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Vattenfall and Cementa proceed towards climate neutral cement with CemZero

In Sweden, energy utility major Vattenfall AB and cement producer Cementa AB are proceeding with ambitions to reduce the national carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by five percent by 2030. The results from the pilot study in the CemZero project show that the technical prerequisites exist for electrified cement production. The study gives the green light to investigating how a pilot plant can be built.

The Slite cement plant on the island of Gotland produces 2.5 million tonnes of cement products per annum. The plant has currently replaced around 40 percent of coal previously used as fuel with refuse derived fuel (RDF) and waste wood supplying excess heat to district heating and power to the grid (photo courtesy Cementa).

Cementa’s Slite cement plant on the island of Gotland produces 2.5 million tonnes of cement products per annum. The plant has currently replaced around 40 percent of coal previously used as fuel with refuse derived fuel (RDF) and waste wood supplying excess heat to district heating and power to the grid (photo courtesy Cementa).

In June 2017, the Swedish state-owned energy major Vattenfall AB and cement producer Cementa AB, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Germany-headed HeidelbergCement AG, launched the CemZero project, a joint pilot study into electrified cement production with the objective of zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030. If achieved this is equivalent to a 5 percent reduction of Sweden’s total CO2 emissions.

The objective for CemZero is electrified cement production supplied with electricity from a fossil-free Swedish energy system. The first part of CemZero is now at a concluding point and a final report has been submitted to the Swedish Energy Agency which has co-financed the study.

Achieving radical emissions reductions requires advances in technology. CemZero opens up an interesting path which we are looking forward to taking further, said Magnus Ohlsson, CEO, Cementa.

Technology pathways

The pilot study has examined different technologies for heating in the cement process, with fossil-free electricity used as the energy source instead of conventional fuels.

It is very positive that we can proceed with the work of electrifying the cement industry, it is one of the most important examples of new collaborations for technology development which can make a substantial contribution to the efforts to create a fossil-free future, said Magnus Hall, President and CEO of Vattenfall.

The study draws the following principal conclusions:

  • Electrification of the heating in the cement process appears to be technically possible. Among other things, it has been shown to produce a certain amount of cement clinker based entirely on plasma technology. This possibility needs to be verified through large scale testing.
  • An electrified solution for cement is competitive compared with other alternatives in order to achieve radical reductions in emissions. The study demonstrates an approximate doubling of the production cost for the cement, but ultimately only entails a cost increase of a couple of percent of the finished building or infrastructure.
  • Simulations have indicated that any future electrification of Cementa’s factory on Gotland would work well together with the planned expansion of wind energy on Gotland, partly through an improved energy balance, but also through reduction of the maximum surplus capacity to which wind energy would otherwise give rise.

Zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2030

Achieving Cementa’s vision of zero CO2 carbon dioxide emissions from cement products by 2030 demands a technological shift. For Vattenfall, the industrial project is a crucial part of the strategy of offering all its customers climate-smart energy and enabling a life free of fossil fuels within one generation.

Full scale electrified cement production would entail Cementa removing the need for the fuel, at the same time as the need for electricity would be significantly greater.

Electrification also facilitates the opportunity to more easily capture the process emissions of CO2 which arise in connection with the production, which simultaneously places requirements on a solution to store or use the CO2, so-called carbon capture and storage (CCS) or carbon capture and utilisation (CCU).

Public-private collaboration necessary

Both companies highlight the importance of collaboration between industry, the energy sector and the Swedish Energy Agency for the project’s success. The research initiative is also being strengthened together with Swedish universities.

The continuation of CemZero means that Vattenfall and Cementa will be conducting an in-depth study during 2019 into how a pilot plant can be constructed. It will test the plasma technology in order to reduce technical risks and provide important information prior to scaling up and implementation.

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