Frazer-Nash recently responded to a call for evidence from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on the UK’s position in relation to advanced materials and concrete and cement. In this White Paper, Steve Merritt looks at the problem of decarbonisation of concrete and cement production, and outlines some potential solutions.
The concrete and cement industry is vital to our society – much of our critical national infrastructure depends upon these construction materials. But concrete and cement production is responsible for at least 8% of global CO2 emissions, so as the UK strives to play its part in the global drive to achieve Net Zero by 2050, radical changes are needed to reduce the industry’s emissions.
Some of these changes are already in progress: improvements have been made in distribution networks, cleaner fuel alternatives are being used, and greener formulations prepared. In fact, since 1990, concrete and cement emissions have reduced by 53%, with a total of 1.5% annual CO2 emissions from concrete and cement – a notable reduction relative to the global average of 7%. But emissions from these materials are only half the story. There has been a global increase of 200%, since 1990, in CO2 emissions directly related to the concrete and cement industry[i]. To achieve Net Zero by 2050 there needs to be further improvement, both in the UK and globally: CO2 intensity needs to decrease by 3% per annum, starting immediately, and continuing until at least 2030.
So how can the UK concrete and cement industry further reduce its carbon footprint? We envision that this could be achieved through providing further support to the development and commercialisation of:
- Carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS)
- Self-healing concrete and
- Additive manufacturing of engineered cement composites (ECCs)
Below, we outline some of the opportunities and challenges of these approaches.
Collaboration between UK industry and research institutes could deliver not only reductions in emissions, but could lead to the development of consultable techniques and exportable materials, supporting the UK government’s ambition to become a global science superpower.