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Tue, 27 October 2020

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How is the concrete industry decarbonising faster than the UK economy as a whole?

How is the concrete industry decarbonising faster than the UK economy as a whole?

Credit: PA Images

Mineral Products Association

3 min read Partner content

Going further than net-zero, the UK concrete and cement industry has launched a roadmap to become net negative by 2050, removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it emits each year.

The UK is committed to reaching net-zero by 2050, and industry needs to play its part in the transition.

The UK concrete and cement industry has launched a roadmap to become net negative by 2050, removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it emits each year.

As part of the UK’s overall drive to net-zero by 2050, this is a major contribution from a key industrial sector.

Launching the ambitious roadmap, UK Concrete, part of the Mineral Products Association (MPA) has identified five technologies which will allow the industry to hit net-zero by 2050, and two in-use properties of concrete that will take it into net negative emissions.

The five technologies are decarbonised electricity and transport networks, fuel switching, greater use of low-carbon cements and concretes and Carbon Capture, Use or Storage (CCUS) for cement manufacture. CCUS technology is vital to delivering net-zero manufacturing and according to the roadmap will deliver 61 per cent of the required carbon savings. 

To go beyond zero, a net negative industry by 2050 will be achieved by using the natural, in-use properties of concrete which include its ability to absorb carbon dioxide during use, and the benefit of using the thermal properties of concrete in buildings and structures to reduce operational emissions.

The concrete and cement industry has a strong track record in reducing carbon emissions. It has already taken considerable action and due to investment in fuel switching, changes in product formulation, and energy efficiency including plant rationalisation, its direct and indirect emissions are 53% lower than 1990 - decarbonising faster than the UK economy as a whole.

The industry is now calling on Government for a robust financial support model including for the capital and operational costs of carbon capture by no later than 2021.

The MPA is currently building on this progress by undertaking ground-breaking demonstrations of hydrogen and plasma technology, which are being partly funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and will demonstrate the potential of these technologies to reduce carbon emissions through fuel switching from fossil fuels in cement and lime production.

There are a number of steps needed from Government to enable the industry to achieve its target. Establishing a carbon dioxide transport and storage network will be essential for CCUS to deliver, as is a competitively priced zero carbon electricity network.

We have long called for a consumption measure of greenhouse gases, to avoid simply offshoring production.

The national greenhouse gas accounting should also include the carbon dioxide stored through carbonation of concrete.

Buildings emit carbon dioxide in their use as well as their construction, so whole-life assessments should be used rather than only looking at carbon in building materials in public procurement.

The industry is now calling on Government for a robust financial support model including for the capital and operational costs of carbon capture by no later than 2021.

This would ensure the technology can be developed, deployed and become an investable proposition in the 2030s.

 

 

 

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