- Written by J S J van Deventer, Zeobond Pty Ltd & Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, University of Melbourne J L Provis, Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, University of Melbourne P Duxton, Zeobond Pty Ltd
Alkali-activated 'geopolymer' concrete has been commercialised in Australia under the trade name E-Crete(TM) and is now finding acceptance among the end-user community and from regulatory authorities. E-Crete is derived from fly ash and blast furnace slag with proprietary alkali activators and is available in both precast and pre-mix forms. The pre-mix concrete is able to be placed using largely standard concrete processing equipment and expertise. A life-cycle analysis of E-Crete has shown savings of around 80% in CO2 emissions compared to a standard OPC-based binder, which provides the primary driver for the uptake of this technology on a larger scale. Commercialisation of geopolymer technology by Zeobond has been linked closely with both scientific research in this area and a broad process of industry and stake-holder engagement. The combination of these two activities will be highlighted throughout this article.
Concrete made from OPC including its blends with mineral admixtures is second only to water as the commodity most used by mankind today (1). Global OPC production in 2008 was around 2.6Bnt (2), corresponding to around 11Bnt/yr of concrete (3). The cement industry contributes conservatively 5-8% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (4), mainly through decomposition of limestone and combustion of fossil fuels during cement production. Grinding and transport are lesser but also significant contributors to the environmental footprint of the cement industry. With rapidly increasing demand for advanced civil infrastructure in China, India, the Middle East and the developing world, the cement and concrete industries are expected to expand significantly (5).
The future cement industry is now coming to grips with the fact that meaningful production of alternative binders will form part of a carbon constrained industry, aiding to significantly reduce CO2 emissions and provide some advantages in performance only offered by these alternative binding systems (6 - 7). Usually the driver for competition has been cost reduction, in which case alternative materials starting from a low volume basis can never compete against large-scale OPC production. Abatement of CO2 and technical features are now forming a major role in growth of alternative binder systems.
There are various possible alternatives to OPC technology which have attracted attention in different parts of the world (8). Calcium sulphoaluminate cements are increasingly being used and studied and contain binding phases based mainly on Klein's compound (ye'elimite) (9 - 10). In addition, there are two major types of alternative binders that have not been commercialised widely, being the alkali activated material (AAM) system and also magnesium-based systems.
In AAM chemistry, the reactive aluminosilicate phases present in materials such as fly ash, slag, calcined clay or volcanic ash are reacted with alkaline reagents including alkali metal silicates, hydroxides, carbonates, and/or sodium aluminate (11) to form zeolite-like aluminosilicate gel phases of varying (but generally low) degrees of crystallinity. AAM concrete has been shown to be quite resistant to attack by acids and by fire and does not produce the high reaction heat associated with OPC concrete, which reduces cost and potential cracking issues when the material is placed in large volumes (12).
Magnesium-based cements (including oxide, phosphate, oxychloride and other specific types of phase assemblage) have been used in niche applications and can also give superior fire resistance, with much lower CO2 emissions than OPC. Phosphate cements have not been used commercially and require more research and development, but in general the magnesium phosphate system has technical and economic limitations compared with AAMs. The focus of this article will therefore be on the commercial application of AAM technology, and in particular its development via the E-Crete(TM) technology, which is now available in Australia in precast, pre-mix and in-situ cast formats.
- Written by Oliver Wadsworth, John King (USA) Inc
When a cement plant in the UK experienced operational problems with the drag chain system supplying biomass-derived fuel to its kiln, UK-based John King Chains Ltd (John King) was able to help.
A UK cement plant operated a drag chain system for the transfer of a biomass-derived fuel into the kiln. The drag chain system pulled the material a total of 80m along a horizontal section and then up an inclined section.
Since the commissioning of the plant in the recent past, the plant operator had experienced operational issues with the drag chain system.
A meeting with representatives of the cement plant operator was arranged to discuss the experiences of the existing and inadequate chain system, establish the symptoms and generate initial theories and hypotheses. This included a site visit to investigate the current system, physically examine drag chain components, gather information, identify the cause(s) of the operational problems and formulate solutions.
- Written by Dr Peter Edwards, Global Cement Magazine
Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) is by far the most commonly produced type of cement, the world's second most consumed commodity after water. OPC production emits vast amounts of CO2 and meeting the world's current needs for OPC causes billions of tons of the gas to be emitted to the atmosphere every year. With rising environmental concerns about the effects of CO2 on the world's climate, cement manufacturers have made efforts to decrease fuel use, make efficiency savings and re-use 'waste' materials in the production of cement.
Ahead of the inaugural Future Cement Conference, which will be held in London, UK on 8 February 2011, Global Cement Magazine looks at the current proposals and solutions for reducing the CO2 output of the calcination step itself or eliminating it altogether.
Since being patented in 1824 by James Aspdin, OPC (CEMI)has become the world standard in cement production. The basic raw materials needed to produce OPC; limestone, sand and a fuel source, are available on every continent and as a result OPC is readily produced by manufacturers across the globe in an ever-increasing number of countries. The Global Cement Directory 2010 lists 1997 integrated cement plants in 137 countries, with a total combined cement capacity of 3132Mt/yr. Most of these produce OPC and economies of scale and the popularity of OPC have side-lined other types of cement into niche markets.
OPC is far from an ideal product in environmental terms, however. Not only does the production of OPC clinker require vast quantities of (often fossil) fuel in order to fire the kiln, but the chemical process of decarbonation carried out in the kiln emits almost 1t of CO2 for 1t of clinker produced. This means that cement production is a massive contributor to CO2 emissions. It is readily agreed by the industry that cement production accounts for 5-6% of all world CO2.
It is remarkable, given the high CO2 emissions and the intense pressure put on other industries to lower their CO2 emissions, that cement production is not considered in the same light either by national governments or the general public. Nonetheless, the industry is looking at ways to reduce CO2 emissions and there are many emerging processes that may offer significant gains.