Eliminating cement carbon emissions proves a challenge
Cement producers need to clean up their act, but they’re not going to do it alone. So says Myles Allen, head of Oxford’s Climate Dynamics Group and a former member of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change. Cement production accounts for about 7% of global carbon emissions, but the profits aren’t that great.
“Cement is a commodity industry. The margins aren’t big, so you can’t expect companies to do this out of the goodness of their hearts,” Allen told SkyNews. “So it’s got to be regulated and it’s got to be fair. Ideally, or we should set a timetable for decarbonizing cement across the whole of Europe.”
Governments need to incentivize cement producers to reduce emissions if we’re to achieve any net zero goals, Allen said.
As it stands, producers are less reliant on fossil fuels — especially coal — but bringing emissions to zero is a monumental task. Since the process of making cement involves a chemical reaction that yields CO2, carbon capture and storage is taking hold as a way to keep emissions out of the atmosphere. Meanwhile, researchers are striving to find ways to make cement without carbon emissions.
Scaling these solutions is the next hurdle, especially important since concrete is the building block of, well, most of our buildings. The infrastructure bill making its way through the U.S. Congress could provide the largest-scale attempt at carbon capture yet attempted, with more than $8.5 billion dedicated to it.
“Carbon dioxide transport and storage infrastructure share similar barriers to deployment previously faced by other types of critical national infrastructure, such as high capital costs and chicken-and-egg challenges, that require Federal and State support, in combination with private investment, to be overcome,” the bill reads.
Under the legislation, pipelines could be repurposed to bury CO2 deep underground or for use in products like carbonated drinks.
“The problem is who pays for this giant pipeline initially, when there only are a handful of projects,” Noah Deich, president of the nonprofit Carbon180, told the Verge. “That’s what the legislation is incentivizing essentially, to build the big pipelines from the beginning so that it overcomes that chicken-and-egg issue and gets more and more of these industrial projects happening.”
Should the bill pass, it could signal the first major step toward the incentives Allen is calling for.