WCA, A³&Co develop roadmap to help Mena cement producers to decarbonise

WCA's 2022 Annual Conference and Exhibition will take place in person, September 25 to September 28, 2022 in Dubai at Emirates Towers.


Sandhya D'Mello

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Published: Sat 24 Sep 2022, 6:49 PM

Last updated: Sat 24 Sep 2022, 6:51 PM

The World Cement Association (WCA) and A³&Co have developed a roadmap, specifically aimed at helping cement producers in the Mena region to decarbonise.

Companies that follow the practical steps outlined in the roadmap can expect to achieve reductions of up to half their current emissions, Ian Riley, CEO, WCA told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview.

"Key steps focus on operational excellence, increasing the use of supplementary cementitious products, fuel switching to use more waste and biomass, and improving energy efficiency through a range of possible measures including waste heat recovery (WHR), cooler retrofits, process fan optimisation and so on," said Riley.

Ian Riley, CEO,  World Cement Association.
Ian Riley, CEO, World Cement Association.

Helping cement companies in the region to progress their decarbonisation journey represents a significant opportunity to make a meaningful difference to global carbon emissions, and is a major focus for the WCA, particularly ahead of COP 27 and COP 28.

WCA's 2022 Annual Conference and Exhibition will take place in person, September 25 to September 28, 2022 in Dubai at Emirates Towers.The delegates will be able to see examples of one of the most prominent sustainable cities in the region.

Riley shared three technologies that can have a significant impact on carbon emissions for cement companies, and can reduce costs at the same time.

First, using waste heat to generate electrical energy (waste heat recovery or WHR) is a well-established technology and earns a return based on electrical power savings, so is an easy win for most companies. The one caveat is that for countries where electrical power is subsidised, such as Egypt, there is less of an economic case for investing in WHR, though from an environmental standpoint it is still worthwhile.

Second, increase the use of supplementary cementitious products (SCM) in place of clinker, which is one of the main ingredients in conventional cement but has a very high, and hard to abate, carbon footprint due to its manufacturing process.

The most commonly used SCMs are by-products of other industrial processes, like fly ash from burning coal and blast furnace slag, though these materials are in short supply in the Mena region. However, there are alternatives such as calcined clay and natural pozzolans which are in more plentiful supply. New technologies are making both of these materials more effective than before.

Third, substituting coal with other fuels can substantially reduce emissions. Many alternative fuels such as municipal and agricultural waste can be burned in cement kilns and have substantially lower carbon emissions, so this is an area of real potential where local municipalities can help encourage adoption.

"To have the greatest impact on cement industry decarbonisation, and to succeed in implementing some of the most important changes does require participation right the way along the supply chain to make the most of the available carbon savings," said Riley.

The construction industry has a vital role to play. For example, on many building projects, fewer types of concrete are often used in order to simplify logistics. But this results in over-specifying, and using larger amounts of concrete with higher carbon footprint than is necessary.

"If developers and construction firms issue tenders that prioritise low-carbon construction, we will naturally start to see more low-carbon concrete being used where possible, instead of defaulting to the conventional and higher-carbon alternative," adds Riley.

The WCA — founded in 2016 — is the original international cement association representing and promoting the interests of the global cement industry worldwide.

WCA connects members across the world and provides practical help to improve competitiveness and sustainability. The majority of its members are cement producers, ranging from some of the world’s largest companies to smaller manufacturers, however, it also represents members from across the wider value chain, including technology, engineering and equipment suppliers.

WCA supports a sustainable cement industry, encouraging technical development and innovation by its members to work towards the goal of decarbonisation, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the 2015 Paris Agreement.

"It is also essential that the construction industry accepts new products, such as those with lower clinker, and does not insist on using high clinker products. Governments have a key role to play here in ensuring appropriate standards exist, and are updated to reflect technological developments," said Riley, who joined the WCA in 2019, contributing to WCA’s key mission of sustainability, innovation and internationalisation and facing the challenges of creating a sustainable cement industry.

Riley has a wealth of international experience, having worked across the cement industry in Europe, America and Asia; most recently in China where he spent the last ten years as Country Head for LafargeHolcim. He actively works with the cement industry which considers ways of reducing GHG emissions so as to achieve the full decarbonisation by 2050 and accelerate the response to climate change.


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