Although green cement production will, initially, be confined to developed countries, China and India will catch up quickly given their dominance on the world cement scene.
These are the conclusions from a new study entitled The Future of Green Cement to 2020. Based on extensive primary research and expert technical and market insight, the study also reveals how demand for alternative cement-like materials will grow from almost nothing to just under 17 million tonnes over the next ten years.
Cement is perhaps one of the most necessary and widespread resources in the world. At the same time, there is no viable replacement for cement, and the cement industry has a heavy impact on the environment. In terms of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions alone, the cement industry produces about 5% of man-made CO2 emissions globally.
The traditional production process also takes a heavy toll on natural resources and can produce many other negative emissions into the environment. It has become a universal imperative for cement companies to determine the best way to reduce the environmental impact of their production process without hindering productivity or economic efficiency. Fortunately, many practices are increasingly proving to reduce or eliminate the environmental impact of the production process without degrading the quality of the end product. Such practices include:
- The use of recycled materials
- The use of alternative fuels
- The use of value-added raw materials such as geopolymers
- Industrial symbiosis (synergy)
- Sequestration of carbon dioxide
- Dry process technologies
- Oxygen kilns.
According to the study, the key points to bear in mind when considering a move towards sustainability in the cement industry are:
Sustainable development is a popular trend in the developing world, as more governments, societies and businesses realise the necessity of considering the needs of future generations while providing for the current generation.
The cement industry is poised to take a leading role in the sustainable construction industry, as concrete is a naturally sustainable building product.
To take advantage of the growing sustainable construction market, cement companies need to improve the environmental impact of their products so that it can be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified.
Cement currently has a large negative environmental impact, especially in terms of CO2 emissions.
Cement production can become greener, or more sustainable, by reducing the negative environmental impact of operations, by respecting human rights, and by becoming more efficient and cost effective.
Several technologies have been developed that can promote sustainable practices in the cement industry.
Implementing environmentally and socially beneficial practices can often be economically beneficial as well in the long term, directly or indirectly.
Cement production trends will be the continual development of more sustainable practices, and the industry will experience more societal and legal pressure to implement these practices.
Cement production involves selecting and preparing raw materials, usually minerals, to produce a synthetic clinker mixture containing the specified chemical composition, which can be made into cement powder. When mixed with water this cement powder forms a paste that sets and hardens. It can be used in a variety of applications, in particular construction. The key step in the clinker production process is the pyroprocessing (or burning) of cement; the aim is to convert large volumes of raw material into clinker that meets the correct specifications at as low a cost as possible.
According to Smithers Apex, the successful completion of this process is vital to the global economy, as cement is used for construction projects and other uses all over the world. If any part of the process was to break down, the effects could be far-reaching and devastating. Thus, it is important to ensure that the cement industry has a readily available source of raw materials, that process controls produce clinker with the correct chemical composition, and that the process remains cost-effective enough for cement companies to stay in business and supply the product at a manageable cost to the consumer.
Market trends in green cement
There are numerous new technologies in the cement industry that include improved ways of carrying out the traditional cement production process as well as entirely new ways of approaching cement production. The study outlines several major trends and technologies:
The cement industry has long been ahead of the curve when it comes to industrial symbiosis, also known as industrial ecology. The practice involves using waste products from one industry or processing plant in some way at another. While other industries, including the mineral processing industry, have only recently begun exploring symbiotic practices, it is standard practice in the cement industry. Smithers Apex expects this to increase in the ten years to 2020 as landfill and waste disposal restrictions become more stringent and companies are forced to seek alternative methods of disposing of their process waste. In 2005 The Cement Sustainability Initiative produced 'Guidelines for the Selection and Use of Fuels and Raw Materials in the Cement Manufacturing Process'. This document is important for several reasons:
- It provides a standard for cement companies to adhere to, ensuring consistency of production and transparency of practices;
- It provides a method of assessing whether a material is too hazardous for utilisation in the cement production process;
- It assuages the concerns of stakeholders over the safety and reliability of the use of alternative materials, particularly wastes.
According to the study, by 2020, as environment-friendly cement becomes more widely available, it will be used to varying degrees for different purposes. Personal use - defined as small, private projects undertaken by one or more persons for their own use and not for profit - will likely see near total green cement penetration, at least in the developed world. The growing environmental consciousness of people worldwide has already led many to change their buying habits. Even more expensive products are more likely to be bought by individuals if they are considered more green than similar, less expensive products. Commercial construction - defined as any non-residential buildings - is the second most likely market for green cement. Companies keen to present themselves as environmentally responsible have the funds to purchase greener materials, even if they are more expensive than traditional cement.
In addition, many governments now require a greater level of environmental awareness in projects they fund, leading to more pressure on construction companies to buy green building materials including cement. There will be some penetration of green cement into the residential housing market. This will increase if more countries follow the UK's lead in adopting strict residential construction laws requiring all new buildings to be carbon neutral.
The Future of Green Cement to 2020 is available now, and includes 10-year forecasts, case studies and trends in cement-producing countries that are designed to help those along the cement supply chain navigate today's challenges and be poised to take advantage of tomorrow's opportunities.
For further information please contact Bill Allen on +44 (0)1372 802086 or email Bill.