The role of cement in the
2050 Low Carbon Economy

A low-carbon European concrete and cement sector in 2050

This document presents a vision for the sector whereby the cement carbon footprint could be reduced by 32% compared with 1990 levels, using mostly conventional means. It also describes potential levers for how this could be further increased by the application of emerging new technologies, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS). Subject to specified policies and technological prerequisites, a potential reduction of up to 80% may be envisaged.

The industry has focused on five routes to achieve these objectives, three of which are considered to be ‘under the sector’s control’. Potential savings from the other two routes outlined (Product Efficiency and Downstream) do not relate directly to cement manufacturing, so were not included. The sector is committed, however, to investing in innovation that explores new ways for cement and concrete to contribute to a low carbon and circular economy, especially where life cycle emissions of buildings and structures can be meaningfully reduced by intelligent use of concrete. This could increase the overall contribution further.

Resource efficiencyEnergy efficiencyCarbon sequestration and reuseProduct efficiencyDownstream

For each lever, the roadmap lays out the key success factors, challenges and policy recommendations.

There is no single choice or technology that will lead to an 80% reduction in emissions. Only a combination of different ways to reduce emissions, as set out in each of the chapters below, can achieve substantial reductions. The contribution of each of the levers to the overall reduction is summarised in the graphs below



Building blocks and assumptions

In order to calculate potential savings, we made a series of assumptions on:

Production volume

We do not know how much cement will be produced in Europe by 2050. For the numbers to be meaningful, we assumed that the same amount of cement will be manufactured in 2050 as in 1990.

Power generation

Although electricity is far from being the largest contributor to our emissions, we do use electrical power in the production process. Installing carbon capture will substantially increase our power consumption. In our calculation, we assumed the power sector to have been fully decarbonised by 2050.

Transport emissions

Innovation and standards in the transport sector will further reduce emissions related to transporting raw materials to the plant, so a 50% increase in the efficiency of all modes of transport has been assumed. The reduction in post-cement plant transport emissions has been based on estimates included in the UK Department of Energy & Climate Change’s 2050 pathway, namely that the share of road transportation will be 50%, rail 23% and water 23%.

Plant capacity

The size of a cement plant has an impact on emissions and larger plants tend to be more efficient. We assume that plants will be further consolidated and that average production capacity will double to 5000 tonnes of clinker per day.

Fuel mix

Use of alternative fuels has steadily increased over the past decades and this increase is set to continue. We based our calculations on a fuel mix composed of 60% alternative fuels (40% of which would be biomass), 30% coal and 10% petcoke. Nevertheless, given the increase in the use of alternative fuels, it has been assumed that there will not be any further improvements in energy consumption from fossil fuels. For non-kiln fuels, which includes the drying of raw materials, vehicles used on site and space heating, a 30% reduction in emissions has been forecast.

Clinker content and novel cements

It has been assumed that cement manufactured in 2050 will contain an average of 70% clinker. In addition, novel cements (CO2 emissions from which are estimated to be 50% lower than from common cements) could make up 5% of total cement production.

Breakthrough technologies

On the basis of the above assumptions, it has been estimated that a 32% reduction in CO2 emissions could potentially be achieved by the cement industry. Hence, in order for the sector to reach the 80% reduction suggested by the European Commission, breakthrough technologies are needed. According to the calculations, 81Mt of CO2 will still need to be eliminated. It has therefore been assumed that 85% of total clinker production (equivalent to 59% of cement plants) will need to be equipped with, for example, carbon capture and storage technology.