Despite Progress During 2018, Reducing Carbon Footprint Remains a Challenge for the Cement Industry

London, 25 October 2019 - "We have made significant progress in 2018, and further improved our CO2 performance," says Christian Knell, President of VDZ (the German Association of Cement Manufacturers) which represents 15 German cement manufacturers with a total of 46 cement plants.

Over the past year, German cement producers have invested in many measures to further reduce their carbon footprint, primarily through better energy efficiency of new cement production facilities, and an increase in alternative fuels, particularly biomass. This reduction trend is highlighted by the Environmental Data of the German Cement Industry 2018, published annually by German manufacturers.

Nevertheless, despite this progress, the extent of industry decarbonisation needed in order to achieve the climate goals agreed at 2015’s Paris Conference will not be achieved by traditional transformations alone: it will only be possible with completely new technologies.

"It is clear that we are increasingly reaching our limits in reducing CO2 emissions with existing technology. We are therefore working on new, future-orientated technologies, above all on capturing CO2, which will allow us to use it or, if necessary, to store it," Knell continues.

Against this backdrop, the cement industry has been working intensively on carbon capture in recent years, under the umbrella of the European Cement Research Academy (ECRA). It may therefore now be possible to initiate the appropriate industrial-scale testing in the context of demonstration projects.

The reduction of the clinker factor in cement also offers potential to reduce CO2 emissions: for example, new types of cement with a clinker content of 35-64% have been developed. However, these cements can only be used when the EU Commission has published the revised and harmonised EN 197 European cement standard. In addition, rules for use must be adapted into concrete standards at a national level.

"Here, all those involved in the construction value chain are ultimately challenged to bring the low-clinker cements to the market for use," VDZ President Knell emphasises. "However, it currently remains unclear to what extent CO2 from the production process can be used or stored for other purposes.”

Crucially, there is a lack of a suitable CO2 infrastructure to which the cement plants could be connected. Here, all stakeholders from society, politics and industry will need to cooperate to find joint solutions.  

“It is encouraging to see that the German industry continues to make progress using the traditional levers to reduce GHG emissions”, said Ian Riley, WCA CEO, “As we noted at our Shanghai conference, investments in new technology, new products and supply chain optimisation are needed to achieve full decarbonisation of the industry.”