Holcim has started to unify its low carbon cement product range this week with the launch of its ECOPlanet label globally. The products are already available in Germany, Romania, Canada, Switzerland, Spain, France and Italy. The plan is to extend this to 15 countries by the end of 2021 and then to double its ‘market presence’ by the end of 2022.
The headline news is that the range will include what Holcim says is the world’s first cement product with 20% recycled construction and demolition waste. This appears to be an improvement on the group’s Susteno cement products that use fine fractions from concrete and demolition waste. This product is currently sold in Switzerland where it is advertised as saving 10% of CO2 emissions compared to a standard cement product. Both Holcim and HeidelbergCement already sell concrete products that use the coarse waste from building demolition. Other than this, Holcim says that the range will also include cements that contain calcined clay. In June 2021 subsidiary Lafarge France announced that it would produce a cement product under the ECOPlanet banner using kaolin clay with its proprietary ProximA Tech process at its integrated La Malle cement plant in Bouc-Bel-Air.
We will have to wait and see how far Holcim goes in standardisng the range between different countries. Yet, judging from what the countries that are already selling ECOPlanet are doing, it looks like it will be a variety of blended cements. At present, for example, Holcim Germany offers four products in the ECOPlanet range. These are all slag cements, with three having effective CO2 reductions of up to 70% and the fourth, ECOPlanet Zero, reaching 100% through a carbon offsetting scheme in conjunction with MoorFutures. Holcim Italy also launched a product in the range called ECOPlanet Prime using calcined clay in June 2021.
Incidentally, LafargeHolcim US announced a research project this week with the US Army about using demolition waste. It’s going to start working with the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center and Geocycle to look at how construction and demolition materials from military installations can be used for energy recovery and mineral recycling. Group resources at Geocycle’s Holly Hill Research Center in South Carolina, US and Holcim’s Global Innovation Center in Lyon, France will be used in the scheme.
Other low carbon cement products are available of course. Holcim is far from alone in launching low CO2 cement and concrete products. Yet the use of worldwide brand names is different. Cemex is doing something similar with the global rollout of its Vertua concrete products. It first launched Vertua in France in 2018 before going global in 2020. Holcim started to launch ECOPact Concrete in 2019. Now, Holcim has gone further by doing the same thing with cement. Given how localised cement and concrete products are, it will be instructive to see how global branding for low carbon cementitious products helps these companies. For instance, who is the target audience? It could be eco-minded self-build customers or project specifiers or government departments or industry lobbyists. Or perhaps it is simply another marketing channel to reinforce the sector’s sustainable offerings.
The other point worth considering is when will the multinational cement producers start selling sustainable cements and concretes in less rich parts of the world? While Holcim was playing with blended cements and marketing this week, Dangote Cement said that it was ready to start commissioning its new 6Mt/yr integrated plant at Okpella, Edo State in Nigeria. Another 5Mt/yr plant is also on the way in the country from Madugu Cement. It has just signed a contract for China-based Sinoma International Engineering Company to build it. When Holcim and the other cement companies start selling low carbon cements in places like Nigeria then the rise of these products will be complete.