Potential for Gigaton Scale Reduction of CO2 in Cement Industry
The cement industry is one of the most carbon-intensive industries due in large part to the thermal energy required to produce clinker, the key component of cement. The world produced 3 billion metric tons of cement in 2009, emitting more than 2.4 gigatons (Gt) of CO2 into the atmosphere. The industry predicts global cement production is projected to grow to 5.9 billion tons by 2020 amounting to annual CO2e emissions from the production of cement
to more than 4.8 Gt. China alone is expected to produce an extra 4 billion metric tons of cement annually by 2020. At a price of roughly $100 per metric ton,1 the profit margin for the industry is around 33 percent. The total size of
the global cement market is more than $250 billion.
Aggressive pursuit of proven carbon intensity reduction measures has the potential to reduce emissions by 0.9 Gt to 3.4 Gt annually before 2020. Upgrades to existing cement plants and the construction of new buildings using efficient technologies translates to at least a 0.9 Gt emissions savings. The largest potential source of reductions with proven technology is the accelerated use of alternative fuel (370 Mt), followed by clinker substitution with alternative materials (300 Mt), thermal energy efficiency improvements (140 Mt), and electricity efficiency improvements (90 Mt).
Emerging technologies have the potential to further reduce emissions significantly. Since calcination is the primary source of emission in the cement industry, the most promising technologies going forward are binders that are adequate alternatives to clinker. These include alkali-activated, magnesia, and sulfo-aluminate cements. Another promising class of technologies – those with the potential to sequester CO2 from flue gas and process it to produce building materials – is fast emerging, but is unlikely to scale within the time frame of interest. The potential for scaling traditional methods of carbon capture and storage (CCS) is remote, owing to high estimated capital costs for using such technology – $592.9 billion according to the IEA BLUE scenario, with little expected return without a price on carbon.