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TimePosted 20/05/2019 09:44:09

Cement needs collaborative approach to environmental challenges

This week, HeidelbergCement reported that it was the first cement producer to have its CO2 reduction targets validated to 2030, while the Low Emissions Intensity Lime And Cement (LEILAC) pilot plant began test operations at the company's Lixhe cement works in Belgium. This landmark project, which aims to capture 95 per cent of CO2 emissions from the kiln, is an example of the kind of collaborative industry partnerships that will be critical for the cement industry, if it is to successfully develop cost effective carbon-zero technologies.

Many of the major cement producers are significantly expanding their reduction efforts in response to more urgent environmental needs. Individually, companies are responding proactively by setting clear and accountable targets. LafargeHolcim, for instance, has released its 2018 Sustainability Report this week which sets out its objectives and achievements in reducing its CO2 emissions per tonne of cementitious material. The group has revised its target to 520kg CO2/t of cement by 2030, down from 576kg CO2/t of cement in 2018, and it has set an interim target of 560kg CO2/t of cement by 2022.

Much of this carbon reduction will be achieved by well-established methods, such as clinker substitution. LafargeHolcim reports that clinker production accounts for 68 per cent of its total Scope 1 (direct) emissions in cement production, and alternatives to clinker in the form of pozzolans, slag and fly ash materials have increased clinker substitution to 28 per cent of LafargeHolcim’s cement products.

However in the long term, cement companies will need to discover technological solutions of a great order if they are to completely offset all carbon emissions, and these efforts will require deep collaborative engagements.

HeidelbergCement aims to become carbon neutral by 2050, but achieving this objective is not guaranteed, unless the industry is able to work together to find solutions. Peter Lukas, director of global environmental sustainability at HeidelbergCement, called for further support to ensure the wider industry can demonstrate to politicians and the public that a viable solution to address unavoidable carbon emissions related to cement production can be delivered. 

The right policies
In addition to industry collaboration, governments must also play a role in developing the right policies to support the changes required for the cement sector to be able to contribute to a more sustainable, circular economy.

Over the course of EU Green Week, Cembureau, the European cement association, has been asking the European Commission why it is that a coordinated approach to unlock co-processing's full potential has not yet been developed across the continent. Cembureau is seeking a reliable method to address the legislative and regulatory differences that exist across Europe to ensure the cement sector can attain a 60 per cent co-processing rate, which an Ecofys study estimates to be deliverable by 2030. Currently on average 44 per cent of the heat needed to produce cement in Europe is sourced from alternative fuels, but there are significant differences in the level of co-processing across member states, ranging from a low of seven per cent in Greece up to 65 per cent in Germany.

Meanwhile, the Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCAA) has taken a message to the World Built Environmental Forum Summit that concrete can play a central role in the creation of a modern construction sector. "Concrete has innate benefits including strength and durability which the world of the future will need," said Dr Andrew Minson, concrete and sustainability director of the GCCA. "It is uniquely placed to help the world transition to clean energy." However, he stressed again how important it was to come together with leading institutions such as the World Bank, IFC, US Senate and Bank of England to improve all aspects of the circular economy.

Clearly it is vital that industry players, politicians and global institutions pursue a collaborative approach if they are to effectively address environmental challenges facing the world today.

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