A Greener Future For Concrete?

The sheer scale of concrete use is staggering. According to estimates, the global production of concrete exceeds 10 billion tons annually, reflecting its essential role in modern infrastructure and urban development. In fact is is the most widely used material on the planet after water. The benefits of concrete; versatility, strength, durability, cost effectiveness, fire resistance and improved energy efficiency in concrete structures cannot be denied. Unfortunately it is also a major driver of climate change due to the production of cement - one of the base ingredients in concrete.

Cement production includes heating limestone to up to 1600 celsius in fossil fuel powered kilns. The volume of cement production required to meet the global need creates a footprint that represents 7.5%of all man made CO2. As this is clearly not sustainable, much research is in progress to reduce the environmental impact, including the development of more energy efficient kiln's or the use of alternative fuels.

A team of scientists in Cambridge have recently announced a major breakthrough in the fight against the emissions created by cement production. Combining the ability to reactivate 'used' cement and the existing process of recycling steel in electric arc furnaces they believe that it could enable the production of zero carbon cement. Although currently in its infancy this production process currently being called 'electric cement' could also be cheaper as it utilises 'waste' heat from the steel recycling process. The use of Electric Arc Furnaces is increasing, due to the significantly reduced emmissions, and the ability to be powered by renewable sources.

Concrete Structures and Floors Ltd, are currently working on an expansion project for Celsa in at their steel recycling facility in Cardiff. It currently has the capacity to produce 1.2 million tonnes of low emission circular steel, from UK sourced scrap metal using electric arc furnaces. Following successful small scale trials; this week Celsa will partner with the Cambridge scientists to replicate the 'electric cement' process on the Cardiff site, in an attempt to demonstrate its full scale viability.

These trials are due to be completed in February 2025, we will be watching closely for what will hopefully be a greener future for the construction industry!

Concrete Structures and Floors Ltd on site at Celsa's Steel Recycling Facility in Cardiff