Holcim and Geocycle accelerate green growth

Holcim and Geocycle accelerate green growth
03 February 2023

Geocycle and Holcim have been paving the way for using low-carbon alternative fuels to reduce carbon emissions and divert industrial by-product waste from landfill. The US and Canada, in particular, have seen major developments from recent new investment by Holcim and Geocycle.

In 2022 Geocycle LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Holcim (US) Inc, claims that it prevented approximately 1.7Mt of waste in the USA going to landfill. It has targeted the provision of finding sustainable solutions for more than 5Mta of waste in its North American operations by 2030. The company currently operates 21 preprocessing and co-processing facilities across North America, including its affiliate Systech Environmental Corp. Geocycle is also the leading promoter of coal combustion products (CCP) in the region using fly ash, bottom ash, synthetic gypsum, pond ash, landfilled ash and slag in co-processing. Holcim US has 13 cement plants with internally controlled CCP use options for alternative raw material consumption. Geocycle also carries out research at its Holly Hill Research Center in South Carolina, USA, and at Holcim’s Innovation Centre in Lyon, France.

As part of these green growth efforts, this week Holcim and Geocycle USA announced the completion of the new alternative fuel feed project at Holcim’s Holly Hill cement plant, South Carolina. Geocycle invested approximately US$10m to design and build the new waste recycling capacities to co-process non-recyclable plastic, fibre and expired consumer products during cement production. This will allow the Holly Hill plant to increase the amounts of alternative fuels being used. Combined with the previous capabilities, the plant is now able to replace up to 80 per cent of fossil fuel use with lower-carbon options. Moreover, the project will further reduce the plant’s CO2 emissions by 36,000tpa. This is equivalent to the carbon sequestered by 595,263 tree seedlings grown for 10 years, says Geocycle.

The Holly Hill project follows the recent investment at the Ravena cement plant in New York, which began its waste fuel project with Geocycle in August 2021. This was a government-funded study to see how the cement plant can use construction waste from the US Army Corps as potential fuel for cement kilns. Geocycle also looked at ways they can recycle the waste into new cement. The US Army Corps Engineer's Engineer Research and Development Center spent US$3.4m on the study.

"The partnership with the US Army Corps of engineers will help us better understand this material and see how we can create a circular economy programme leading to a zero-waste future," said Jocelyn Gerst, Holcim US spokesperson.

In addition, Holcim US, Geocycle and CenterPoint Energy Inc announced in December 2022 that they were embarking on a major milestone in their multiyear initiative to recover and recycle more than 6Mt of coal ash for beneficial reuse in producing cement at Holcim's flagship cement plant in Ste Genevieve, Missouri. They invested a combined US$80m in infrastructure to remove, process, transport, store and recycle coal ash produced at CenterPoint Energy's AB Brown generating station in Evansville, Indiana. The Houston-based company operates two coal-fired generation plants in southwestern Indiana. The coal ash will reduce the cement plant’s consumption of natural materials, such as clay and sand. 

In the same month, Geocycle LLC acquired CM Rubber Technologies Inc, the largest tyre recycler in northern Michigan, as part of its ongoing commitment to create a zero waste future and accelerate green growth. The acquisition will allow Geocycle to provide a sustainable waste management solution to northern Michigan through co-processing used tyres to recover energy and divert waste from landfills.

Additionally, it will deliver a stable source of lower emissions fuels for the Alpena cement plant, in Alpena, MI, which recently broke ground on a 22,000tpa whole-tyre co-processing line. By early 2023, the Alpena plant will begin to co-process tyres from the Geocycle Coleman facility, reducing CO2 emissions and delivering a low-carbon, circular economy model for the region.

New Canadian initiative
Meanwhile, Lafarge Canada (Holcim Group) and TransAlta Corp entered into an agreement in January 2023 to advance low-carbon concrete projects in Alberta. The newest project will repurpose landfilled fly ash from TransAlta's Canadian coal-fired electricity operations west of Edmonton, which ended in 2021. The ash will be used to replace cement in concrete manufacturing.

However, to be used in concrete landfilled fly ash must first go through a beneficiation process. Therefore, the project will use the Ash-TEK Ponded Ash Beneficiation System (PABS) technology, which consistently produced high quality ash during trials and proved to have a low-carbon footprint and an economical operating cost. Lafarge will deploy this unique approach to the process, removing moisture from the ash, milling it, and removing excess carbon, ensuring that it meets regulatory standards and market expectations.

Geocycle will also join the initiative. The organisation brings experience in managing millions of tonnes of fly ash in the US. "Landfilled fly ash sometimes has too much carbon, which affects how much air there is in the concrete," commented Sophie Wu, head of Geocycle, North America.

1Mta of alternative fuel usage surpassed
While Geocycle and Holcim's growing efforts to build circular economies, improve sustainability and increase recycling in North America have been highlighted, this week there was also a reminder that southeast Asia has equally embraced this transition. Holcim Philippines Inc announced that it converted around 1Mt of qualified wastes into alternative fuels and raw materials for cement production in 2022. Among the beneficiaries of the company's circular economy drive are 35 municipalities and cities across the Philippines that were able to divert waste away from landfills.

Published under Cement News