Low-carbon cement is commercially competitive

While the look of concrete may stay the same, we believe that “low carbon” concrete will begin to be adopted for large projects in the 2025-2030 time frame. Cities and states are beginning to create “buy clean” incentives or mandates to prioritize using low-carbon building materials, and we expect this trend to continue in the coming years.

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel

The world produces an incredible amount of concrete. Global annual production of concrete is about 10 billion metric tons and is expected to grow by 10 percent a year. The number of buildings on the planet is also expected to increase, doubling by 2060 — the equivalent of building another New York City every 30 days for the next 40 years.

Concrete and cement production is responsible for roughly 8 percent of global emissions. Making concrete is incredibly carbon intensive. For each ton of concrete produced, 1 ton of CO2 is emitted. However, this could change. Pathways to reduce the carbon intensity of cement are currently being developed around:

  • Finding alternatives to limestone. Start from feedstock materials that don’t release CO2, or find ways to reduce the amount of limestone needed. There are even some sea organisms that can create a concrete-like material from seawater!
  • Redesigning the cement kiln. Create cement kilns that are more efficient, run on electricity or renewable energy, and/or capture the CO2 produced.
  • Using concrete to sequester (permanently store) CO2. Carbon dioxide can be incorporated into cement by starting with limestone made from captured CO2, by turning it into rocks and using these as aggregate, or by injecting CO2 during the curing process.

The good news is that companies are working hard on all of these approaches and more. Expect to see a lot of action in this space in the years to come.

Want to know more? Check out our blog post: “A Concrete Solution”.