New report investigates methods to reduce carbon emissions in cement industry

New report investigates methods to reduce carbon emissions in cement industry

The roadmap is designed to identify and develop efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

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Concrete and Aggregates

A combination of technology and policy solutions could provide a pathway to reduce direct carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the cement industry by 24 percent below current levels by 2050, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), Paris, and the Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI), Geneva.

As a flagship sectoral project of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), Geneva, the CSI is a global effort currently gathering 24 major cement producers that have operations in more than 100 countries and have integrated sustainable development into their business strategies and operations.

The technology roadmap, called “Low Carbon Transition in the Cement Industry”, provides an update to the global “Cement Technology Roadmap” produced in 2009. The aim of the technology roadmap is to identify and develop international collaborative efforts, to provide evidence for decision making in the cement industry and policies to keep progressing toward a sustainable cement sector that contributes to the effort of limiting the global temperature increase to 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius).

The cement sector is the third-largest industrial energy consumer in the world, responsible for 7 percent of industrial energy use, and the second industrial CO2 emitter, with about 7 percent of global CO2 emissions, IEA and CSI say.

As the global population rises and more people move into cities, global cement production is set to grow by 12 percent to 23 percent by 2050, and direct carbon emissions from the cement industry are expected to increase by 4 percent globally by 2050 under the IEA Reference Technology Scenario (RTS). The RTS takes commitments by countries to limit emissions and improve energy efficiency into account. The IEA’s 2 Degrees Scenario (2DS) lays out an energy system pathway and a CO2 emissions trajectory to limit the average global temperature increase to 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) by 2050, implies greater efforts to reduce emissions from cement manufacturing.

The low-carbon transition of the cement industry can only be attained with a supportive regulatory framework as well as effective and sustained investments, IEA and CSI say. Achieving the transformation set in the 2DS would require increasing those investments. Governments, in collaboration with the industry, can play a determinant role in developing policy and regulatory mechanisms that unlock the private finance necessary for such a boost in investment.

The roadmap uses a bottom-up approach to explore a possible transition pathways based on least-cost technology analysis for the cement industry to reduce its direct CO2 emissions in line with the IEA’s 2DS. Reaching this goal would require a combination of technology solutions, supportive policy, public-private collaboration, financing mechanisms and social acceptance, IEA and CSI say.

Improving energy efficiency and switching to alternative fuels, in combination with reducing the clinker content in cement and deploying emerging and innovative technologies like carbon capture and the use of alternative binding materials, are the main carbon-mitigation methods available in cement manufacturing.

Further emissions savings can be achieved by considering the overall life cycle of cement, concrete and the built environment. This can include optimizing the use of concrete in construction by maximizing design life of buildings and infrastructures, encouraging reuse and recycling, reducing waste and benefiting from concrete’s properties to minimize energy needs for heating and cooling of buildings.

The roadmap outlines policy priorities and regulatory recommendations, discusses investment stimulating mechanisms and describes technical challenges regarding research, development and demonstration.