#36 Alternative Cement

This article looks into alternative cement as a climate change solution. It is based on the analysis of Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative to map the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.

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The authors open their section with the following:

Today, concrete dominates the world’s construction materials and can be found in almost all infrastructure. Its basic recipe is simple: sand, crushed rock, water, and cement, all combined and hardened. Cement – a gray powder of lime, silica, aluminium, and iron – acts as the binder, coating and gluing the sand and rock together and enabling the remarkable stonelike material that results after curing.”

The authors go on to explain that:

Its use continues to grow – significantly faster than population – making cement one of the most used substances in the world by mass, second only to water.”

Let’s look at the numbers that allowed alternative cement to be ranked as the 36th most powerful solution to reverse global warming. The authors research revealed that alternative cement could reduce CO2 emissions by 6.69 gigatons, for a net cost of -$273.9 billion. They concluded that net savings were too indefinite to be modelled.

The authors highlight the hotspot that makes cement so carbon intensive when they reveal that:

Decarbonising limestone causes roughly 60 percent of the cement industry’s emissions. The rest are the result of energy use: manufacturing a single ton of cement requires the equivalent energy of burning four hundred pounds of coal.”

To produce one ton of cement results in nearly one ton of carbon emissions. This has seen cement alone account for 5-6% of the worlds carbon emissions. A significant segment that requires urgent action.

To address this, the authors propose the following:

More efficient cement kilns and alternative kiln fuels, such as perennial biomass, can help address the emissions from energy consumption.”

The authors go on to explain the following:

“To reduce emissions from the decarbonisation process, the crucial strategy is to change the composition of cement. Conventional clinker can be partially substituted for alternative materials that include volcanic ash, certain clays, finely ground limestone, and industrial waste products, namely blast furnace slag… and fly ash.”

The authors also point to UNEP research, which reveals that:

The average global rate of clinker substitution could realistically reach 40 percent (accounting for all alternative materials) and avoid up to 440 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

What you need to know

This article looked into alternative cement as a climate change solution. It was based on the analysis of Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative to map the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.

We looked at how vast concrete use has become worldwide.

We looked at how the decarbonisation process is a carbon hotspot for the cement industry. This can be addressed by changing the composition of cement.

Action is urgently needed to address carbon emissions coming from this industry.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think about alternative cement?

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I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

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