Global cement industry leaders and officials involved in the US administration’s voluntary six-nation Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development & Climate have drafted an action plan that does not set greenhouse gas reduction targets for the sector but calls for assessing emission levels in China and other data-poor countries and setting up programs to spread "best operating practices" worldwide.
The task force plan is expected to be approved by a higher-level Asia-Pacific Partnership panel this week. While the task force’s action plan does not include any specific GHG emission-reduction targets for the industry, "That’s something that comes in the future," the industry source says.
Other projects in the broad action plan include issuing a white paper in 2007 on key legal and regulatory issues and pursuing a cement-kiln co-generation demonstration plant in Australia that will use waste heat from cement production to generate electricity.
Under the Asia-Pacific Partnership, industry and government officials from the United States, Australia, Japan, India, China and South Korea are seeking to meet goals for energy security, national air pollution reduction, and climate change in ways that promote clean energy as a basis for sustainable economic growth. The Bush administration created the partnership as a voluntary alternative to the Kyoto protocol’s mandatory GHG requirements. It operates through eight task forces for specific market sectors.
Cement industry task force members approved an action plan at a Sept. 20-22 meeting in Xi’an, China, and the organization’s overarching policy and implementation committee is expected to adopt the plan at an Oct. 11-13 meeting in Cheju Island, South Korea.
Cement manufacturing worldwide emits about 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually. That accounts for approximately 5 percent of global man-made CO2 emissions, according to the action plan. Energy makes up about 40 percent of the cost of cement production. The six countries in the partnership account for about 61 percent of total worldwide cement production.
"A critical challenge for this sector is the lack of available data, which if available could inform decision-making processes and potentially lead to increases in efficiency," the action plan states. "As a result, one of the key components of the cement task force’s effort is to address this lack of data." The plan also notes that "the prevalence of proprietary research in this sector has further challenged information sharing practices."
In addition, "Another important element of this group’s work will be to share information on good/best practices so that these may be replicated where appropriate in this very de-centralized sector," according to the action plan.
Efforts to compile data and establish benchmarks will focus primarily on China, according to a U.S. industry source involved in the effort. "It’s fair to say the initial benchmarking types of steps are the kind of actions that a lot of the members in the U.S., Japan and Australia have already accomplished," the source says. "China is, by an order of magnitude, the largest cement industry in the world. And the range of cement processes runs the gamut -- from very modern plants . . . to stuff left over from the industrial revolution."
The action plan’s "flagship" project -- or the task that will receive top priority in the near-term -- is dubbed the "Center of Excellence." This project "actively advocates the need for all participating . . . governments and their cement industries to operate at environmental best practice," according to the plan. "It also provides scholarships and a skilled worker exchange program to assist companies to implement best practice technologies in areas of energy reduction, GHG reduction and in better utilizing alternative fuels and raw materials in cement production."
U.S. industry representatives are concerned that if their operations overseas, especially in China, are not implementing the types of costly emission-reduction and energy-efficient technologies and processes being installed at American facilities, the competitiveness of U.S. companies will erode. Even though 80 percent of cement production facilities located in the U.S. are controlled by foreign parent companies, the U.S. industry source says there is a strong desire to keep those facilities here.
The cement task force also identified barriers to achieving the maximum potential for improving energy efficiency. For example, in Australia, "permitting requirements necessitated by multiple-levels of government create challenges to the development, expansion, and movement of cement-related products," the action plan states. In China, the country’s "large size and diversity of local circumstances has created challenges in generating meaningful benchmarks and other measurement tools."
The Australian demonstration plant outlined in the cement industry’s plan will document the economic and energy efficiency gains obtained by using cement plant waste heat to generate electricity. "A reduction in GHG emissions will also be demonstrated as the co-generation reduces the cement plant’s use of grid electricity," the plan states. "The project will also demonstrate mechanisms to address the technical and engineering challenges involved in retrofitting co-generation facilities to an existing cement manufacturing plant."