Cement giant Heidelberg throws weight behind CCS

Heidelberg Cement has signed a memorandum of understanding with multinational energy giant Equinor, in a bid to scale up its efforts in the field of carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Cement giant Heidelberg throws weight behind CCS

The cement industry accounts for 6% of global CO2 emissions

Heidelberg’s Norwegian arm, Norcem, has been running a small trial CCS project at its cement plant in Brevik since 2011. Called “Northern Lights” and backed by the Norwegian government, the project is aiming to show that captured CO2 emissions from CCS arrays can be safely transported to oil and gas fields under the North Sea.

Under the memorandum, Heidelberg and Equinor will work together to bring the first stored CO2 to these locations in 2023. The document also details an intention to examine the possibility of installing CCS at other Heidelberg plants within the next five years.

In addition, both companies will work on optimising the CO2 transport chain and strive to implement CCS as a Europe-wide solution for CO2 disposal.

“At our Brevik cement plant, we have shown that we are able to capture CO2 at an industrial scale,” Heidelberg’s chairman Bernd Scheifele said

“We plan to capture around 400 000 tonnes per year of CO2 at Brevik, which corresponds to around 50% of the plant’s total carbon emissions.”

Heidelberg Cement is notably striving to deliver carbon-neutral concrete by mid-century, in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory.

Shortly before the firm announced that ambition, the World Cement Association (WCA) published a roadmap urging all firms in the industry to align with the Paris Agreement’s less ambitious 2C trajectory.

But, where does CCS fit into this picture?

According to researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) and the Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne (EPFL), CCS is crucial to aligning the cement industry with global climate goals. A recent joint report from the two organisations found that existing technologies can bring sector-wide emissions down 80%, against a 1990 baseline – but that meeting net-zero would be dependent on CCS.

An “essential” technology

Mapping out various scenarios related to the uptake of low-carbon technologies across key sectors, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) this year concluded that current technological solutions and stronger policy frameworks could enable the UK to reduce emissions by around 97% against a 1990 baseline.

The remaining 3% could be achieved by the scale-up of carbon capture and storage (CCS) solutions and hydrogen energy technology – both listed as a “necessity not an option” by the CCC, if the UK is to meet net-zero by 2050.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)  is aiming to bring the UK’s first industrial-scale CCS “cluster” for heavy industry online by the mid-2020s. This commitment has been bolstered with plans to help oil and gas plants which have either recently closed or are soon to be phased-out to convert to CCS facilities.

In the meantime, Drax is trialling CCS at a smaller scale on one of the four biomass units at its north Yorkshire power station.

Sarah George

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