Carbon-Negative Cement is Possible through Solutions Both Old and New


About half of all cement in the world goes to creating concrete, used in infrastructure.
Photo by Jason Goh on Pixaby

Author’s note: This article draws heavily on the July 2021 Rocky Mountain Institute report “Profitably Decarbonizing Heavy Transport and Industrial Heat: Transporting these Harder-to-Abate Sectors is Not Uniquely Hard and Can Be Lucrative.” I salute Amory Lovins and his colleagues for this work and its rich insights.

 For those of us concerned about the climate, cement is a big deal. But as this article attests, reforming the cement industry could result in fantastic carbon dioxide reductions.

The world consumes 4 billion tons of cement each year, comparable to global food production. In other words, humanity produces a lot of cement. Each ton produced releases 0.5 to 0.6 tons of carbon dioxide, or CO2. Cement’s CO2 emissions are on par with steel — they account for 7 to 8% of the global total. Like steel, this amount of CO2 production exceeds the emissions of every country in the world except the United States and China.

How is Cement Made, Anyway?

Cement is manufactured through a chemical combination of calcium, silicon, aluminum, iron, and other ingredients. Common materials used to manufacture cement include limestone, shells, and chalk, combined with shale, clay, blast furnace slag, silica sand, and iron ore.

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