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TotalEnergies to fully decarbonise cement plant in Belgium

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French energy giant TotalEnergies (NYSE:TTE) will work with Holcim (SWX:HOLN), a Swiss construction group, to cut all carbon emissions from a cement production facility in Belgium.

  • TotalEnergies will explore the capture of CO2 from the cement works and plans a green hydrogen energy plant.
  • The cement industry is a ‘hard-to-abate’ sector, but decarbonisation is critical for construction.
  • Holcim is a member of ConcreteZero and this project is likely to be one of many cross-sectoral partnerships.

The pair will assess various technologies to capture, use and store (CCUS) around 1.3 million metric tons of CO2, that Holcim’s Belgian clinker plant emits every year.

Cement is critical for the construction industry but is estimated to contribute to 7-8% of annual global carbon emissions.

Bart Daneels, chief executive of Holcim Belgium said: “Cement industry decarbonisation is extremely challenging because of the process’s inevitable CO2 emissions, which put us firmly in the hard-to-abate sector. CCUS is vital for Obourg to become the first net carbon neutral clinker plant in northwest Europe.”

Decarbonising a cement plant

Holcim Belgium is currently upgrading the Obourg facility in a project named ‘GO4ZERO’, as part of its net zero plans.

Holcim is also part of ConcreteZero, which sees the cement industry committing to the use of 100% net zero, low-emissions concrete by 2050.

It is building a new air-oxyfuel switchable kiln which will facilitate the capture and purification of carbon dioxide in the flue gases. This follows from its agreement with natural gas transmission company Fluxys to purify CO2 generated from the plant.

TotalEnergies is stepping in to transport and use the CO2 that is being captured, by producing e-fuel and potentially storing the carbon in the North Sea.

The group will assess whether it can build a renewable-powered electrolyser to generate green hydrogen, which will also be used to make the e-fuels.

How green is green hydrogen?

Hydrogen is made by splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen using an electrolyser. If the process is powered by renewables rather than fossil fuels, it becomes green hydrogen, a potentially effective solution for heavy industry emissions reduction.

There is a growing body of analysis, including from the World Energy Council, which suggests that hydrogen could help meet global energy demand. The challenge is how to generate green hydrogen at scale.

Most hydrogen is currently ‘grey’, meaning it is produced using oil and gas, but is currently much cheaper than its green counterpart.

Holcim’s new oxyfuel kiln will be powered by the oxygen produced by the electrolyser as well as by TotalEnergies’ planned renewable energy plant.

Concrete emissions initiatives drive innovation

There are a number of initiatives, such as ConcreteZero, which are attempting to limit the emissions within the cement sector. There is also an increasing focus on new, low-carbon technologies.

A consortium led by engineering group FLSmidth recently received €2 million in funding from the European Commission to develop new technologies to abate emissions of cement production.

In the US, AICrete raised $4 million in venture capital in September. The startup wants to cut emissions in the concrete industry by over a third by making the mixture of material cheaper and more efficient.

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