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Advances in the reduction of CO2 emissions: part one

World Cement,

Climate change has taken an even more significant place in the discussion of international politics in 2015. From 30 November to 11 December, Paris will host the COP21, an environmental conference organised by the UN. Votorantim considers COP21 to be critical in reaching an international climate agreement that is applicable to all its 192 member countries with policy, economic and environmental measures aimed at keeping global warming below 2°C until the end of the century. The event to be held in the French capital will host more than 40 000 participants, including representatives from the cement industry.

The participation of this sector is crucial, since concrete is the second most consumed material in the world, after water, and cement accounts for about 5% of global CO2 emissions. CO2 emissions in cement production occur largely due to the conversion of CaCO3 into CaO and CO2, which accounts for about half the emissions. The remaining 50% comes from fuel, thermal consumption and transport, which are essential steps in the cement manufacturing process.

A pioneer

In the context of the cement industry, Brazil is already considered a success story in reducing CO2 emissions. According to the Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology, industry emissions account for 2.6% of the national total, well below the global average. Votorantim Cimentos – the largest manufacturer of building materials in Brazil and one of the largest players in the world – greatly contributed to a lower level of emissions achieved in recent years, since it has more than 50 cement manufacturing units and annual installed capacity of 54.5 million t.

How did this journey start? Two milestones are important: first, the company was the first in Brazil to rely on its own hydroelectric plants to supply its plants with its founding unit, St. Helena (SP), back in 1950. Second, the company was also the pioneer in Brazil in the use of co-processing in its plants. The practice was initiated in Rio Branco do Sul unit (PR) in 1991.

The company’s future actions to further its sustainability parameters were organised in a new plan in 2014: Our Commitments 2020. The document was based on the expectations of Votorantim Cimentos stakeholders and on major international trends in sustainability practices. The company’s commitments are clear and objective in this regard and expressed in four objectives that will guide the work of Votorantim Cimentos until 2020: Safety; Ethics and Compliance; Eco-Efficiency and Innovation, and Community Engagement. In addition, Sustainability is one of four drivers, next to Focus on Customer, Operational Excellence and People with Autonomy.

In this context, the company unfolded a series of actions aimed at increasing the use of energy sources that are progressively cleaner and more efficient, ensuring greater efficiency in the company’s production processes and also increasing the number of projects in this area. Votorantim Cimentos has consistently invested in Research and Development to reduce the share of clinker in cement production, reduce thermal and electrical consumption and the use of fossil fuels. The company’s goal is to reach 40% use of non-fossil fuels by 2020. Currently, the average of Votorantim Cimentos is 18%, one level above the rest of the industry in Brazil. In Europe, the percentage may reach 80% in some production units, indicating that the company and Brazil still have room for improvement. On the other hand, the company has achieved its planned target for 2020 to achieve a clinker/cement factor of 72%; in 2014, the achieved rate was 73.4%. This shows the robustness of the actions taken by the company and the commitment of its entire staff.

This is part one of a three-part article written for World Cement’s December issue and abridged for the website. Subscribers can read the full issue by signing in, and can also catch up on-the-go via our new app for Apple and Android. Non-subscribers can access a preview of the December 2015 issue here.

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