Mission to become a net-zero industry

Mission to become a net-zero industry

Indian cement companies are aggressively investing in renewable sources of energy such as solar energy, wind energy, alternative fuels, and WHRS to meet sustainability goals.

Net zero by 2050 is a pledge taken by most of the countries that include all industries. Companies across the globe have geared up to meet their CO2 reduction targets and meet their obligations under the UN Paris Climate Agreement. In April 2018 a report by the CDP concluded that producers needed to double their emissions reductions to meet the 2 degree Celsius global warming target outlined in the Paris Agreement.

The cement and concrete industry alone are responsible for 8 per cent of the total national emissions. UK cement producers are testing new types of cement production methods and low-carbon concrete techniques to eliminate carbon emissions and become a net-zero industry. 

As per the latest ICRA report, major cement companies will invest up to Rs 1,700 crore in two fiscal years ending March 2022 to set up 175 MW of waste heat recovery system (WHRS) capacities for saving power costs. It takes an investment of up to Rs 8-10 crore to set up 1 MW WHRS, and the overall cost for the 175 MW for FY21 and FY22 will come at Rs 1,400-1,700 crore, it said.

We all know that the cement industry is one of the largest emitters of CO2 globally. Currently, the cement industry alone is responsible for approximately 7-8 per cent of global carbon emissions. And players in this industry across the globe are conscious of this problem and acting towards finding the best solution to cut down their carbon footprints. Indian companies are also catching up with the speed to meet the carbon cutdown mission. Whether it is through new technologies or alternative fuels or alternative cementitious materials, cement players are leaving no stone unturned to achieve the sustainability targets.

It is important to understand that a major share of emissions is associated with clinker production. 

Is the target too ambitious?

Before finding a solution, it is important to understand where does the crux of the problem lye? The core of GHG emissions lies in the manufacturing process of cement. The major share of emissions is associated with clinker production and the rest of the emissions are related to electricity consumption and fuel consumption. 

Naveen Kumar Sharma, Whole-time Director, Udaipur Cement Works (UCWL) believes that to make these targets viable, we will be needing greater support from government and related agencies, in form of policy introduction to making available the fuel grade alternative waste materials, reducing compliance burden, and providing financial incentives. 

“With the current pace, I see that the industry has the potential to achieve a TSR of around 10-12 per cent by 2025 and about 20 per cent by 2030”, he adds. 

How can we achieve this?

The Indian cement industry targets to achieve 25 per cent TSR by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030. This can be met by using a combination of approaches. These include—using biomass alternative fuels, waste heat recovery, supplementary cementitious material (SCMs), process efficiency, automation, lower clinker cement, renewable power, better heating solutions, recarbonisation of concrete, etc.

We will talk about a few options below.

Policies: Government policies play a major role in helping to cut down emissions of the cement sector. PAT Scheme is one such example, says Sharma. “Outcomes of PAT II indicate that the sector exceeded its energy-saving target by 41.82 per cent, yet this has not been much appreciably considered by Govt in terms of incentivising the efforts.

Also, regulations like the Plastic waste management Act are focused on this direction. Still, more actions are required in terms of providing platforms

and channels to help the industry aggressively take the low carbon emission path, which is now being taken care of by the present central government”, he suggests. 

He further says that incentivising new innovative technology like CCS, allowing manufacturing and sale of multiple types of blended cement, like in European markets, and encouraging mandatory use of blended cement in projects such as “smart cities” and “housing for all” could help in achieving the sustainability targets. 

Blended cement: As mentioned in the cover story, supplementary cementitious materials or SCMs are alternate materials used to replace the clinker in cement grinding, which is usually done through the pyro process. As we all know, the pyro process is an energy-intensive process as it involves the heating of limestone powder up to a temperature of 1,400 degree Celsius. By using SCMs are used, it significantly helps cement plants to cut down on energy consumption and reduce heat generation. Most importantly, SCMs can lead to a significant reduction of the carbon footprint of concrete, and hence, cement players are exploring blended cement to achieve sustainability goals. 

“The unutilised fly ash can be further consumed in the cement or concrete manufacturing process after conducting lab test trials for more than 35 per cent addition of fly ash in cement, which is the current BIS limit. We can also encourage the usage of fly ash bricks in the housing sector. Relaxations in the limit of fly ash addition i.e. 35 per cent to Portland pozzolana cement will also result in higher consumption,” says feels Sanjay Joshi, Chief Manufacturing Officer, Nuvoco Vistas.

Carbon capture & storage (CCS)

According to a recent global survey conducted by FLSmidth, there is a growing acceptance level of carbon capture in the cement industry. 85 percent of respondents now believe at least 10 percent of plants will currently be running some form of this technology and that it will be standard by 2030.

Traditionally, the carbon capture and storage methods have been proved to be expensive and require a good amount of infrastructural and logistical investments. However, there has been improvement in carbon capture and utilisation technologies in recent years. The good news is that 90 per cent of the CO2 can be captured and stored using carbon capture technologies.

For instance, HeidelbergCement will realise the first industrial-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) project at a cement production facility in the world at Brevik. The process at Norcem Brevik cement plant will use a mixture of water and organic amine solvents to absorb the CO2. This process can be applied to emissions from various sources, from gas, coal, cement, refineries, and waste-to-energy through to hydrogen and other process industries.

WHRS capacities

As of FY21 end, major players such as Shree Cement, UltraTech Cement, Nuvoco Vistas Corporation, Birla Corporation, JK Cement, JK Lakshmi, Dalmia Bharat, The Ramco Cements, ACC, and Ambuja Cement together had installed WHRS capacities of 520 MW, adding this contributes around 16 percent of their total power requirement, as reported by Icra.

GHG emissions can be significantly reduced with the help of the latest technologies like IoT and AI/ML, and so on. Data analytics helps in giving insightful information on various processes in kilns, fuel consumption, and raw material consumption patterns.

Ambuja Cement and ACC have undertaken an industry-first approach – leveraging sustainable construction through green products, to reduce CO2 emissions in India. ACC’s ECOPact reduces CO2 emissions by up to 100 per cent, enhancing the sustainable offerings for the construction industry. It is the first Indian cement company to sign the net zero pledge with science-based targets. ACC has its 2030 carbon emission reduction targets endorsed by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). The company has signed the “Business Ambition for 1.5 degree Celsius” pledge and joined the Race to Zero campaign of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

At UCWL’s unit in Rajasthan, out of the total, around 53 per cent of electricity consumption share is sourced from renewable sources, which helped the company to reduce GHG emission to the tune of around 40 million kg in last FY. The company further aims to expand its WHR capacity up to

15 MW and solar to14 MW at the site respectively in the upcoming years.


Electrical emissions from cement plants can often be sidelined. But it is noteworthy that minimising this is essential for producers seeking net-zero CO2 emissions. Many cement companies are exploring wind and solar energy as electricity from wind and solar power is now cheaper than that made using fossil fuels, nuclear energy in terms of cost per MWh. Cement players can look at alternatives such as solar panels or turbines on roofs or in other parts of the plant.

Indian companies never lag when it comes to innovation. In recent years, many cement companies have been investing in a big way in alternative or renewable energy sources, which has led to multiple benefits apart from reducing carbon dioxide footprint.


Talking about India, it is not an overstatement that Indian cement companies are leaving no stone unturned for meeting the net-zero mission. There is significant potential for these deployments to drastically cut the amount of CO2 generated in cement production. However, companies need to be fully committed to their sustainability goals and be prepared to make changes to their traditional processes. Moreover, the targets could be achieved if more policies are formed to incentivise the demand for green cement.

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