DOE confirms cement industry’s near-term CO2 elimination prospects 

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Sources: U.S. Department of Energy; CMCM staff

U.S. Department of Energy Deputy Secretary David Turk led off a Climate Week New York City session noting how proven processing approaches or methods will enable cement producers to book a 30 percent greenhouse gas emissions reduction by the early 2030s and perhaps an additional 10 percent cut by 2050. The metrics set an upbeat tone for the Portland Cement Association and Global Cement and Concrete Association-hosted “Decarbonization Through Collaboration – Accelerating Cement Toward Carbon Neutrality,” a two-hour presentation on day three of London-based Climate Group’s Climate Week NYC program (September 17-24).

The DOE Office of Technology Transitions document is posted here.

The PCA-GCCA gathering afforded Deputy Secretary Turk an optimal backdrop to announce DOE Office of Technology Transitions’ just-released Pathways to Commercial Liftoff: Low-Carbon Cement. The 80-page report tracks carbon dioxide emissions reduction benchmarks for the industry over the 2030-2050 window, the latter years primed to address the 60-70 percent CO2 emissions cuts needed beyond those presently within reach. Authors define the Pathway to Liftoff on these tracks: 1) currently deployable measures, notably clinker substitution, energy efficiency, alternative fuels; 2) carbon capture, utilization, storage (CCUS) through retrofit installations and integration into new plants; 3) alternative production concepts, including non-traditional feedstocks and equipment other than rotary kilns; and, 4) alternative binder chemistries to traditional cement clinker. 

To realize carbon-neutral operation by mid-century, authors list among key challenges or considerations for producers and downstream stakeholders:  

• Market lacks uniform standards to define low-carbon materials and enable informed procurement;

• Industry can see a 10- to 20-year adoption cycle for new blends and materials, reflecting lengthy lead times for updating standards and customer acceptance;

• Decarbonization approaches may come with structural cost increases; and,

• CCUS or other project types may lack support from local communities and the public due to environmental and safety concerns. 

Pathways to Commercial Liftoff: Low-Carbon Cement is the latest in a series through which the DOE aims “to establish a common fact base and ongoing dialogue with the private sector around the path to commercial clean energy technologies across core U.S. industries.” The Industrial Decarbonization Liftoff series addresses cement, aluminum, chemicals, food and beverage processing, glass, iron and steel, plus pulp and paper—the eight industrial sectors of Inflation Reduction Act focus.

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