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Carbon capture from cement manufacturing nears market readiness

A consortium led by Australian firm Calix is now well on the way to completing a pilot plant for its breakthrough technology that will capture carbon emissions from the manufacture of lime cement. Other projects with similar aims to reduce the global warming impact of construction with concrete are also racing to the marketplace.

The pilot plant, known as LEILAC (Low Emissions Intensity Lime And Cement), is based in Europe to take advantage of European funding for carbon capture and storage projects. But the core technology was developed by Australian firm Calix, which won Australia’s Company of the Year and the Food & Agritech awards in 2015.

With global urbanisation adding a city the size of Shanghai to the planet every four months, and much of this involving cement, it’s crucial to tackle the 60 per cent of total CO2 emissions that are released directly, and unavoidably, from processing of limestone. The cement and lime industries contribute seven per cent (or 1.9 Gt annually) of total global anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

Europe was responsible for one fifth of this total in 2013, and to meet the European Union’s emission reduction target alone, carbon capture will need to be applied to 59 per cent of European cement plants. But globally all cement and lime industries are under intense competitive and cost pressures, so the race is on to find a cost-effective way to address the climate challenge of concrete.

So far, as we detailed in December 2016, the best available technologies for the production of cement and lime presently have no carbon capture capability, and reducing climate emissions in the cement and lime industries is mostly confined to improving kiln efficiencies and using non-fossil fuels.

Calix has been operating a 25 kilo-tonne per year kiln since 2013 that embodies indirect heated and direct CO2 separation for magnesite (MgCO3). The LEILAC project will extend and scale up the technology into lime and cement. Calix partnered with European organisations to overcome what it saw as the limitations of Australia’s geographical isolation.

The pilot plant, financed by the EC’s Horizon 2020 fund, is at the HeidelbergCement plant in Lixhe, Belgium, and aims to capture 95 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions and is currently on budget and schedule to be completed and verified by the end of 2020.