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McKinsey and the circular cement value chain: sustainable and profitable

Cement and concrete are the linchpins of the built environment. Its global demand has nearly tripled over the past 20 years. Yet despite cement’s ubiquity, its surrounding economy is a major contributor to global carbon dioxide emissions.

Circular technologies, such as alternative fuels, carbon curing, recarbonation, and carbon capture and storage (CCS) will be much more than niche solutions for decarbonizing the built environment. In fact, this research shows to be possible to decarbonize roughly 80 percent of total cement and concrete emissions by 2050.

At the same time, as the cost of landfill from construction and demolition waste (CDW) affects the entire building ecosystem, recirculation of carbon dioxide, materials and minerals become a key point of attention of the cement and concrete industry.

As an example, CDW can be processed through Smartcrushing, which extracts unhydrated cement “fines” and helps reduce the amount of virgin cement needed for concrete. On the other hand, some regions are limiting the use of recycled-concrete fines in cement, like the European EN197-6, that in its draft version sets the limit to 20 percent. CDW can also be used as aggregates for concrete production, thus avoiding more landfill.

Other opportunities mentioned are precast building modules and captured and concentrated carbon dioxide, that can be transported—by pipeline or by trucks—to places where it can be used as an input. For example, carbon dioxide can be used as a feedstock for processes in the plastics and chemicals industry or in hydrogen production. The challenge is to create viable business models for both the cement industry and offtakers, which highlights the need for increased collaboration across industries.

Click at the graph below for this interesting McKinsey March 6 2023 research.

Tomorrow, also from McKinsey, we will post their presentation given this Wednesday, March 29 titled "Nature in Balance - What companies can do to restore natural capital".


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“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

“I am among those who think that science has great beauty”

Madame Marie Curie (1867 - 1934) Chemist & physicist. French, born Polish.

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