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News calendar    Jun 21, 2023

The Unique Investment Opportunity of Cement Going Green

Investing in the sustainable and low-carbon alternatives of cement production presents a unique opportunity. Discover how embracing alternative materials, carbon capture technologies, and energy-efficient practices can shape the future of construction.

The built environment, that is the concrete constructions that make up our cities’ skyscrapers, highways, and bridges - is a major contributor to global carbon emissions ( around ~40% ), with operational and embodied carbon contributing around 28% and 11% respectively, being the two main categories. Operational carbon stems from day-to-day building operations, while embodied carbon arises from construction and demolition processes. Addressing embodied carbon presents a significant challenge due to its irreversible nature. Let's delve into one crucial aspect: Portland cement, the key ingredient in concrete production, and its impact on carbon emissions - and how this problem creates an opportunity investors should keep an eye on. 

Portland cement production, an energy-intensive process, contributes approximately 8% of global carbon emissions. The calcination of limestone during cement manufacturing releases carbon dioxide (CO2) as a byproduct, known as process emissions. The combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal, petroleum coke, and natural gas, in cement kilns, also generates additional CO2, termed combustion emissions.

Portland, Oregon, has emerged as a proactive city in promoting sustainable construction practices and reducing carbon emissions associated with cement production. The region encourages the use of low-carbon cement alternatives and embraces green building standards. Collaborations among research institutions and industry stakeholders are focused on developing innovative solutions and technologies to minimize the carbon footprint of concrete production. These innovations create a unique opportunity, one in which will become increasingly in demand as other regions invest in low-carbon alternatives in construction.

Several strategies are being pursued to mitigate the environmental impact of Portland cement production:

Alternative Cementitious Materials: Researchers and manufacturers are exploring materials like fly ash, slag, and silica fume as substitutes for Portland cement. These alternatives have lower carbon footprints.

Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU): Technologies are being developed to capture CO2 emissions from cement production and utilize or store them, preventing their release into the atmosphere. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon utilization in concrete products are among the CCU techniques.

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: Cement manufacturers are adopting energy-efficient technologies to reduce overall energy consumption and emissions. 

Transitioning to renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind, can significantly decrease the carbon intensity of cement production.

Recycling and Waste Reduction: Recycling concrete waste and incorporating it as aggregate in new concrete reduces the demand for virgin materials and decreases emissions associated with extraction and transportation.

Standards and Regulations: Governments and industry bodies are implementing regulations and standards to curb carbon emissions from cement production. Emission caps, carbon pricing mechanisms, and sustainability certifications are some measures being enforced.

A promising avenue of interest lies in utilizing natural solutions like microbes and micro-algae to address the embodied carbon problem in concrete production. Companies are actively researching and developing innovative methods to integrate these sustainable alternatives into the concrete mix itself.

The carbon emissions associated with Portland cement production pose significant challenges for the construction industry. However, ongoing research, technological advancements, and sustainability initiatives are driving efforts to minimize the environmental impact. By embracing alternative materials, implementing carbon capture technologies, adopting energy-efficient practices, recycling waste, and adhering to stringent standards, the industry aims to transition towards more sustainable and low-carbon alternatives. Exploring natural solutions like microbes and micro-algae opens up intriguing possibilities for addressing the embodied carbon challenge in concrete production.

If you’re a Midwestern or Southern startup in this space we’d love to hear more about your business. Send an email to triet@render.captial

 

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