• Swiss researchers plot pathway to zero emissions from cement and concrete industries

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) and the Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne (EPFL) have released a report in which they claim that the cement and concrete industry could reach zero net emissions by 2050. The use of cementitious materials across the world makes up around 8% of global carbon-equivalent emissions, and within cement making only around 40% of emissions come from energy consumption, with 60% coming from the chemical breakdown of limestone or limestone-like minerals. The report finds that there “is no practical alternative to the use of limestone due to its abundance and widespread distribution in the earth’s crust. Therefore, total carbon neutrality can only be achieved by recapturing this ‘chemical’ CO2.” According to the researchers, therefore, carbon capture and storage is required to make the cement industry carbon neutral. However, considering the entire value chain of cement, from cement production to concrete production and then construction using concrete, the report finds that 80% of emissions could be reduced (from the 1990 reference level) even without carbon capture and storage. The improvements would come through ten different technological improvements, including kiln improvement, alternative fuels, recycling fines as raw materials, alternative binders, carbon capture and storage, concrete mix design, and structure optimization. The report is full of information and provides a valuable resource.