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Low-carbon Concrete at Scale by Making use of Waste Cement and the Steel Industry's Electric Arc Furnaces

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have devised a way of cheaply producing low-carbon concrete at scale by making use of waste cement and the steel industry's electric arc furnaces. The method developed by the engineers involves recycling old cement from demolished buildings by heating it up and reactivating the compounds within it. Key to the innovation is how this process is executed: by piggybacking off the existing electric-powered furnaces used to recycle steel.                                                                                                                 

Recycling innovation a "breakthrough for the construction industry" Cement is the key ingredient in concrete and responsible for around 90 per cent of the material's substantial carbon emissions. The Cambridge researchers' approach addresses both of the major sources of those emissions: the chemical reaction as limestone is turned into new cement, and the firing of fuels to power the high-heat kilns needed for that process. Cambridge academic Julian Allwood said that the innovation represented "a breakthrough for the construction industry" and that the research team believed it would become "the world's first process for making zero-emissions cement" "We know that if in future that furnace is powered by electricity that has no emissions, our process could make cement with no emissions whatsoever," said Allwood. The team have started a private company to commercialise their product, which they are calling Cambridge Electric Cement, and say they could provide about a third of the UK's cement needs within ten years. They have successfully tested their method at a steel recycling facility. But a full industrial-scale test later this month – where 60 tonnes of cement should be produced in two hours – will give a more conclusive indication about its scalability. According to the researchers, this recycled cement is expected to be as durable as any other cement in the UK, because it has the same chemical composition. It also has an advantage over other low-carbon concrete solutions in development, they say, because it uses existing processes, equipment and standards, with no substantial additional costs for either the concrete or steel industries. This means that whether the cement is made in co-production with steel recycling or on its own using the same equipment, it should be able to be scaled rapidly. 

"Miracle" cement alone is not the answer Up until now, most solutions have involved replacing part of the cement content of concrete with alternative materials such as fly ash. But its cement component could never be replaced completely because it is necessary for chemical activation, meaning some emissions always remained. However, the researchers stress that their electric cement alone cannot solve the problems of concrete-related carbon emissions. "Producing zero emissions cement is an absolute miracle, but we've also got to reduce the amount of cement and concrete we use," said Allwood. "Concrete is cheap, strong and can be made almost anywhere, but we just use far too much of it."                                                                                    

Recycled cement becomes part of steel slag in simple process......The process involved is relatively simple. After a building's demolition, its concrete is crushed to the point where the cement can be separated from the aggregates. This used cement is taken to a steel furnace and used in place of lime as the "flux" – the cleaning agent used in the recycling process to remove impurities from the molten metal. This is possible because cement and lime have a similar calcium oxide-based composition. The flux combines with the impurities to form slag – a byproduct that rises to the top of the molten steel and can be easily separated off. At this point, if the cement-based slag is removed and cooled quickly, it turns into high-quality Portland cement. Recycled cement becomes part of steel slag in simple processThe process involved is relatively simple......read on     https://www.dezeen.com/2024/05/31/cement-recycling-low-carbon-concrete-news/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%20Dezeen&utm_content=Daily%20Dezeen+CID_b92c935811e315acb55081cfaecedd52&utm_source=Dezeen%20Mail&utm_term=Recycling

Five Insights on the Concrete and Cement Industry’s Transition to Net Zero.

Five Insights on the Concrete and Cement Industry’s Transition to Net Zero. A net-zero concrete and cement industry by 2050 is possible. Here’s how to get there. RMI-  December 19, 2023 By  Zhinan Chen,  Radhika Lalit,  Ben Skinner On Dec 4th2023, the Mission Possible Partnership (MPP) launched theMaking Net Zero Concrete and Cement Possible report, an industry-backed, 1.5C-aligned global net-zero roadmap for the concrete and cement sector, also known as the Concrete and Cement Sector Transition Strategy. MPP is a global movement of climate leaders focused on supercharging efforts to decarbonize heavy industry and transportation. RMI is a founding partner of MPP alongside the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC), the We Mean Business Coalition, and the World Economic Forum (WEF).

