project statement
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project statement

There is more concrete used every year than all other building materials combined. Some say it is second only to water in annual consumption. It’s everywhere! We will need it more and more as we rebuild our society’s infrastructure and we move to a more sustainable economy. Despite its many desirable environmental technical features, like all industry sectors, the cement sector plans to do its part to move to a low carbon future. This will require a plan, a road map if you will. While the Cement sector has a number of broad proposals and ambitions, the Cement 2020 project is a unique approach. It brings a multi-discipline team of researchers and experts together to study one cement plant (Lafarge’s Bath plant) and brainstorm ideas to make this plant the most sustainable plant that it could be. We then ask panelists from around the Pacific Rim to consider the recommendations and interpret how they could apply in their contexts. The last question we ask is, what would it mean if the entire cement industry were to adopt the recommendations by the end of 2020?

The cement sector is estimated to represent 5-8% of the world’s CO2 emissions. To put this in a local context, Canada is estimated to represent 2%. We think this is an exciting project and we hope that you will agree. We invite you to monitor the team’s progress over the coming months and even contribute ideas yourself.

The project is led by Lafarge North America with financial support from the Asia Pacific Partnership through Environment Canada along with financial support from Natural Resource Canada and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment’s Climate Change Branch. The Lafarge Group is the world’s largest cement producer and is headquartered in Paris, France. Lafarge North America is the largest diversified supplier of construction materials in the U.S. and Canada. They produce and sell cement, ready-mixed concrete, gypsum wallboard, aggregates, asphalt, paving and construction, precast solutions and pipe products. The Bath cement plant, about 30 km west of Kingston, Ontario along the shore of the Bay of Quinte that produces 1.1 million tonnes of cement per year. That’s enough cement to build 70 CN Towers each year.

Energy is a central component of sustainability. Manufacturing this volume of product uses a lot of energy, fueled traditionally by coal and petroleum coke. Other industries such as power generation and steel manufacturing are also heavy users. Coal and petcoke have emerged as high use fuels due to their high energy density, relatively low price, well understood handling characteristics, and their broad availability. As recently as 2006, Ontario alone imported over $1 billion worth of coal to fire its industry. In the cement industry, the ash characteristics of coal represent useful raw materials needed in cement manufacture. However, the drive toward a low carbon culture means that other, renewable fuel sources must be found. Can we find fuels that are environmentally sound, socially positive, and economical? True sustainability demands that all three be met. One area of particular promise is the replacement of coal and petcoke with local, renewable fuels

Biomass is a particularly interesting fuel. Biomass is considered carbon neutral and it can be found from local sources. . Biomass can be as simple as the leftover bark from lumber mills or purpose grown non-food crops like switchgrass and hemp. Other less obvious sources include pulp & paper byproducts, biosolids, and many other sources.

The beauty of biomass fuel is that it turns materials with little or no value, like corn husks or forestry by-products, into something of value to society – Energy. Creating biofuels in some cases can have the added benefit of diverting the source materials from landfills. Biomass fuel also contributes to the reduction of other emissions associated with solid fossil fuels.

The technology has been proven at small scales. Lafarge and their team are taking this to the next level in hopes of making a significant positive improvement to Canada’s ecosystems.

Other aspects of cement plant sustainability are being considered. including energy use and efficiency improvements, water efficiency, biodiversity, green buildings, and recycling.


The long-term vision driving this aspect of the project is to develop biomass as a 100% substitution for coal that is currently the main fuel source for the cement industry. There are three non-financial obstacles towards increased biomass usages at cement plants.

  1. Low energy density of biomass fuels (whether byproducts, forest derived, or purpose grown),
  2. Reliable sourcing of biomass fuels, particularly as demand increases, and
  3. Environmental and social sustainability considerations as demand increases.

This project addresses all three questions and will produce a Road Map to guide the cement industry towards a sound, economic transition from fossil fuels to renewable biomass fuels. To make progress towards achieving the vision of increasing utilization of biomass in the cement manufacturing industry, this project proposes to demonstrate biomass performance in cement kilns on two tracks:

  • The first track, was a full scale combustion test at the Lafarge Bath cement plant (Ontario, Canada) with selected biomass feedstocks including hemp, sorghum, willow, switchgrass and oat hulls. This track occurred in the fall of 2010 and data is currently being analysed from this combustion trial to be included in the final reports.
  • The second track is a technical and economic evaluation of various methodologies for pre-processing of biomass before combustion. The object of this evaluation is to improve the relative fuel characteristics of biomass and other coal replacement fuels compared to coal to ensure best results across the three areas of focus previously identified:
  1. emission benefit
  2. the integrity of the product (cement)
  3. the best fuel characteristics (heat, value, ash content, elemental composition, moisture content).

The kiln at Lafarge’s Bath, Ontario plant uses coal to power the processing of their cement products. Coal is a very useful, though non-renewable, resource. To reduce the amount of coal being burned relative to the quantity and quality of product, Lafarge and other industrial operations may benefit from replacing a percentage of the coal with an alternative fuel.The possible benefits of using biomass to supplement coal in these types of operation are:

  • Net reduction in air emissions
  • Makes use of local fuels, some with little or no other value
  • Less coal needed per unit of product
  • More sustainable process
  • Can keep bio waste out of landfills
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