Cement industry cuts carbon footprint

13 July 2010

Cement Sustainability Initiative programme director Dr Howard Klee

Cement Sustainability Initiative programme director Dr Howard Klee

New figures from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development's (WBCSD) Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI) show leading companies in the global cement industry cut their CO2 emissions by -3.8% from 2005 to 2008 and by -14.3% comparing 2008 to 1990.

The CSI data covers more than 900 production facilities around the world and includes data from 46 cement producers. The figures not only show a reduction in CO2 for every tonne of cement produced, but also a reduction in absolute CO2 emissions. There was a fall in CO2 emissions from 596 million tonnes in 2007 to 577 million tonnes in 2008, which the WBCSD says reflects a slowdown in economic activity and construction output.

However, the CSI went on to say the figures were encouraging because they demonstrated that modern blending methods, alternative fuels and the improved energy efficiency of new cement kilns delivered a reduction in the amount of CO2 emitted per tonne of cement produced.

The CSI stressed that the important aspect of the findings are the specific, not absolute reductions. "Building and infrastructure projects, particularly in developing countries, will continue to increase demand for concrete - of which cement is the key ingredient. Independent predictions show that this demand will see cement production almost double in the next 20 years." explained Dr Howard Klee, programme director at the CSI.

The CSI's global cement database, Getting The Numbers Right (GNR) is a voluntary, independently managed CO2 and energy performance system that provides annual data on the cement industry. Companies reporting into the CSI's GNR database cover two thirds of output outside China, or about one third of global cement production.

The data highlights significant regional differences regarding the main levers for CO2 reduction. For example, in India cement plants are among the most thermally efficient in the world, while Europe leads in the use of alternative fossil fuels.

China, which is responsible for almost 50% of cement produced globally, has reduced net emissions significantly, thanks to an ongoing program of kiln replacement.

"The technologies used in the region for building new cement plants are now among the most advanced in the world," explained Dr Klee, who has seen five Chinese companies join the CSI in the past few months.

The latest data, released today, covers cement production in 2008. There is a one-year embargo on data release to comply with anti-trust regulations.

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