Cement and progress on carbon capture

HVCA and Hope Cement Works – Meeting with Breedon on 13th July

The Hope Cement Works is by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the Hope Valley and its emissions and energy consumption dwarfs all other industrial and domestic sources.  There is no immediate prospect of the Cement Works closing, not least because of the continuing demand for cement for construction.  It is therefore important that HVCA engages with Breedon, who own and run the Works, to encourage and support them in moving quickly on the industry’s road map to net zero.

HVCA had a meeting at Breedon on 13 July to learn about the latest progress and thinking on decarbonising cement production.  Jeremy Wight, Roger Clarke and Steve Platt represented HVCA, and Ed Cavanagh and Spencer Green were there from Breedon.  Spencer presented and there was a wide-ranging discussion. These are the key points.

Cement production’s contribution to CO2 emissions

Cement production emits a lot of carbon.  Globally, it accounts for 7% of emissions.  Although in Britain the proportion is much less, because we use less cement per capita than most other countries, it is still a significant contributor to greenhouse gasses.  About a third of the emissions are from burning the fuel to reach the necessary high temperatures within the kiln, and most of the remaining emissions are a result of the chemical reaction of calcination, which releases CO2 from limestone.

Figure 1 Cement production process and Percentage contribution to CO2 emissions

The path to net zero

The UK Concrete and Cement Industry have produced a roadmap to reach net zero[1].  Of the various measures to reduce emissions, carbon capture and storage (CCS) accounts for over 60% of the planned reduction.  CCS is therefore vital if the industry is to meet zero carbon targets.

 


[1] UK Concrete and Cement Industry Roadmap to Beyond Net Zero (2020) Mineral Products Association

 

Figure 2 UK Cement industry's roadmap to net zero by 2050

Progress on carbon capture and storage (CCS): the Breedon view

Spencer went on to describe current progress on CCS.

Despite some false starts and set-backs, CCS has made progress and is the industry’s preferred approach to CO2 reduction. 20-35 million tons of CO2 are currently being sequestered globally per year. Globally, there is sufficient storage capacity for 1000 years at the current rate of cement production. Much of the capacity is in areas of oil and gas extraction in North America, the North Sea, the Middle East, Australia, and Far-East Asia.

Currently, there is only one commercial capture and storage plant operational in the UK, at Tata’s Northwich plant in Cheshire. This has a capacity of up to 40,000 t/a of CO2, which is being utilised to produce baking soda, and came online in June of this year. There are, however, many more working plants elsewhere. North America has by far the largest number of CCS projects, but there are also plants in Norway, Belgium, and Germany. In the UK, there are five planned CCS projects, but none has reached the construction phase. For example, Drax has a planning application to capture 8 million tons per annum from two units and store this in the North Sea. And as part of the Hynet Merseyside Cluster, Padeswood Cement Works, a part of the Hanson Group, in North Wales, is investigating storage in the Liverpool Bay and Morecambe oil field.

Norcem Brevik, Norway - first large=scale carbon capture plant in Europe

The necessary infrastructure is not cheap or small. There are various options for capture and cleaning. For new cement plants the technologies are Oxifuel and Calcium Looping. For an existing plant, like Hope Cement, Amine Scrubbing is closest to realisation. Capture might cost about £400 million and the infrastructure to transport the CO2 to storage might cost a further £300 million. The plant would be about half the size of the current works.

Nevertheless, Government and industry are envisaging storing 120 million tons per annum by 2050. To this end the Government’s BEIS department has been developing the business model to make this happen and has just published a consultation document on its proposals for Industrial Carbon Capture (ICC).[1] The object of the proposals is to incentivise capture and storage of CO2 and to create a system of sustainable financing that gives confidence to investors to enter the market.

The HVCA perspective

Breedon are clearly thinking actively about how to reach the net zero target, along with Government and the rest of the cement industry. But they are placing a great deal of reliance on a technological solution which is as yet unproven and is not in commercial operation in the UK. Meanwhile emissions remain high. HVCA urges Breedon to adopt a more diverse strategy which would include:

  • Removing coal from the mix of fuel which currently powers the Hope Valley manufacturing process
  • Looking at alternative, lower-carbon ways of producing cement
  • Investing in building products which use little or no cement
  • Continuing to shift movement of raw materials and the finished product from road to rail
  • Investigating whether the surplus heat produced at Hope Cement Works can be used for community purposes, such as heating homes or public buildings.

HVCA welcomes continued dialogue with Breedon and will report further.

[1] Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage: Industrial Carbon Capture business model summary and consultation. Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy. June 2022

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