Europe: Pilot carbon capture technology cement plant to start

The Low Emissions Intensity Lime and Cement consortium plans to build a pilot plant in Belgium to test new technology to capture CO2 produced during cement processing.

“What Direct Separation, and what the LEILAC [Low Emissions Intensity Lime and Cement] project is trying to pilot, is a new technology that addresses those CO2 emissions by capturing the pure CO2 that comes off the limestone,” Daniel Rennie, project co-ordinater at Calix, the lead member of the consortium and the firm behind the Direct Seperation technology, told Business Green.com.

Rennie told BusinessGreen Calix has spent the past eight years developing the technology for calcining magnesite, which is then used in everything from flooring materials to the lining for blast furnaces.

However, while magnesite is calcined at around 750 degrees, the same process in cement production requires temperatures of at least 950 degrees. The pilot plant aims to test whether direct separation is possible at these temperatures.

Plans for a cement pilot plant cleared a crucial hurdle after being signed off this week by consortium members. Construction is expected at the site of the HeidelbergCement plant at Lixhe, Belgium next year, and the technology would be up and running in “very early 2019”, Rennie says.

A two-year intensive testing period would follow, to allow consortium members to assess the feasibility of deploying the technology at a commercial scale.

Alongside the €12m research funding from the EU, the 11 consortium partners – Calix, Heidelberg Cement, Cemex, Tarmac, Lhoist, Amec Foster Wheeler, ECN, Imperial College, PSE, Quantis and the Carbon Trust – have committed a further $9.8m (€9m) to the project, enough to fund the plant construction and accompanying research efforts.

All carbon capture technologies face concerns about how a business or regulatory model can be developed that requires operators to invest in additional kit. But crucially Rennie claims the aim of the project is to develop the technology so when deployed at full scale it has roughly the same capital and operational costs as a conventional processing kit.

And perhaps most excitingly, the Direct Separation technology is, theoretically, wholly compatible with more conventional carbon capture technologies for fuel combustion – opening the door for emissions-free concrete production.

“In theory we should be able to use alternative fuels, so that can reduce the combustion emissions, but yes it’s entirely complementary with carbon capture technologies that are being investigated and developed by the power sector,” Rennie said. Not only is this good news for the planet, but it promises to protect these heavy industries from tighter climate regulations – including a stronger carbon price – in the future, he said.

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