Study aids decarbonisation plans in emerging markets

Study aids decarbonisation plans in emerging markets
20 October 2022

A recent study into how cement is used in emerging markets has revealed a number of trends with key implications for the decarbonisation of the cement industry.

The study, titled ‘Paving the way for a better future’, was carried out by the Concrete Action for Climate initiative of the Mission Possible Partnership, co-led by the Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA), the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and centred on four emerging markets that consume high volumes of bagged cement: India, Brazil, Egypt and Indonesia.

According to the study, the majority of cement in these markets is consumed by small-scale projects, run by individuals with limited materials and engineering training, thereby creating the need for education. In the US and western Europe, around one third of cement is used in single and multi-family homes while nearly half is used on infrastructure. In contrast, in Indonesia, 60-70 per cent of cement is used in the construction of single-family homes with only 10-15 per cent going into infrastructure. As a result, the majority of those specifying the cement are local contractors who are often not formally trained to optimise the strengths and volumes of concrete used in projects, and also have limited awareness of how to reduce their projects’ carbon footprint.

The study also found that in these markets, cement is not only primarily bagged but also often hand-mixed on-site, increasing the risk of inefficient use of cement as few control measures are in place. Projects tend to be small and may not have access to bulk cement plants. For example, in Egypt around 40 per cent of the cement used is bagged, compared to less than five per cent in the US. Meanwhile, in Brazil, as much as 50 per cent of the cement used is hand-mixed. Emerging markets need to support the transition to bulk cement and ready-mixed concrete, alongside expanding the use of quality control mechanisms such as mixing equipment and standardised measurements for bagged cement.

According to the study, as urbanisation rates increase in these emerging markets, investment in infrastructure also expands, fuelling a shift away from bagged cement to bulk cement as projects increase in size. This trend is already being seen across the four markets in question, with bulk cement in India accounting for 20-25 per cent of cement consumption today, compared to zero just 20 years ago. In Egypt the figure has risen from 10 to 40 per cent over the last decade alone.  

This brings with it new challenges and opportunities. On the one hand, larger projects require higher strength, and potentially more carbon intensive, concrete, while, on the other hand, the increasing use of bulk cement has the potential for more supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs) and greater quality control. Governments are urged to identify and reform restrictive codes that hinder decarbonisation in large capital projects, as well as ensuring that as they transition to bulk cement, they are making full use of SCMs to reduce the carbon intensity of cement.

The study concludes that it is vital for emerging markets to ensure their cement and concrete decarbonisation plans reflect the way their countries use cement not only today but also how they will use it in the future. The GCCA 2050 Net-Zero Roadmap Accelerator Program is using insights from studies such as this to help national cement industries accelerate local implementation of the GCCA global roadmap to net-zero cement and concrete.

Published under Cement News