REDUCING OUR FOOTPRINT

There is no “singular” solution to reducing the impact of society on the environment.  As an industry, we focus on a full few of the issues and as a result, are working on multiple solutions to reduce our footprint. Below are just some of the many productive actions we are undertaking:

DOING OUR PART TO REDUCE GHGs

Cement production enjoys a relatively small footprint on many environmental metrics, however, it is energy and CO2 intensive. While cement is only a small component of a typical concrete mix, the cement sector is nonetheless deeply committed to reducing its GHGs and has made significant investments to that end.

In the last twenty years, we have reduced the energy required to make a tonne of cement by about 20%. Today, we are focusing on bringing lower carbon cements to market through a variety of strategies:

Core Strategies to Improve the Industry’s Environmental Performance

  • Improving manufacturing operating energy efficiency

    Energy management is critical to the sustainability of the cement industry. Electricity and fuel costs amount to nearly 40% of total cement manufacturing costs, so our industry is highly motivated...

    Energy management is critical to the sustainability of the cement industry. Electricity and fuel costs amount to nearly 40% of total cement manufacturing costs, so our industry is highly motivated to maximize the energy efficiency of its operations for both economic and environmental reasons. Over the past 20 years, the industry has modernized its fleet and increased energy efficiency by as much as 20%, and reduced GHG emissions by almost 15%. Across most of Canada, our facilities enjoy access to relatively low GHG sources of electricity, which make a significant impact on lowering the environmental footprint of our electricity consumption. While operational energy efficiency has now reached a point where achieving further important improvements is difficult, the industry continues to innovate to improve energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and conserve conventional energy supplies while reducing production costs.

  • CONTEMPRA — A NEW PRODUCT FOR A NEW FUTURE

    Our industry is not just focusing on improvements to existing processes. We are also aggressively working to create new products categories. It is yet another example...

    Our industry is not just focusing on improvements to existing processes. We are also aggressively working to create new products categories. It is yet another example of how we plan to help meet the needs of communities and contribute to building a new future. 

    A new lower carbon cement, Contempra reflects the industry’s commitment to innovation and sustainability. The use of Contempra cement in producing concrete decreases CO2 emissions by 10% while still producing concrete with the same level of strength and durability as concrete produced with regular Portland cement.    

    Today, Contempra is rapidly becoming the preferred standard for the majority of new construction projects in Canada. Once it is adopted for all suitable concrete applications, Contempra could reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by up to 1MT annually. This is equivalent to avoiding 347 million liters of gas or planting 23 million trees.

    Contempra is referenced in the National Building Code through the CSA A.23.1 standard under the name Portland-limestone cement. Following recent successful sulphate testing programs, the new CSA A3001-13 and A23.1-14 Standards now provide specifications for the use of Contempra in sulphate exposure environments.

    An Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Portland-Limestone and Ordinary Portland Cements in Concrete

    A cradle-to-gate Life Cycle Assessment study of both Portland-limestone cement and ordinary Portland cement released by Athena Sustainable Materials Institute in 2014 demonstrates that Portland-limestone cement has lower impacts in all indicators and is about 10% better in greenhouse gas emissions. Read the technical brief...

    Environmental Product Declarations for Portland-Limestone Cement 

    The Cement Association of Canada has registered an EPD for Portland-limestone cement with the CSA Group. Read more...

  • Use of alternative lower carbon fuels

    The Canadian cement industry is working closely with governments and other stakeholders to promote a shift to alternative lower carbon fuels...

    The Canadian cement industry is working closely with governments and other stakeholders to promote a shift to alternative lower carbon fuels. Switching from coal and petcoke to lower carbon fuels is the most significant near- and mid-term opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions from cement production. Among the best alternative low carbon fuels are those derived from the waste stream  construction and demolition waste, agricultural waste and non-recyclable plastics. These recovered fuels play an important role in the circular economy by displacing virgin fossil fuels with recovered material otherwise destined for landfill or incineration. Cement manufacturing also has the unique advantage of being able to recover/recycle the mineral and metal contents of waste materials, which in turn reduces pressure on virgin sources.

