Swiss decarbonisation report claims high cost for industry to reach net zero

Swiss decarbonisation report claims high cost for industry to reach net zero
01 September 2022

A collaborative decarbonisation report on the Swiss cement sector between ETH Zürich, Jura Cement, Vigier Holding, Holcim, cemsuisse, Swiss Federal Office of Energy and the Federal Office for the Environment has advised that net zero can be achieved by 2050 at a CO2 abatement cost of CHF113/tCO2 (US$115/tCO2). This would lead to a mothballed annual decarbonisation cost of approximately CHF300m (US$307m) for the Swiss cement sector.

The report claims that abatement costs rise with lower shares of biomass in the fuel mix and costs decrease with reductions in clinker-cement  ratio. As Swiss cement plants participate in the EU Emission Trading Scheme (EU-ETS), abatement costs were compared to the CO2 price in the ETS at the time of CHF86/tCO2.

Furthermore, the report suggests CO2 reduction costs can be substantially reduced even at the biomass volumes used in the industry today compared to permanent CO2 removal solutions.  This could allow for the sale of CO2 credits. However, decarbonisation is not achievable without carbon capture and storage (CCS). 

Deployment barriers to decarbonisation technologies include clinker substitution as highly-blended cements lead to longer setting times and on-site delays for construction. The availability and future price of supplementary cementitious materials is also considered a further obstacle, says the report.

Alternative fuels such as biomass and green hydrogen’s long-term availability are also considered concern and a barrier to significant fuel mix changes.

A further barrier is the energy cost of CCS. Absorbent-based monoethanolamine (MEA) capture would increase electrical energy and thermal demand by a factor of two at Swiss cement plants. A sufficient supply of renewable/CO2 neutral energy is required and availability of national and international CO2 transport and storage infrastructure. The cost of producing clinker from CH75/t of clinker to CHF191/t of clinker and the perceived lack of long-term investment security will also pose challenges. Finally, alternative clinkers today are three times more expensive than conventional clinker and a a lack of relevant standards are currently limiting their potential for mitigation on the timescale until 2050.

EU and Swiss policy can overcome some of the barriers, while some tailored solutions will be required. However, the report claims: "For technologies involving significant and high costs per tonne such as CCS, the current CO2 price and uncertainty over infrastructure and fuel and energy availability are insufficient to justify the expenditure."

More work needs to be carried out on overcoming these hurdles and a range of policy instruments are being developed  for the medium term, covering subsidies, incentives and pricing mechanisms.

Published under Cement News