Is carbon captured an asset in cement production?
cement production

Is carbon captured an asset in cement production?

As carbon capture increasingly gains acceptance in the cement industry, companies around the world are innovating new ways to use the captured CO2 to create a circular carbon economy.

As carbon capture increasingly gains acceptance in the cement industry, companies around the world are innovating new ways to use the captured CO2 to create a circular carbon economy.

Acceptance of carbon capture appears to be growing in the cement industry, according to a recent survey of industry participants by FLSmidth. The vast majority of respondents, some 85 per cent, now believe at least 10 per cent of plants will be running some form of the technology and that it will be standard by 2030. This is a 9 per cent increase on last year.

Awareness also appears to be growing with only 7 per cent of respondents indicating they didn’t know what carbon capture was, down from 13 per cent last year.

“Carbon capture is a necessary enabler in the green energy transition. The development of new technologies is accelerating quickly and we are monitoring the progress closely. There are no silver bullets for the decarbonisation of cement, but carbon capture utilisation and storage will be a critical solution for any hard-to-abate industry.”

- Carsten Riisberg Lund

Cement Industry President at FLSmidth

A good example of this comes from Norway where Norcem Brevik is working to install the first commercial-scale carbon capture plant in the cement industry. In April, Norcem’s parent company, HeidelbergCement, and FLSmidth signed an agreement that will see FLSmidth’s process and equipment experts deliver the necessary plant modifications to allow the carbon capture technology to be integrated into the cement-making process.

Don’t waste what you capture: the commercial reuse of CO2

The latest survey also highlighted the importance for onward commercial use of CO2 captured by the cement industry. Only 15 per cent of respondents thought underground storage the most likely result for captured carbon; the rest pointed to potential uses for CO2, both within construction and in other industries.

“I’m convinced that the carbon captured will be an asset, rather than a challenge,” continued Lund. Smaller-scale carbon capture and utilisation projects may also be a quicker way to its widespread deployment than the sort of large-scale and capital-intensive project being pioneered in Norway, especially as the various technologies continue to develop.

“A multitude of smaller projects with direct utilization options will yield a greater impact and would be faster to implement,” explained Lund. “Co-locating carbon capture and utilisation facilities also removes the need to transport the CO2.”

What carbon utilisation means in practice, however, appeared less clear to survey respondents. A third thought that it was most likely to be liquified for further use. This rather vague response perhaps highlights the need for more education and understanding over the many and various economic uses that captured CO2 could have.Other respondents did pinpoint specific uses of CO2 with 27 per cent saying it would most likely be mixed and stored in other building materials and 20 per cent pointing to its use in synthetic fuels.

Outside the industry the expectation to carbon capture in cement are also high. New innovation and emerging technology plays a significant part of the International Energy Agency’s Technology Roadmap for Low-Carbon Transition in the Cement Industry. They estimate that carbon capture will account for nearly half (48 per cent) of the cumulative CO2 emissions reductions needed in cement, based on the 2 degree Celsius scenario in the Paris Agreement.[1]

So, what can you use CO2 for?

A number of companies, such as Carbon8 Systems (C8S) in the UK, are focused on utilising captured CO2 to create engineered mineral products for use in a variety of applications. Known as Accelerated Carbonation Technology (ACT), C8S’ innovation takes the CO2 directly from a flue stack and combines it with solid waste residues, e.g., from air pollution control systems or cement bypass/kiln dust, to create artificial aggregates for use in construction or artificial fertilizers for use in agriculture.

For quick and convenient deployment, C8S has developed ACT to be deployed as a container-based plug-and-play system, known as the CO2ntainer. The CO2ntainer has already been successfully deployed in trials at a CRH cement plant in Toronto, Canada, and at HeidelbergCement subsidiary, Hanson Cement in the UK.

FLSmidth has signed a global commercial partnership with C8S to accelerate the cement industry’s Net Zero ambitions. Carbon capture is essential to achieve a sustainable global cement industry – which currently accounts for 7-8 per cent of global carbon emissions - and deliver on FLSmidth’s MissionZero pledge to enable zero emission production by 2030.

Working with C8S, FLSmidth will use its global network to extend the reach of C8S’ carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) solution. C8S’ technology, already deployed at a VICAT cement plant in France, takes CO2 directly from process gasses and combine it with bypass dust from the production to manufacture a lightweight aggregate which can be used in construction.

“FLSmidth will work closely with Carbon 8 Systems to accelerate the implementation of its technology and we will draw upon our in-depth know-how, our products and our global presence. This agreement is a significant leap forward in our joint efforts to deliver on the sustainability ambitions for the global cement industry.”

- Carsten Riisberg Lund

Cement Industry President at FLSmidth

Back in April, a process to use CO2 in concrete production was named one the most scalable breakthrough technologies to convert CO2 emissions into useable products. One of two winners of the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, the technology chemically mineralises CO2 during concrete production to make greener and stronger concrete. It’s already being deployed commercially at more than 300 concrete plants around the world by its Canadian developer, CarbonCure.

As part of the 54-month competition, CarbonCure demonstrated the first integrated project to capture carbon from cement kiln emissions for beneficial reuse in concrete production. The company has also introduced technology to carbonate the reclaimed wastewater from concrete plants to produce concrete with reduced water, cement and carbon intensity.

The circular carbon economy

The commercial re-use of captured CO2 offers a different perspective on a chemical that is so often maligned. Re-imagining it as a commercial resource offers the chance to build a circular carbon economy in which CO2 is valued for its many and various uses – rather than simply rejected as a climate-destroying waste product. It also helps to avoid the political and economic challenges associated with managing the transportation and geological storage of huge quantities of CO2 underground over long periods of time.

At FLSmidth, we have a clear ambition to do our part in limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. We are supporting the cement industry’s transition to a low-carbon future through our MissionZero sustainability programme, which aims to help cement producers move toward zero carbon emissions by 2030. We are also working in our business to lower greenhouse gas emissions across our supply chains and to achieve carbon neutrality at our own operations by 2030.

Reference

[1] https://iea.blob.core.windows.net/assets/cbaa3da1-fd61-4c2a-8719-31538f59b54f/TechnologyRoadmapLowCarbonTransitionin theCementIndustry.pdf

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