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Deep Decarbonization: A Roadmap for the California Cement and Concrete Industries

Deep Decarbonization: A Roadmap for the California Cement and Concrete Industries

More than 70 percent of the energy used in California’s cement industry is coal and petroleum coke, which are two of the most air-polluting fossil fuels. In addition to being a major direct source of carbon pollution, around 60% of the total CO2 emissions from California’s cement industry are process-related emissions from calcination of limestone in the kiln; the remaining 40% are energy-related emissions from fuel combustion and electricity consumption.

In early 2019, Buy Clean published a report titled “California’s Cement Industry: Failing the Climate Challenge” that benchmarked the energy use and CO2 emissions intensity of the state’s cement industry in comparison to other key cement-producing countries. This report is a follow up to that study that offers a roadmap for decarbonization of California’s cement and concrete production. We develop scenarios up to 2040 to analyze different decarbonization levers that can help to reduce CO2 emissions of cement and concrete production in California.

There are four key decarbonization levers in our analysis: energy efficiency, fuel switching, clinker substitution, and carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). Under the business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, the total CO2 emissions from California’s cement industry will increase from 7.9 MtCO2 per year in 2015 to 10.7 MtCO2 per year in 2040, a 36% increase. Under our Advanced Technology and Policy (Advanced) scenario, however, the total CO2 emissions from California’s cement industry will decrease to about 2.5 MtCO2 per year in 2040, a 68% reduction compared to the 2015 level, while cement production increases by 42% from 9.9 Mt in 2015 to 14.1 Mt in 2040.

The difference between the CO2 emissions of California’s cement industry in the BAU and Advanced scenarios in 2040 is equal to the emissions of 1.8 million passenger cars per year, or annual electricity-related CO2 emissions of around 4.9 million households in California.

Carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) could make the largest contribution to CO2 emissions reduction in California’s cement industry through 2040, followed by clinker substitution and fuel switching. Energy efficiency technologies provide additional CO2 emissions reductions potential. The Advanced Technology and Policy decarbonization scenario is achievable with commercially available and cost-effective technologies and measures, with the exception of CCUS technologies which require additional demonstration and financial support. Policy tools such as the California cap-and-trade program, the Buy Clean California Act, and the 45Q tax credit for CCS should be leveraged to incentivize both cement and concrete producers to move towards low-carbon cement and concrete production.

Published September 16, 2019