Breakthrough carbon cutting technology for concrete

The European Commission Horizon 2020  program has granted €12 million to the Low Emissions Intensity Lime and Cement consortium led by Calix and comprising Heidelberg Cement, Cemex, CRH-Tarmac, Lhoist, Amec Foster Wheeler, ECN, PSE, Quantis, the Carbon Trust and Imperial College London to apply and demonstrate a breakthrough technology that will allow the broader cement and construction industry to significantly reduce their carbon footprint.

Heidelberg Cement plant in Lixhe, Belgium
Heidelberg Cement plant in Lixhe, Belgium

The cement sector is responsible for up to 7% of global CO2 emissions in Europe making it one of the largest industrial contributors. This large carbon footprint is mainly due to the fact that 60% of CO2 is released directly and unavoidably from the processing of the raw materials. Therefore, cost effective carbon capture technologies are needed on a large scale to truly combat the emissions from the sector and make a dent towards reaching the EU’s 80% emissions reduction target.

Two-thirds of CO2 emissions from the cement and lime sector come from the decomposition of limestone to lime and CO2 furnaces. The latest breakthrough in reducing these emissions comes through an overhaul of the existing process flow to allow for the capture of almost pure CO2 from the limestone with potentially no added energy required.

This novel technology is based on separating the furnace exhaust gases from the limestone by heating it indirectly in a special steel vessel. The energy from the furnace gases is transferred through the vessel to the limestone resulting in the release of pure CO2 which can then be captured with very few additional costs or energy requirements. The technology was inspired by and is complementary with existing carbon capture methods from the energy and cement sector.

In the first three years of the project, a demonstration plant design will be finalised and constructed at the Heidelberg Cement plant in Lixhe, Belgium. This high temperature Direct Separation Calciner pilot unit will undergo a further two years of testing in a typical operating environment to prove its efficacy.
At Imperial College London, researchers led by Professor Paul Fennell from the Department of Chemical Engineering will focus on the fundamental process demands and performance to demonstrate that the process works well enough to be scaled to an industrial level for full operational use. In addition, the project results will be shared widely with industry at key intervals during testing.

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