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Breathing New Life into the Cement Industry

Published by , Deputy Editor
World Cement,

Jill Truscott, LafargeHolcim, explains how energy efficiency studies, emissions capture strategies and alternative fuel systems could be set to help the cement industry reduce its carbon emissions.

Change is good. For Lafarge Canada – part of LafargeHolcim, a leader in sustainable building materials and solutions, this sentiment rings true across its operations. This has become a fundamental reality of doing business for the company, which includes more than 5000 employees working in Canada alone. For over 60 years, the company has supplied cement, concrete, aggregate materials, asphalt and paving, and concrete products across Canada. The organisation believes that the key to success is ensuring continuous improvement and evolution, with an eye towards its social responsibility, and license to operate.

“We are the most ambitious company in our sector, in terms of emissions reductions targets,” says Brad Kohl, Western Canada CEO of Lafarge Canada. “That’s why we’ve dedicated our time and money towards finding methods to continue our transition towards the low-carbon and circular economy.” The company’s changes contribute towards a target of 520 kg CO2/t by 2030. The interim 2022 target is 560 kg CO2/t; reducing global warming potential for all its operations is a priority for the organisation.

In 2019 the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) recognised the ambitions of the company and validated LafargeHolcim’s targets to reduce its global carbon emissions. According to SBTi, LafargeHolcim’s targets are adequate and consistent with the global effort to keep temperatures below the 2°C threshold, as agreed at the COP21 world climate conference in Paris.

In keeping with this ambition, Lafarge’s Richmond cement plant, located in Vancouver, BC, on Canada’s west coast, has conducted a number of projects from energy efficiency studies to emissions capture strategies, to alternative fuel systems. Lafarge Canada is taking steps to make fundamental changes to how it manufactures cement.

The company has investigated methods to maximise efficiencies at the plant, including a compressed air audit, fan studies and end-use assessments. The results have led the plant to upgrade their combustion and cooler systems for optimised performance, with the addition of a heat recovery system to capture and recirculate thermal energy. The compressed air audit led Lafarge to incorporate large air receivers and a variable speed compressor into the operations. The upgrades led to savings of up to 15.6 GWh/d in energy usage, with the possibility of an additional 21 GWh/d of identified energy savings.

Stop wasting waste

The company also upgraded the plant’s fuel system. Today, Richmond co-processes non-recyclable waste and keeps it out of local landfills. The company uses the non-recyclable plastics that have long posed a challenge to municipalities that do not know where else to send it. At Richmond, the facility recycles more than 100 000 tpy of waste – the equivalent of about 8300 loaded rubbish bin vans – making Lafarge Canada one of the region’s largest waste management organisations. The low carbon fuel upgrades mean the plant has replaced up to 60% of its traditional fossil fuels with lower carbon fuels. Now that the system accepts these alternative fuels, discussions have been opened up with a local municipality to co-process biosolids i.e. wastewater treatment solids dried to <10% moisture. Lafarge Canada’s engineers have been working with the local governments to adjust the plant’s system to use this fuel, protect local waterways, and collaborate with stakeholders.

As well as co-processing fuels, the kilns at the Richmond plant are capable of recovering mineral wastes and industrial by-products by substituting for quarried raw materials such as sand, shale, and limestone. Lafarge also has a collaboration with Metro Vancouver, whereby close to 10 000 tpy of drinking water treatment residuals are diverted to the cement plant to be used as a substitute for virgin shale from natural sources. All components of the recovered materials are integrated into the final cement product.

“We’re serious about changing the way our industry works,” notes Jonathan Moser, Head of Environment and Public Affairs at Lafarge Canada. “We want to make Richmond into the most carbon-efficient plant in North America, and lead by example for our other plants across LafargeHolcim.”

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