This report builds on the Global Concrete and Cement Association’s (GCCA’s)Concrete Future: The GCCA 2050 Cement and Concrete Industry Roadmap for Net Zero Concreteand the European Cement Research Academy’s (ECRA’s) Technology Papers 2022,with input from a wide range of stakeholders in the concrete and cement ecosystem. As part of a coherent set of roadmaps for all heavy industry sectors, the Sector Transition Strategy is anchored in a granular techno economic model for how the global concrete and cement sector can reach net-zero by 2050 and comply with the 1.5°C target. Going beyond emission trajectory modeling, the report also provides near-term milestones and recommended actions that various stakeholders can take to unlock the transition in this decade.

The reportMaking Net Zero Concrete and Cement Possiblecan be downloaded here, along with the executive summaryinfographics, and the interactive net-zero explorerWant a quick summary of the Sector Transition Strategy? Here are the top five takeaways on the concrete and cement industry’s net-zero transition that you will want to know from this report. 1.  The concrete and cement industry can achieve net zero by 2050 with concerted efforts from actors across the value chain. There is no silver bullet to decarbonize concrete and cement. The report identifies a suite of interventions that are needed to reduce and eventually eliminate sectoral emissions. On the demand side, this includes more efficient use of concrete in construction, cement in concrete, as well as clinker in cement. On the supply side, this includes fuel switching, efficiency improvements, power sector decarbonization, and eventually carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). As shown in Exhibit 1, remaining business-as-usual means 98 gigatons (Gt) of CO2will be emitted from the concrete and cement industry between 2022 and 2050, which is twice as much as the sectoral carbon budget to stay on track of the 1.5 °C target. Among all the interventions needed to bring the industry to net zero, more efficient and effective use of concrete, cement, and clinker (the yellow and dark blue areas below) have the largest decarbonization potentials before 2030. After 2030, CCUS will start to play an increasingly important role in emission reduction......read on    https://rmi.org/five-insights-on-the-concrete-and-cement-industrys-transition-to-net-zero/     

Becoming Plastic People on a Plastic Planet.

Becoming Plastic People on a Plastic Planet. Plastic pollution linked to increases in inflammatory bowel disease, cancers, obesity, infertility and heart disease, Each of us could be ingesting as much as a credit-card-sized amount (5 grams) of microplastics every week, according to a 2021 study in the Journal of Hazardous Materials. Micro- and nanoplastic particles (MNPs) have been found in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. Consider.......43 trillion miniature-plastic particles rain down on Switzerland every year.........the average liter of commercially-available bottled water has nearly a quarter million pieces of MNPs, according to a new study.........Babies fed using plastic baby bottles swallow millions of particles a day, according to a 2020study.........MNPs have been found throughout the body including blood, kidneys, bladder, liver, and even in the brain. Recently researchers found MNPs in every human placenta they studied.  Need-to-Know: We make 450 million tons of plastic a year.   

Eight Need-to-Knows.......1. 99% of plastics are made from fossil fuels........2. 90% of the petrochemical industry production is for making plastics.......3. Plastics are made from more than 10,000 different chemicals, most have never been tested for safety. At least 4,200 are considered hazardous........4. Some chemicals in plastics are known endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which can interfere with the body’s natural hormones.......5. Plastic products, such as food packaging, can contain hundreds of different chemicals, many of which are hazardous........6. Plastics leach chemicals, particularly when heated.........7. MNPs not only leach chemicals, but they can also act like magnets for bacteria and other toxins........8. MNPs also act like tiny pieces of grit damaging delicate cell membranes, causing inflammation or riling up our immune systems.The health impacts of all this plastic in our bodies have been difficult to determine. But that is changing quickly. Scientists and medical health experts now say MNP pollution is a serious threat to human health and well-being.   Need-to-Know: Plastics linked to increases in many diseases- growing number of studies link microplastics to increased inflammatory bowel disease and cancers in people under 50, as well as diabetes, reproductive disorders, neurological impairments in children, obesity, and heart disease.....and much much more                   https://leahy.substack.com/p/becoming-plastic-people-on-a-plastic                

Resource Extraction Responsible for Half of World’s Carbon Emissions and also causes 80% of Biodiversity Loss,

