Developing technologies for a low carbon cement industry
Technology is a key pillar in the cement industry’s drive to reduce emissions levels and energy consumption. Research and development investments have enabled cement producers worldwide to install modern, energy-efficient technology in new, and to some extent, in existing, cement plants. New technologies have enabled increased use of clinker substitutes and alternative fuels in cement production, leading to significant direct (e.g. from limestone decarbonisation) CO2 emissions reductions. Technology developments have also enabled significant indirect emissions reductions (e.g. from electricity use). For example, cement production by companies in the ‘Getting the Numbers Right’ (GNR) global cement database increased by 53% between 1990 and 2006, whereas absolute net CO2 emissions increased by only 35%.
But existing technologies alone cannot reduce cement industry CO2 emissions indefinitely. A break-through technology is also needed, for example carbon capture and storage (CCS). For the cement industry, this means research, development, and piloting of carbon capture technologies in cement plants.
Collaboration between stakeholders is critical to advance potential technologies from laboratory testing to full-scale dissemination. In 2009, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the WBCSD together developed a cement industry technology roadmap. It outlines existing and potential technologies, and how they may help the industry support a halving of global CO2 emissions across all areas of business and society. It aims to help policy-makers and financial institutions work with the cement industry to adapt for a carbon-constrained world. The roadmap is based on IEA modeling and on 38 technology papers developed for the CSI by European Cement Research Academy (ECRA).