Cement manufacturing is an energy-intensive operation, and a major emitter of greenhouse gases from the industrial sector. While it accounts for a quarter of global industrial emissions, in the U.S., approximately 100 cement plants producing close to 100 million tons of cement results in about 10% of industrial emissions. Cement production also is responsible for generating the most emissions per revenue dollar.
The cement manufacturing process involves several unit operations that are significant energy consumers, including quarrying and crushing, preheating, calcination and clinkering in the kiln and fine grinding. Pyroprocessing in the kiln where the raw materials (limestone, silica and alumina, along with other minor ingredients) are heated to ~1500 degrees Celsius is the major energy consuming and CO2-emitting process (accounting for >80% of energy and emissions; with half of the emissions resulting from the chemical conversion of limestone to lime). Fossil fuels are primarily used for this process, though some fuel switching is practiced in the industry.
Advanced manufacturing plants have already established energy-efficiency measures and the use of alternate fuels, while clinker substitution by waste/recycled materials is extensively practiced in the construction industry to reduce cement consumption and resulting emissions. However these levers are insufficient to achieve desired emission reduction targets.
Electrification of unit operations in cement manufacturing has started to receive attention, given that renewable sources of electricity are becoming more accessible. The challenge is to enable the high levels of process temperature required for cement manufacturing. The goal of EPIXC is to identify and develop electrified alternatives for the fossil-fuel based processes for cement manufacturing, by initially focusing on the calcination process as well as production of cements that contain significantly higher amounts of calcined products.
EPIXC will work with established cement manufacturers as well as electrification technology developers, in order to eliminate 40-50% of cement industry emissions through electrification.