest hurdle for Project CO2ment, and for many industries around the world looking to decarbonise through carbon capture. It is rare to have heavy industrial sites co-located where the geology is favourable for sequestration, combined with the necessary government and stakeholder support to construct a successful project. Lafarge’s Exshaw cement plant in Alberta is in a favourable area and is currently completing the pre-Front End Engineering Design (FEED) for a carbon capture facility with a 1 million tpy capacity.

In the Vancouver area, the location of the Richmond plant, sequestration is complicated by a number of factors including seismic activity, availability of historical geological data, and perceived lack of buy-in from the surrounding community. Due to these factors, exploring the utilisation of CO2 was seen as a more feasible path for Project CO2ment; albeit one which still carried its costs and complications.

Lafarge first explored the possibility of the captured CO2 being used by Lafarge businesses located in the Vancouver area. Currently, the Richmond cement plant and twelve Lafarge ready-mix facilities in the Vancouver area use CO2 to buffer the pH in process water ponds as part of their operations. However, upon inspection, the volume of CO2 consumed was relatively small when compared to captured volumes. In addition, the transportation of the CO2 after liquefaction would be difficult, as the CO2 captured was industrial grade, whereas all CO2 sold and transported by suppliers in the lower mainland is food grade. Dedicated transport vehicles would be required to avoid cross-contamination with the industrial grade CO2. The internal discussion with respect to the potential utilisation of CO2 then centred around available industries in southern BC, in order to assess and identify the potential for sales of an economic CO2 product that could assist in offsetting operating costs related to carbon capture and utilisation.

Working with the CCUS team at Holcim, Lafarge met with multiple utilisation technology companies in 2021 and 2022 to determine the best fit for Project CO2ment. This included looking into the potential utilisation of CO2 to produce ethylene (a key building block for plastics) and synthetic fuels, the use of CO2 to reduce energy consumption in comminution and the use of CO2 in local greenhouses. Of all the options presented, the use of CO2 to produce synthetic fuels was of most interest due to the proximity of the Richmond plant to a local refinery.

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