With unprecedented climate change in the news these days, occurrences like the heat dome across western North America, tornadoes in central Canada, and devastating flooding in Europe, global warming is increasingly one of the biggest concerns we face today.
In fact, in a recent survey by Amnesty International, participants were asked to pick five significant challenges, and in total, 41% of respondents said climate change was the most critical issue, making it the most wildly cited theme globally – more so than poverty, war, or pandemics.
Cement is one of the world’s building blocks, so innovation to reduce the carbon footprint is necessary.
With heightened awareness, industries, governments, and consumers are looking for ways to support green initiatives across entire industrial supply chains. One of those industrial supply chains is cement manufacturing which is responsible for about 8% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. This is because of the large amount of energy needed in the manufacturing process and just how much cement goes into the majority of building materials used in most global infrastructure projects.
This is because of the large amount of energy needed in the manufacturing process and just how much cement goes into the majority of building materials used in most global infrastructure projects.
Over 150 countries produce cement or clinker (the primary input into cement) to give you an idea. Overall, the United States is the third-largest cement producer, not surprisingly, just behind China and India. In comparison, Canada makes only about 17 million metric tons (Mt) of cement a year.
Cement is an amazing substance, used almost everywhere – from roads, skyscrapers, airports, and hospitals. Cement is one of the world’s building blocks, so innovation to reduce the carbon footprint is necessary. Thankfully, cement manufacturers have take steps to reduce their emissions thanks to several innovations.
Reducing the Cabon Footprint
While carbon dioxide emissions from the cement industry remain high, there has been, in fact, a decline in energy consumption (which means a reduction in CO2 emissions) between 1970 and today. Some of the decreases in energy consumption are due to conversion from the wet process of clinker making to the dry process.
Although the dry process is more complex, requiring more electricity to operate because it needs large-scale fans, in total, it actually consumes less fossil fuel.
The wet process uses water powered by fuel to manufacture the cement. It also stays in the rotary kiln for around three hours compared to just 20 minutes with the dry process, which uses compressed air to mix the dry material. As more manufacturers switch from the wet process to the dry process, it will further reduce greenhouse gases.
Another way cement manufactories can reduce carbon emissions is by using a biomass fuel source to power the plant instead of fossil fuels. Biomass fuel is renewable organic material that comes from plants and animals. In 2020, biomass provided nearly five quadrillion Btus or about 5 percent of the total energy used in the United States. As biomass became more widely available, it could decrease the overall operating cost of the plant and can also be an environmentally friendly method of waste management.
Cement manufactories can reduce carbon emissions is by using a biomass fuel source to power the plant instead of fossil fuels.
While the cement industry has yet to embrace digitalization, it is yet another possible way to improve efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide. If cement plants use interactive dashboards, algorithms, and smart computers, it could be a way to collaborate, solve problems and make informed decisions quicker. In addition, relying on computer information can improve yield, quality and cement-to-clinker rations – all of which would help increase energy efficiency and lower emissions. And lastly, a robust technology-based facility would further integrate the cement plant with the supply chain with a higher degree of efficiency.
The Importance of Supply Chain In Reducing Emissions
The cement industry can reduce its carbon footprint by reducing energy demands on the entire supply chain. By having lowering fossil fuel input, it would naturally mean lower greenhouse gas output. And according to McKinsey, one of the world’s leading consulting firms, a company’s supply chain can vastly decrease the environmental costs of its operations – sometimes up to 80%.
This could mean a considerable cut in CO2 emissions across the entire cement industry.
One of the most direct —and most straightforward— methods of reducing carbon emissions is by using high-quality, low emission ingredients such as limestone and silica in the making of the clinkers. Using only the best ingredients helps decarbonize the entire value chain while also increasing the strength, bond, and durability.
The mining industry that produces the raw material for the cement manufacturers is facing many of the same challenges as the cement industry. However, if mining operations and the cement industry combine their efforts to reduce carbon emissions by working closer together, it won’t just decrease carbon emissions but will improve the overall efficiency of the entire operation. By learning from each other, using alternate energy sources, and updating operations with improved, more efficient technology, the entire cement industry can be revolutionized.
At Sinova, we mine high-quality ultra-pure white silica that ensures your cement is durable yet environmentally sustainable. By using Sinov’s silica in your manufacturing process, you are also decreasing your carbon dioxide emissions which can be used in your reports and marketing material.
Cement will be the building block of a global infrastructure for the foreseeable future, so cement production isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon. This means that we need to find a way forward to combat climate change.
There is no one easy solution, and when it comes to manufacturing cement, it is best to look at the entire supply chain for answers. There has been a lot of progress in the last fifty years, but there is still much to do with developing countries building more infrastructure.
Everyone from the producers of the raw materials, the cement manufacturers, to the infrastructure builders need to work together to lower carbon dioxide emissions making cement cheaper and more energy-efficient.
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