ALCCC calls on Europe to adopt performance-based standards

ALCCC calls on Europe to adopt performance-based standards
31 May 2023

The Alliance for Low Carbon Cement and Concrete (ALCCC) has published a new report, ‘Fast Tracking Cement Decarbonisation’, calling for a shift to performance-based cement and concrete standards to accelerate the decarbonisation of the European cement industry. According to the report, clinker substitution is generally seen as the most promising lever for decarbonisation, enabling considerable reductions in the industry’s carbon footprint in the short term at near-zero costs, followed by other levers such as carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS). Although safe and low-carbon solutions already exist, market access is needed, and existing cement and concrete standards prevent this from happening.

The report highlights that the current standards do not allow new materials and innovations to enter the market on a large scale. By shifting to performance-based cement and concrete standards, this barrier would be removed, allowing for the creation of a level playing field for low-carbon cement and concrete solutions. This could potentially reduce the industry’s emissions by 50 per cent, says the ALCCC. Performance-based standards would define the final properties of a product on the basis of key characteristics (eg, strength, durability, fire resistance, sustainability), in line with current practices. However, this would be done in a much cleverer way, no longer locking in specific carbon-intensive cement compositions, or characteristics that are specific to Portland cements only.

“Europe is particularly well placed to lead on clinker-substitution, building upon a strong cement industry, leading research institutes on cement and concrete, and a large availability of clinker substitutes,” says the report. “European cement standards are outdated and highly prescriptive in nature, rigorously outlining what ingredients can be used in the cement mixes, and in what quantities. These standards, however, were created at a time when decarbonisation was not yet a fundamental objective”.

The ALCCC is calling for the European Commission to urgently adopt a standardisation request to develop a performance-based standard for common cements. Once this has been accepted, CEN needs to fast-track the development of the standard, as well as revising and aligning cement testing standards with performance-based approaches. Finally, CEN and National Standards Bodies need to revise concrete standards so that they allow and promote the use of all low-carbon constituents.

If the EU is serious about its ambitions to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent, there is an urgent need to mandate European standardisers to ensure performance-based cement standards become the new normal, replacing the existing prescriptive approach, says the ALCCC.

Published under Cement News