Miles to go before we decarbonise the industry

Miles to go before we decarbonise the industry

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According to International Energy Agency, the cement industry is the third largest consumer of energy and the second largest industrial emitter after the steel industry with 6% of global emissions. This is a matter of grave concern because in its current form, it is not compatible with the commitment taken at COP21 in Paris, and needs a significant change in business-as-usual practices to align to a 2-degrees trajectory.

However, its an uphill task to make this happen because unlike other sectors a majority of the cement sector’s emissions are inherent to its production process. Therefore, the use of alternative materials and alternative fuels are the main routes for decarbonization.  It should be noted that path of decarbonisation poses numerous risks to the business-as-usual models of cement incumbents.

However, efforts have already started to reduce the emission intensity of the industry but so far with limited success. The cement manufacturers world over have been able to reduce, on an average, their emissions intensity by 1% p.a. over the last 4 years but this is not enough for a 2-degrees trajectory.

However, Indian companies are at the forefront of reducing emissions intensity. According to a study conducted by an international agency, Indian companies are outperforming international peers with process emissions measured by the clinker ratio of 69% vs 78%. This is driven by better access to alternative materials such as fly ash and slag coming from other carbon intensive sectors, such as thermal power generation and steel production.

On the other hand, use of alternative materials in developed markets is facing constrained supply. European companies will need to find scalable and sustainable alternatives to fly ash and slag or develop low-carbon technologies to be able to improve current emission intensity levels.

However, in the coming days, alternative fuels from waste offer another way to decarbonize at a low cost with international companies in countries with robust waste legislation set to benefit compared to their Indian peers.