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Greenhouse Gases

Total, cement firm pursue CO2 capture

Big energy firm joins LafargeHolcim, Oxy Low Carbon to weigh profitability of new capture technology from Svante

by Melody M. Bomgardner
January 8, 2020 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 98, ISSUE 2

09802-buscon4-cementplant.jpg
Credit: Jeffrey Beall
LafargeHolcim wants to capture CO2 at this cement plant in Florence, Colorado.

The cement maker LafargeHolcim has joined with Total, Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, and Svante to study whether Svante’s solid adsorbent technology can profitably capture and store up to 750,000 metric tons (t) per year of carbon dioxide emissions from a Colorado cement plant.

The financial payback hinges on a new US federal tax credit, called 45Q, that pays industrial emitters $50 per t for CO2 that is captured and permanently stored—underground, in the case of the cement factory.

Globally, cement-making is responsible for 8% of emissions of the greenhouse gas. In the US, which is the world’s third-largest producer, cement production accounts for roughly 1.5% of CO2 emissions, the Environmental Protection Agency says.

The proposed LafargeHolcim facility would capture CO2 equal to around 9% of emissions from all US cement production.

“It is a significant announcement for both the cement and CO2 capture industries,” says Runeel Daliah, an analyst at the technology research firm Lux Research.

There is no low-carbon way to make cement. Heating limestone to produce lime, a critical ingredient, uses a great deal of energy and also releases CO2 directly. While cement makers have been concerned about their carbon footprint, they had no mechanism to recover the cost of capturing emissions before the tax credit was enacted, Daliah points out.

Even still, cement production is considered a sector with “hard-to-abate” emissions, according to an analysis of the tax credit by Boston Consulting Group. It shows that capture costs start at around $50 per t and range up to $200 per t.

However, Total and partners forecast that the LafargeHolcim project will make money. Svante says its gas-separation equipment uses solid adsorbents made of functionalized silica or metal-organic frameworks. The materials separate gases faster and require less energy than traditional solvent systems, the firm claims.

Two other cement CO2 capture projects are in the works, Daliah says, but both are smaller than the one proposed at LafargeHolcim, and both use solvent technology. Norcem and HeidelbergCement plan to capture 400,000 t per year from a plant in Brevik, Norway. And in Tamil Nadu, India, Dalmia Cement has linked up with Carbon Clean Solutions to capture 500,000 t per year.

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