‘Breakthrough’ CCS technology paves way for sustainable construction industry

A technological innovation that will enable Europe's cement and lime industries to significantly reduce their environmental footprint through carbon capture and storage (CCS) has received €12m backing from the European Union.

The Low Emissions Intensity Lime And Cement (LEILAC) consortium, led by the Carbon Trust, Hiedelberg Cement, Cemex, and Tarmac, will receive financial support from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 grant programme.

The LEILAC project aims to help the European construction industry reach ambitious 2050 emissions reductions targets by reducing the environmental impact of a cement sector which accounts for around 5% of global CO2 emissions.

The technology used essentially provides a platform for carbon capture in the lime and cement industries by capturing almost pure CO2 released from limestone with potentially no additional energy costs. A pilot plant, hosted by Heidelberg Cement at Lixhe in Belgium, can capture more than 95% of the process CO2 emissions from both industries without significant energy or capital costs.

The need for such a project is clear: in October 2015, a report revealed that Europe’s energy-intensive industries such as cement and steel are in ‘urgent need’ of innovative CCS technologies if they are to reach EU-wide emission targets by 2050.

Speaking of the industrial implications of this new EU funding, Carbon Trust director Tom Jennings said: “For many energy intensive sectors, CCS is a key technology to enable the reduction of carbon emissions. Technology innovation in the industrial sector will be critical to making this happen. LEILAC is an important project as it aims to demonstrate a promising technology solution that we could have at our disposal to help the cement and lime sectors reduce their environmental impact.  

“Throughout the duration of the project, the Carbon Trust will work alongside the technology and industrial consortium partners to offer an impartial view into the outputs of all work packages, contributing an unbiased analysis into the project’s outcomes, feeding into the communication materials, dissemination and non-commercial exploitation of the results. We will help translate the technical findings into clear and objective messages to help inform key stakeholder groups and share lessons learnt from the project.”

Concrete efforts

In recent years, the cement and lime industries have gradually stepped up efforts to improve environmental performance and have, in some cases, successfully reduced CO2 emissions from production processes.

The concrete industry recently featured in an edie green innovation feature piece after researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) came up with a new concept that turns CO2 into a sustainable concrete substitute. By using 3D printers and ‘upcycling’, the researchers captured emissions from power plants and converted them into building material.

Last summer, edie reported that the UK’s largest cement works had installed a new waste-derived fuel solution which will divert up to 80,000 tonnes of bulk solid waste from landfill each year. 

George Ogleby

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