+ Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Across the Cement Value chain - CII Blog

Much of the action taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, globally and in India, has revolved around increasing energy efficiency in manufacturing processes and the product-use stage. Cause improving energy efficiency is considered the most economically viable means of reducing emissions and hence is a shared policy goal of governments across the world.

While increased energy efficiency can achieve significant emission reduction, its benefits have plateaued. Material efficiency is another avenue with great potential for reducing the environmental impacts of several industrial processes. The few studies that emphasize the need for increased material efficiency focus mainly on the manufacturing stage. While this stage may often be the stage that generates the most emissions, it is necessary to expand the scope to cover the entire product life cycle to tap all possible avenues of reducing emissions.

The greatest decarbonization challenge lies in sectors where industrial processes require high-temperature heat and/or where the processes/chemical transitions involve CO2 emissions. These sectors are commonly termed hard-to-abate sectors and include heavy industries (cement, steel, and plastics) and heavy-duty transport (heavy-duty road transport, shipping and aviation) sectors.

It is relevant to examine resource efficiency opportunities in hard-to-abate sectors for climate mitigation. It is estimated that the adoption of circular economy frameworks such as lighter designs, improved yields, more intensive use, product sharing, and increased recycling can reduce emissions by 56% from the production of cement, steel, aluminium and plastics.

India is the second largest producer of cement in the world, with an installed capacity of nearly 557 MT and production levels reaching 337 MT in 2018-19.16 installed capacity and production levels have grown at 10% and 6% per annum over the last 13 years. The capacity utilization has been around 60% to 90%. The demand for cement is expected to reach 550 to 600 MT per annum by 2025.

Resource Efficiency in The Cement Value Chain

As the world’s second-largest producer of cement, a focus on the cement value chain as a whole and the need for heavy-duty transport in this sector will help quantify and tackle emissions. Examining the cement value chain across extraction, manufacturing, distribution, in-use and end-of-life, highlights the importance of manufacturing and transportation in this sector.

Each point of the value chain is associated with stakeholders whose actions and decisions influence the choices made at each step, thereby directly or indirectly affecting GHG emissions in the cement life cycle or value chain: identifying these stakeholders stage-wise is important.

The manufacturing stage may often be the stage that generates the most emissions. But it is necessary to expand the scope of efficiency improvements to cover the entire product life cycle and tap all possible avenues for reducing emissions.

The Future of Cement Manufacturing in India

The cement industry is one of the eight core industries of the Indian economy and will continue to grow. The adoption of technologies enhancing energy and process efficiency by cement manufacturers is widespread. However, actual reductions in GHG emissions using these strategies will become incremental in the coming years as these technologies encounter thermodynamic barriers.

A current report by CII states that managing energy and process emissions at the manufacturing stage is not the only means of reducing GHG emissions. Measures in other parts of the value chain can help reduce the demand for cement and the emissions associated with its manufacturing.

The following interventions can be explored in the Indian context:

  • Buildings can be designed to reduce total demand for cement by using lightweight and long-lasting construction materials, modular construction techniques, designing for deconstruction and designing for numerous end-uses to lengthen the hours a building is in use during the day.
  • Total demand for cement during construction can be reduced by employing instruments to detect and control cement waste, as well as industrialized manufacturing and pre-fabrication procedures. Admixtures and fillers can also be used to minimize the amount of cement required in concrete.
  • GHG released during the production stage can be minimised by investigating the possibility of employing clinker alternatives to minimize emissions during calcination, green hydrogen as an alternative source of energy, and carbon capture and storage for process emissions.
  • At the distribution stage
    • Railways should be the preferred mode of transport, followed by shipping, road and air. 
    • Using dedicated freight corridors to transport raw materials and final products.
    • Adopting new fuel technologies such as biodiesels, liquified natural gas, e-methanol, e-ammonia, electric batteries, hydrogen fuel cells, and battery and fuel cell hybrids should be incorporated into the transport system. 
  • To effect profound change, it is necessary to incorporate knowledge of these features, as well as the significance of life cycle thinking, into academic courses in higher education. Professional courses for architects, civil and chemical engineers, material scientists, and designers should familiarize students with the challenges of working in a resource-constrained environment affected by climate change.
  • Financial instruments and policy directives incentivizing efficient operations, processes and uses of material can motivate action by stakeholders through the value chain. Some of the recommended measures are relatively easy to implement and can bring about large benefits.

This article is based on the CII report on Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Across the Cement Value chain.