Update on carbon capture in cement, September 2021

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It’s been a good week for carbon capture in cement production with new projects announced in France and Poland.

The first one is a carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) collaboration between Vicat and Hynamics, a subsidiary of energy-provider Groupe EDF. The Hynovi project will see an integrated unit for capturing CO2 and producing methanol installed at Vicat’s Montalieu-Vercieu cement plant in 2025. It aims to capture 40% of the CO2 from the kiln exhaust stack at the plant by using an oxy-fuel method and installing a 330MW electrolyser to split water into oxygen and hydrogen for different parts of the process. The CO2 will then be combined with hydrogen to produce methanol with potential markets in transport, chemicals and construction. The setup is planning to manufacture over 0.2Mt/yr of methanol or about a quarter of France’s national requirement. The project was put forward under a call for proposals by the Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) program. Pre-notification of its participation in the program has been received from the French government and it is currently being evaluated by the European Commission. Vicat’s decision to choose its Montalieu-Vercieu plant for this project is also interesting since it started using a CO2ntainer system supplied by UK-based Carbon8 Systems there on an industrial scale in November 2020. This system uses captured CO2 from the plant’s flue gas emissions to carbonate cement-plant dust and produce aggregate.

The second new project is a pilot carbon capture and storage (CCS) pilot by HeidelbergCement at its Górażdże cement plant in Poland. This project is part of the wider Project ACCSESS, a consortium led by Sintef Energi in Norway that aims to cut carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) costs and to link CO2-emitters from mainland Europe to storage fields in the North Sea. The cement plant part in Poland will test an enzyme-based capture method using waste heat at the plant. Another part of the project will look at how the captured CO2 can then be transported to the Northern Lights storage facility in Norway including the regulatory aspects of cross-border CO2 transport. ACCSESS started in May 2021 and is scheduled to end in April 2025. It has a budget of around Euro18m with Euro15m contributed by the European Union (EU) Horizon 2020 fund.

HeidelbergCement also says that the second stage of its LEILAC (Low Emissions Intensity Lime And Cement) project at the Hannover cement plant is part of ACCSESS, with both testing of the larger-scale Calix technology to capture CO2 and the connected transport logistics and bureaucracy to actually get it to below the North Sea. That last point about Calix is timely given that US-based Carbon Direct purchased a 7% stake in Calix in mid-September 2021 for around US$18m. Whilst on the topic of carbon capture and HeidelbergCement don’t forget that the group’s first full-scale carbon capture unit at Norcem’s Brevik cement plant, using Aker Solution’s amine solvent capture technology, is scheduled for commissioning in September 2024. Another carbon capture unit is planned for Cementa’s Slite plant in 2030 but the proposed capture method has not been announced.

Other recent developments in carbon capture at cement plants include Aalborg Portland Cement’s plan to capture and store CO2 as part of the Project Greensand consortium. The overall plan here is to explore the technical and commercial feasibility of sequestering CO2 in depleted oil and gas reservoirs in the Danish North Sea, starting with the Nini West Field. The project is still securing funding though, with an Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Program application to the Danish government pending. However, the Danish Parliament decided in December 2021 to set aside a special funding pool to support a CO2 storage pilot project so this initiative seems to be making progress. If the application is successful, the consortium wants to start work by the end 2021 and then proceed with an offshore injection pilot from late 2022. How and when Aalborg Portland Cement fits in is mostly unknown but a 0.45Mt/yr capture unit at its Rørdal cement plant is tentatively planned for 2027. There’s also no information on the capture method although Aker Carbon Capture is also part of the Project Greensand consortium. Finally, also in September 2021, Chart Industries subsidiary Sustainable Energy Solutions announced that it had selected FLSmidth to help adapt and commercialise its Cryogenic Carbon Capture carbon capture and storage (CCS) system for the global cement industry.

All of this tells the cynics in the audience that a large international climate change meeting is coming up very soon. Most cement companies will likely want some good news to show off when the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) dominates the media agenda in November 2021. Other observations to point out include that none of the projects above are full-scale industrial carbon capture installations, most of them are consortiums of one sort of another and that they are all subsidised or want to be. While hydrogen and CO2 networks get built this seems inevitable. Yet, we’re not at the stage where cement companies just order carbon capture units from a supplier, like they might a new clinker cooler or silo, without the need for long lists of partners. When this changes then carbon capture looks set to flourish.

On a final note, the UK is currently experiencing a shortage of commercially-used CO2. The reasons for this have nothing to do with the cement industry. Yet consider the constant doom-and-gloom about record global CO2 emissions and the sheer amount of effort going into reducing this by the projects mentioned above and others. Life has a sense of humour at times.

For a view on the CO2 sequestration permitting process in the US look out for the an article by Ralph E Davis Associates, in the forthcoming October 2021 issue of Global Cement Magazine

Last modified on 22 September 2021

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