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Cement Industry Grapples with Emissions Challenge

Cement factories produce more than 5% of mankind's carbon dioxide emissions. Innovation is needed!

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California Green Chemistry Initiative

Cement industry plants release over 5% of carbon dioxide emissions

Cement factories make up one of the world's biggest industries and they represent an industry that produces more than 5% of mankind's carbon dioxide emissions.

And they were in Brussels in October, 2007 to discuss climate change.

Cement is the key ingredient in concrete, and one that is rapidly gaining attention as a major obstacle on the world's path to a low-carbon economy.

"The manufacturing process depends on burning vast amounts of cheap coal to heat kilns to more than 1,500C. It also relies on the decomposition of limestone, a chemical change which frees carbon dioxide as a byproduct. So as demand for cement grows, for sewers, schools and hospitals as well as for luxury hotels and car parks, so will greenhouse gas emissions. Cement plants and factories across the world are projected to churn out almost 5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually by 2050 - 20 times as much as the government has pledged the entire UK will produce by that time," reports David Adam with The Guardian.

Concrete is the second most used product on the planet, after water, and almost half of it is produced in China. The booming Chinese economy has created such a demand for building materials that cement production there last year released 540 million tonnes of carbon dioxide - just short of Britain's total output from all sources. Cement's weight and low value mean it is almost always made close to where it is needed, and China's demand helped it to overtake the US as the world's leading polluter last year.

Some cement companies have taken steps to reduce their environmental impact. Some burn waste products alongside coal, while others have reworked their recipes and tried to make their plants more energy-efficient, with modest success. The CSI companies are working to standardise such techniques and to issue guidelines on how they can be adopted by others, and plan to publish a progress report in February, 2008.

Michio Kimura, chairman of Taiheiyo, said: "Without a [binding] cap then emissions will go up. But we must stop production to meet a cap and that is not good for business. We focus on energy intensity, better performance for the industry and technology." In the long term, only carbon capture and storage could significantly reduce cement emissions, and the industry sponsors research into how this could be done.

Mr Papalexopoulos said: "Sustainability is always talked about from an ethical perspective, which is right, but we also need to look at sustainability based on a business rationale. Regional caps such as the European scheme create an uneven playing field and have unintended consequences.

"Does it make sense from an environmental perspective to cap cement production in Europe, and for cement companies in Europe to shift production to North Africa, where there are less stringent controls? This a global problem, not a regional one. Our industry is trying to develop a global sector approach, which we believe would be better."

SOURCE: The Guardian, UK

Edited by Carolyn Allen
| cement | global warming | carbon footprint |


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