30 years of ICR

Published 02 July 2018

Welcome to this special 30th Anniversary issue of International Cement Review, in which we explore the development of the cement industry over the past three decades alongside the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Thomas Armstrong, Managing Editor, International Cement Review

Over the course of the last three decades, ICR’s objective has been to report on and debate the industry’s technical and market developments, and to provide essential information, knowledge and expertise in support of the cement industry’s successful development.

In return, we’ve been rewarded with an engaged and loyal readership, made up of a range of industry stakeholders, many of whom have provided contributions to this special anniversary issue.

The industry has enjoyed a dramatic expansion since ICR first went to press in 1988, with cement production quadrupling to over 4bnt by 2018, tracking the demographic and economic growth of the world economies. Each person on the planet now consumes an average of 550kg cement, up from 200kg in 1988. By 2048, the population will rise to nearly 10bn, driving production even higher, to in excess of 5bnt.

This massive achievement is down to the investors and company owners, in collaboration with the technology and equipment suppliers, who together have built, run and maintained today’s 6bnta installed global capacity.

To help tell the story of how this was achieved, we open the issue with a rare and insightful interview with one of the main protagonists and most influential of all our sector’s investors, Dr Thomas Schmidheiny: an empire builder, whose formidable deal-making transformed his company, Holderbank, into the world’s largest multinational building materials group, LafargeHolcim.

In addition, we hear from Dr Bernd Sheifele, CEO of HeidelbergCement, another industry titan who provides a behind-the-scenes discussion of the company’s recent acquisition of Italcementi, and shares his views on where he sees the industry today.

Taken as a whole, the interviews, commentaries and technical articles presented in this issue highlight one common theme: that change is as much ahead of us as it is behind us.

Discussing the outlook for the corporate landscape, seasoned analyst Jean-Christophe Lefèvre-Moulenq warns that “Nothing will remain the same. Over the 15 next years, the building material sector will experience a complete reshuffle, driven by the demand shocks and an out-of-date structure.”

The greatest change facing the industry, however, is the challenge of sustainable development. The cement industry is responsible for 5-7 per cent of global man-made CO2 emissions. If the world is to succeed in meeting the objectives set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement of limiting the average global temperature increase to 2˚C by 2050, business as usual is not an option.

Therefore, driven by this increased awareness of the impact of climate change on human civilisation, demand for innovation has never been so strong or more pressing than it is today.

As Philippe Fonta of the Cement Sustainability Initiative recognises in his article, the cement industry has already achieved a great deal in terms of its CO2 reduction measures; improving energy efficiency, clinker reduction and alternative fuel utilisation. But to meet the target of reducing global direct CO2 emissions from cement manufacture by 24 per cent by 2050, compared to current levels, as set out in the CSI/IEA Technology Roadmap, far more work needs to be carried out.

Innovation will help us achieve this, argues Dr Martin Schneider, VDZ’s chief executive, who is optimistic that the right technological pathway can be found, relying on existing and new technologies (notably carbon capture), to deliver the targeted CO2 reductions.

Also in this issue, we focus attention on manufacturing excellence, to show how cement plants operating at ‘best-in-class’ mode can perform at impressively high levels of efficiency. This will only increase as more and more plants are able to optimise their activities in the areas of energy efficiency, waste co-processing, lower fossil fuel consumption and so on.

Furthermore, promising technologies are advancing in the areas of lower CO2 clinkers and, as Karen Scrivener reports, through innovations in supplementary cementitious materials and limestone calcined clay cements, which offer viable new ways to produce cement with less clinker.

All of these themes are tied together in commentaries by our team of technology experts, Michael Clark and Arthur Harrisson.

Finally, we dedicate a large section of this issue to the possibilities of industry 4.0. While digitalisation may not disrupt the industry to the extent that it has for media or the financial industries, it will have a powerful and transformative impact on cement manufacturing and operational efficiency. We envisage the rapid development of technologies and solutions that have the capacity to drive immediate change: greater efficiencies, higher productivity and availability, lower environmental impact and safer working conditions.

In reading this issue you will encounter the views of many industry leaders, experts, investors and technology suppliers who not only appreciate the important role our industry plays in global development but also display a sophisticated understanding of our responsibilities and the challenges facing us, combined with an optimism for the future. It is a reassuring read and one that shows our industry is in the right hands to face the challenges ahead.

To our readers, contributors and advertisers – a heartfelt thanks from the whole ICR team for your ongoing support. We hope you enjoy this issue.

Thomas Armstrong
Managing Editor
International Cement Review

This article was first published in International Cement Review in July 2018. 

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