Carbon Capture and Its Role in the Concrete Manufacturing Industry

Carbon dioxide emissions

Carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) is a collection of technologies that can play a significant role in mitigating climate change by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere. CCUS involves capturing CO2 from industrial processes or directly from the air, and then utilizing or storing it long-term.

The concrete manufacturing industry is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for an estimated 8% of global CO2 emissions. The production of cement, which is the main ingredient in concrete, is particularly carbon-intensive as it involves the heating of limestone and clay at high temperatures.

The use of CCUS technologies offers a promising solution for reducing CO2 emissions from the concrete industry. Post-combustion capture involves capturing CO2 from the exhaust gasses of cement plants. This captured CO2 can then be either utilized for other industrial purposes or stored underground in geological formations.

CCUS can also be used to capture CO2 directly from the air, known as direct air capture (DAC). DAC technologies are still in their early stages of development, but they have the potential to play a significant role in achieving net-zero emissions.

The captured CO2 can be utilized in various ways, including:

  • Enhanced oil recovery: CO2 can be injected into oil fields to help extract more oil, which can offset the use of virgin crude oil and reduce overall emissions.
  • Production of synthetic fuels: CO2 can be converted into synthetic fuels, such as methanol or gasoline, which can be used to power vehicles or generate electricity.
  • Production of building materials: CO2 can be used to produce a variety of building materials, such as concrete blocks and roofing tiles, which can help to sequester CO2 and reduce the carbon footprint of the construction industry.

In addition to capturing and utilizing CO2, the concrete industry is also exploring other ways to reduce its carbon footprint. These include:

  • Using alternative fuels in cement production: cement plants can reduce their emissions by using alternative fuels, such as biomass or waste-derived fuels, instead of fossil fuels.
  • Improving energy efficiency: cement plants can improve their energy efficiency by using more efficient technologies and processes, such as waste heat recovery systems.
  • Increasing the use of supplementary cementitious materials: supplementary cementitious materials, such as fly ash and slag, can be used to partially replace cement in concrete, which can reduce CO2 emissions.

By adopting CCUS technologies and other emission-reduction strategies, the concrete industry can make a significant contribution to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and mitigating climate change.

The Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA) has set a goal of achieving net-zero emissions from the concrete industry by 2050. The GCCA has developed a roadmap that outlines the key technologies and strategies that will be needed to achieve this goal, including CCUS.

The European Union has launched a number of initiatives to support the development and deployment of CCUS technologies in the concrete industry. These initiatives include the Carbon Capture and Storage Directive and the Innovation Fund.

A number of concrete companies are already exploring the use of CCUS technologies. For example, Heidelberg Materials is working on a project to capture CO2 from its cement plants in Germany and Norway. Holcim is exploring the use of DAC technologies to capture CO2 from the air.

The development of CCUS technologies for the concrete industry is still in its early stages, but there is a growing momentum behind these technologies. As CCUS technologies become more cost-effective and widely available, they are likely to play an increasingly important role in reducing carbon emissions from the concrete manufacturing industry.