The projected demand for buildings and infrastructure in India will lead to the cement industry’s three-fold expansion by 2050 and result in a proportionate increase in the sector’s CO2 emissions, says the civil society group, Development Alternatives.
A new, low-carbon-footprint cement is on the anvil. Called Limestone Calcined Clay Cement (or LC3), the new construction ingredient compares with the existing types of cement in performance, while its environmental attributes could well make it a frontrunner – if it marketed so, that is.
Interestingly, the LC3 story also has an Indian angle to it – the innovation comes from a small global collaboration that involves the Delhi-based social enterprise group, Development Alternatives and the IITs together with partners in Switzerland and Cuba.
“A new cement comes once in a hundred years,” says Dr Soumen Maity, Vice President of Development Alternatives, “and this one comes with very special environmental attributes, because LC3 is a major innovation to reduce carbon emissions.”
“Cement Production is [one of] the biggest contributors to environment pollution, and LC3 comes with the promise to offset some of this,” says Maity, detailing how resource- and energy-intensive the production of the construction imperative is and the significant impact it has on the environment and natural resource base.
The upcoming cement type and its importance to India achieving net zero emissions by 2070 as well as the government’s support for it came up at a discussion in New Delhi on Thursday. Part of Development Alternatives discussion series called Trialogue 2047, the discourse centred on government bodies accepting the new product, setting standards and providing financial support.
(Trialogue 2047, as the nomenclature suggests, has an eye on the hundredth year of India’s independence, said Shrashtant Patara, CEO of Development Alternatives.)
This was the 24th in the Trialogue 2047 series, held to shed light on the urgent need to decarbonise the cement industry and hosted Ruchika Drall from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and S Chandrasekar of the Bihar State Pollution Control Board. Besides government officials, the discussion also involved Dr Jonathan Demenge of the Swiss agency of development and cooperation and Dr Mukesh Kumar of J.K. Laxmi Cement Ltd, besides the team from Development Alternatives.
The discussion arrived at a consensus that adopting transformative technologies capable of decarbonising the cement industry will need a strong commitment and cooperation on the part of the cement industry, government, institutions, civil society and academia.
Ruchika Drall emphasised that “Industry’s transition to low carbon pathway is important to meet the India’s goal to net zero by 2070.”
She spoke of the ‘Leadership for industry transition (LeadIT)’ as one such initiative by the government to support transition of hard to abate sectors.
Dr. Mukesh Kumar spoke of the practicality of producing LC3 – inputs like limestone and clay are accessible and the technology does not require far too many adaptations to the existing systems of the cement plants, he said.
An otherwise grim scenario
LC3 reduces the clinker factor, or the stony residue in cement production by the addition of calcined clay and waste limestone.
Yet, while LC3 has become a cement of choice in over a dozen countries in Africa, South America, and South East Asia, India has yet to pronounce the standards for its commercial production. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has circulated a proposed set of standards and efforts are on to finalise these within the year, said S Chandrasekar.
Speaking of the role of Development Alternatives, Dr Soumen Maity said, “We have been working for over a decade to reach this juncture where a synergy between public and private partnership can be created.”
“We hope the PPP approach will facilitate the final goal of decarbonisation,” he said.
The projected demand for buildings and infrastructure in India will lead to the cement industry’s three-fold expansion by 2050 and result in a proportionate increase in the sector’s CO2 emissions and exacerbate the extent of global warming and intensify the effects related to climate change.
While it reduces CO2 emissions by as much as 40 per cent in comparison to existing cement varieties, LC3 technology has several other advantages over ordinary Portland cement (OPC) and Portland pozzolanic cement (PPC). It consumes less energy to produce while providing comparable strength and is more durable, the experts said.