Resource extraction responsible for half world’s carbon emissions. Extraction also causes 80% of biodiversity loss, according to a comprehensive UN study, Guardian- Jonathon Watts  Tue 12 Mar 2019 Extractive industries are responsible for half of the world’s carbon emissions and more than 80% of biodiversity loss, according to the most comprehensive environmental tally undertaken of mining and farming.. While this is crucial for food, fuel and minerals, the study by UN Environment warns the increasing material weight of the world’s economies is putting a more dangerous level of stress on the climate and natural life-support systems than previously thought. Resources are being extracted from the planet three times faster than in 1970, even though the population has only doubled in that time, according to the Global Resources Outlook, which was released in Nairobi on Tuesday. Each year, the world consumes more than 92b tonnes of materials – biomass (mostly food), metals, fossil fuels and minerals – and this figure is growing at the rate of 3.2% per year.  Since 1970, extraction of of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) has increased from 6bn tonnes to 15bn tonnes, metals have risen by 2.7% a year, other minerals (particularly sand and gravel for concrete) have surged nearly fivefold from 9bn to 44bn tonnes, and biomass harvests have gone up from 9bn to 24bn tonnes. Up until 2000, this was a huge boost to the global economy, but since then there has been a diminishing rate of return as resources become more expensive to extract and the environmental costs become harder to ignore.

“The global economy has focused on improvements in labour productivity at the cost of material and energy productivity. This was justifiable in a world where labour was the limiting factor of production. We have moved into a world where natural resources and environmental impacts have become the limiting factor of production and shifts are required to focus on resource productivity,” says the study. The economic benefits and environmental costs are broken down by sector. Land use change – mostly for agriculture – accounts for over 80% of biodiversity loss and 85% of water stress as forests and swamps are cleared for cropland that needs irrigation. Extraction and primary processing of metals and other minerals is responsible for 20% of health impacts from air pollution and 26% of global carbon emissions. The biggest surprise to the authors was the huge climate impact of pulling materials out of the ground and preparing them for use. All the sectors combined together accounted for 53% of the world’s carbon emissions – even before accounting for any fuel that is burned. “I would never have expected that half of climate impacts can be attributed to resource extraction and processing,” said Stefanie Hellweg, one of the authors of the paper. “It showed how resources are hiding behind products. By focusing on them, their tremendous impact became apparent.” The paper highlights growing inequalities. In rich countries, people consume an average of 9.8 tonnes of resources a year, the weight of two elephants. This is 13 times higher than low incomes groups....read on        https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/12/resource-extraction-carbon-emissions-biodiversity-loss

Major Corporations Come Together to Advance the First Commercial Batch of Sustainable Steel in the US.

Major Corporations Come Together to Advance the First Commercial Batch of Sustainable Steel in the US. RMI-led Sustainable Steel Buyers Platform will enable corporate leaders to participate in the joint purchase of the first near-zero emissions steel in North America this decade.September 20, 2023Leading corporations, including Microsoft, Nextracker, and Trammell Crow Company, announced today that they have joined forces to advance the purchase of inaugural volumes of near-zero emissions steel in North America, via the Sustainable Steel Buyers Platform (“the Platform”), convened by clean energy nonprofit RMI (founded as Rocky Mountain Institute).Starting later this year, the Platform will begin a competitive procurement process open to all steelmakers to deliver sustainable steel to North America. The platform membership aims to have this process result in a collective request for up to 2 million tons of near-zero emissions steel. The request for information process launched today will engage steelmakers to understand the conditions needed to enable this production. “We are thrilled to have this opportunity to work with RMI and our supply chain partners. This first-of-a-kind procurement platform will enable us to support the advanced development of low carbon steel solutions. This type of collaboration is essential for meeting our carbon negative by 2030 goal and supporting the world in the transition to a more sustainable future,” said Julia Fidler, fuel and materials decarbonization lead at Microsoft. “As the largest commercial development firm in the United States, Trammell Crow Company is hyper focused on reducing our embodied carbon throughout our value chain. We are proud to support the Sustainable Steel Buyers Platform, which will enhance not only our efforts, but the efforts of everyone that requires the use of steel in their products,” said James Murray-Coleman, director of sustainability for Trammell Crow Company. Near-zero emissions steel, colloquially referred to as “green steel”, requires a technology shift from current practices to processes where emissions are either captured or avoided entirely through, for example, electrification or the use of renewable hydrogen. Steel is currently produced in carbon-intensive processes that use coal or natural gas, making the sector responsible for 7 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions today.                                https://rmi.org/press-release/major-corporations-come-together-to-advance-the-first-commercial-batch-of-sustainable-steel-in-the-us/