Rethinking Cement

Australia can have a zero carbon cement industry in 10 years

Cement production is the world’s single biggest industrial cause of carbon pollution

Cement production is the world’s single biggest industrial cause of carbon pollution, responsible for 8% of global emissions. That’s as much as the global car fleet.

But we now have the technology to decarbonise cement production in just ten years. Beyond Zero Emissions’ Rethinking Cement (2017) shows how Australia can lead the world with zero-carbon cement.

Portland cement has been the world’s standard cement since the 19th century. The key raw material for Portland cement is limestone, which releases carbon dioxide as it is heated in a cement kiln. This process accounts for over 55% of cement-related emissions.

After a reign of nearly 200 years, it’s time to rethink Portland cement. Alternative cements with far lower carbon emissions already exist and can replace Portland cement for any purpose.

Rethinking Cement presents five strategies for tackling cement-related emissions. This is the first plan in the world showing how to achieve a zero carbon cement sector:

  1. Geopolymer cement
  2. Developing high-blend cements with reduced clinker content
  3. Mineral carbonation
  4. Minimising the use of cement
  5. Carbon negative cements
Overview of pathway to zero emissions cement

Overview of pathway to zero emissions cement

Overview of pathway to zero emissions cement

The strategy to take us to zero emissions and beyond

The first three strategies enable the Australian cement industry to eliminate most emissions by changing the way cement is made. The fourth strategy takes us to zero emissions and beyond, by using less cement and sequestering carbon in timber structures. The fifth strategy involves researching carbon negative cements, which could turn our built environment into a major carbon sink.

The impact our research has had

Rethinking Cement has excited Australia’s construction and infrastructure sector – opening up new possibilities

The ways Rethinking Cement has made an impact

Here are some of the ways Rethinking Cement has made an impact:

  • Sustainability Victoria organised a breakfast briefing for Beyond Zero Emissions to present Rethinking Cement to stakeholders involved in the manufacture, supply and procurement of cement and concrete.
  • We’ve presented the Rethinking Cement vision to over 1000 stakeholders, including government departments, engineering consultancies and major property and infrastructure companies.
  • Transurban engaged Beyond Zero Emissions to advise the company on the potential to reduce the carbon emission of cement used in Transurban’s roads.
  • The Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) created new innovation credits to encourage developers to implement the strategies in Rethinking Cement. This has a huge impact as a large proportion of new infrastructure projects in Australia now register for a rating from ISCA.
  • CPB Contractors (a large construction company) organised and hosted events in Brisbane and Sydney to promote Rethinking Cement to senior members of government and the infrastructure sector.
  • The Queensland Government wrote to us to say they are considering how to incorporate our approaches in the Queensland Building Plan Initiative.
  • Rethinking Cement was covered by articles in The Conversation and The Fifth Estate as well as trade press including the International Cement Review, World Cement, Inside Construction and Engineers Australia.
  • We won Best International Energy Think Tank in the prestigious Prospect Think Tank Awards 2018.