Routes to carbon neutrality

Routes to carbon neutrality
20 September 2019

This week CemNet reported on a number of significant industry announcements relating to carbon reduction initiatives by cement companies.

In Europe, where carbon reduction is being driven through an increasingly tough regulatory environment and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), companies are under increasing pressure to act, and the industry is responding. LafargeHolcim said it plans to reduce the carbon footprint of its European businesses by 15 per cent (3Mt) on a like-for-like basis by 2022. In addition to investing CHF160m (US$160.87m) into technologies to promote low-carbon fuels and recycling materials, the company also hopes that by improving carbon efficiency through the value chain, further meaningful reductions can be achieved.

In the longer term, the European majors have also pledged to achieve carbon neutrality, one example being HeidelbergCement's Vision 2050 initiative.

However, to achieve this, Europe's producers will have to either succeed in developing transformative carbon capture technologies, or relocate clinker production, and therefore carbon emissions, to other parts of the world.

Carbon reduction in emerging markets
In emerging economies, where expanding populations continue to drive cement consumption growth, a commitment to reducing carbon emissions presents an even greater challenge. Yet in India, for example, cement producer Dalmia Cement (Bharat) Ltd, has announced its intention to become carbon neutral by 2040. The critical point of his claim was not just that that Dalmia Cement has cut 10 years off its previous target of 2050, but that it would be attempting to achieve carbon neutrality while still scaling up its cement production.

"To achieve the target of being carbon negative by 2040, the company is planning to adopt 100 per cent renewable power under fossil-free electricity initiative by 2030, double energy productivity by 2030, and switch to renewable biomass bamboo and waste to replace fossil fuel by 2035," explained Mahendra Singhi, MD and CEO of Dalmia Cement.

No cheap fixes
However, as in Europe, a transformative technology such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) will be required to make this ambition a reality, and Dalmia Cement has also announced plans to build a 500,000tpa carbon capture facility at its Tamil Nadu plant over the coming 2-3 years.

Other companies are attempting to develop CCS, but not one has come close to mastering it yet. Anhui Conch, the second-largest cement producer in China, which is exploring CCS technology in Anhui, has admitted that at the present the development of carbon capture is financially unfeasible.

Meanwhile, HeidelbergCement, which is at the forefront of developing CCS in Europe, is working with Group Equinor to see if it can take captured CO2 and permanently store it under the North Sea in disused gas and oil fields. But even if this can be accomplished, the fact remains that by capturing 400,000t of CO2 per year at HeidelbergCement's Norcem Brevik cement plant, this will only account for 50 per cent of the plant’s total carbon emissions.

Renewable energy
Other approaches to lowering carbon footprint are being explored. Cemex, whose low-carbon transition plan is aiming for a 29 per cent reduction target for CO2 emissions by 2030 from a baseline of 1990, has focussed on reducing its Scope 2 emissions for more than a decade by switching to renewable electricity sources, such as the Eurus and Ventika I/II wind farms in Mexico, which have a combined capacity of 500MW. In 2019 Cemex achieved 26 per cent of the electricity required for its cement operations through renewable sources.

UK Cement's 2050 strategy
The clearest plans for the public to see the cement sector reducing its carbon emissions though may be on a country-wide basis, even if individual companies will need to be held to account for playing their part in such large and comprehensive plans. At the start of 2019, Cemex UK, Hanson Cement (HeidelbergCement) and Lafarge Tarmac (LafargeHolcim) signed up to scenario one targets set by the Mineral Products Association (MPA) to see the UK's cement industry achieve an 81 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 from a base year of 1990. To achieve this there are several parts to the strategy, including:
• more waste-derived fuels, equivalent to 80 per cent of thermal input by 2050
• more carbon-neutral biomass fuels, representing 40 per cent of thermal input by bio-alternative fuels in 2050
• increase the share of lower-carbon cements: 0.5Mt of cement out of the UK’s 10Mta of cement production in 2050
• cementitious substitution: 30 per cent replacement by 2050
• fewer indirect CO2 emissions
• improved electrical efficiency and decarbonisation of the electricity sector: decarbonisation by 2050
• carbon capture and storage: 3Mt CO2 capture by 2050
• reduced transport emissions: 60 per cent lower CO2e in 2050
• reduced carbon accounting: taking consideration of the whole-life performance of a building
• plant efficiency: 22 per cent improvement in thermal efficiency by 2050.

Increased scrutiny
The cement industry knows it has to respond to the increasing voices for action on carbon reduction from society and authorities. In Europe the EU ETS Phase 4 (2021-30) compliance is expected to drive cement producers to even stricter carbon reduction targets, while recent initiatives by the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change are starting to hold cement producers to account for their carbon emissions.

This weekend, the cement industry's perspective will be represented by the Global Cement and Concrete Association at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, USA. The industry association will be moderating a focus panel on how to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The increased scrutiny from various quarters means the cement industry will certainly need to show positive results by 2050 – if not before.

Published under Cement News