In search of a Green Cement

In search of a Green Cement

What is the link between Cement and 2 degrees Celsius ? Funny as it may sound, there is a strong connect. The traditional industrial sector, like Power, Steel, Cement, and allied industries have been squarely blamed for the larger part of our greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, any discussion about mitigating climate change inevitably veers round to the adverse impact these industries will have on future climate change, if they are allowed to carry on with their businesses as usual. Current series of climate deliberations in Paris are centred on the objective of limiting global average temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius over the pre-industrial levels. In some ways, "Two Degrees Celsius" is becoming a kind of slogan or symbol of climate action, and perhaps a rallying point for climate activists. For this goal to be achieved, cement companies and other industrials, will have to play a major role in reducing CO
2
intensity (CO
2
emission per Ton of cement produced ), if not the absolute total emissions, going forward.

A position of argument opposing this viewpoint, is that there is an inherent conflict between development and climate, when developing nations at the lower rungs of per capita CO2 emissions ladder, are pressurised to accept targets and make commitments which are counter to the human development goals of such under-developed populations. Who does not know, that over the ages, per capita consumption of steel, power, cement and aluminium have been considered to be barometer for progress? And now, ironically, the developed nations, having enjoyed the fruits of decades of progress, having spewed huge quantities of CO2 over these decades and even today scoring per capita CO2 numbers ten times those of some emerging economies, are trying to make the so-called "victims" of climate change to pay, instead of the well-accepted principle of "polluter to pay".

However, we feel that notwithstanding this huge debate with opposing perspectives, the industrial and core sectors will find it increasingly harder to continue without visible mitigation achievements, and the cement industry will have to play its own role in this. Reductions in CO2 intensity can be achieved by adopting continuous improvements in energy efficiency, increasing usage of alternative fuels and deeper absorption of flyash/slag. But these measures cannot help bring down overall CO2 emission volumes, particularly in growing markets like ours. What is needed, is technological innovation, - solutions that can potentially change the game. We have to look for disruptive alternatives which bring about drastic cuts in usage of depleting natural resources like limestone and fossil fuels, or magical technologies that not only capture CO2 but also produce carbonates.

This is the future of cement. Directionally, the industry will have to move to a low carbon pathway, and for this, substantial investments are needed in R&D. Today, a large part of investigations for inventing Green Cement, is being conducted by universities and research institutes. This has to change. Industry has to wake up to its imperative, "must do" situation, and take a leadership role in this innovation, by investing significantly greater amounts of money into research for tomorrow´s cement.

In our cover story this time, we bring to you a bouquet of the low carbon options emerging from the laboratories. We would very much love to have your inputs and views on this topic, which seems to be a very critical issue for our succeeding generations.

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