    As climate change has emerged as a top priority for governments across Canada, authorities are looking more closely at LCF as a GHG reduction strategy at the same time as they are modernizing wate management policies and practices.

    For example, in 2015 the province of Ontario introduced a new regulation to make it easier for cement, steel and lime facilities to obtain permits for lower carbon fuels. The government of Ontario also referenced alternative low carbon fuels in its Climate Change and Low Carbon Economy Act and made a commitment to aligning its recently introduced Waste Free Ontario Act with its goal of reducing GHGs in the waste sector. The province of British Columbia recently granted the cement sector transitional assistance to help us invest in infrastructure and market development for alternative low carbon fuels in B.C. And, Québec, which enjoys the highest fuel substitution rates in Canada (consistently over 20%), continues to work with the industry to support higher substitution rates through its cap and trade system and other programs. 

  • Use of supplementary cementing materials

    Partially replacing clinker (cement’s primary and most CO2 intensive component) with supplementary cementing materials (SCMs) can significantly reduce CO2 emissions from cement production....

    Partially replacing clinker (cement’s primary and most CO2 intensive component) with supplementary cementing materials (SCMs) can significantly reduce CO2 emissions from cement production. As an added environmental benefit, many common SCMs are by-products of other industrial processes such as slag from steel and copper production, foundry sands from metal casting operations, and fly ash, bottom ash, and synthetic gypsum from electrical utilities.

    SCMs are used to produce so called “blended cements” which not only reduce CO2 emissions, improve air quality, and reduce energy consumption, they also make use of materials otherwise destined for landfills and increases production capacity without requiring the costly installation of new infrastructure. Apart from reducing concrete's environmental footprint, the use of SCMs also improves certain properties of the material.

    Current use of blended cements in Canada typically replaces 20% of the energy-intensive clinker that would otherwise be required to produce a metre3 of concrete. The Canadian average “clinker to cement ratio” (a measure of the use of SCMs) has been improving consistently over time but is still slightly higher than the global average. Canadian cement facilities continue to pursue efforts to increase their use of SCMs and make further progress in lowering this ratio.

  • Responsible land, water and biodiversity management practices

    Limestone quarries are long-lived assets, operating for up to 50 years. During their operational life cycle, impacts on the local environment include dust, noise, and other factors that must be properly managed...

    Limestone quarries are long-lived assets, operating for up to 50 years. During their operational life cycle, impacts on the local environment include dust, noise, and other factors that must be properly managed. Limestone quarrying is a comparatively low-impact activity relative to other extractive industries. However, Canadian cement manufacturers have long recognized they are responsible for the effective management and rehabilitation of the quarries they operate. In Canada, as globally, cement manufacturers work closely with their local communities as well as conservation groups to protect and even enhance the ecological features of quarry sites.

    For example, CRH Canada’s Dufferin Aggregates Acton quarry was the first in the world to receive certification as a supplier of responsibly sourced stone, sand and gravel from the Cornerstone Standards Council. 

    As members of the Cement Sustainability Initiative, Canadian cement manufacturers are committed to draw up comprehensive rehabilitation plans for their quarries, including robust stakeholder engagement plans. In Canada, nearly 90% of cement plants have these plans in place.

  • Transformative innovations

    The industry is making deep investments in potentially transformative innovations in areas like carbon capture and reuse that could transform concrete into a “carbon sink”...

    The industry is making deep investments in potentially transformative innovations in areas like carbon capture and reuse that could transform concrete into a “carbon sink”.

    Innovations such as a carbonated concrete (concrete that is cured with CO2 instead of or in addition to water), and the use of novel biogenic fuel sources (e.g., algae grown with flu gas) are quickly evolving and showing tremendous promise for a future of low carbon concrete. Technologies nearing the commercialization phases today may soon reduce cement CO2 emissions by up to 70%.  

  • Concrete plants eco-certification

    Several provincial Ready-Mixed Concrete associations have developed or are in the midst of developing eco-certification programs for their members...

    Several provincial Ready-Mixed Concrete associations have developed or are in the midst of developing eco-certification programs for their members while the Canadian precast/prestressed concrete sector has implemented an optional Sustainable Plant Program designed to improve the environmental impact at the manufacturing level.