MAC: Mines and Communities

Is "sustainable cement" all it's cracked up to be?

Published by MAC on 2004-08-19

Is "sustainable cement" all it's cracked up to be?

Cement companies make greater play of controlling pollution than any other sector of the mining industry. They need to - partly because cement manufacturers are one of the world's most significant contributors to global warming and acid rain; partly because their quarries and kilns are usually more visible to the public than metallic mines. Now Britain's RMC - the biggest ready mix cement producer in the world - says it can reduce SO2 plant emissions by three quarters, avoid gypsum wastes, and has found a new use for all those un-recyclable green bottles standing on the wall.

Hot on the heels of RMC, with its own boasts of sustainability, comes France's Lafarge (which has a programme with WWF), Switzerland's Holcim (second in size only to Lafarge) and Germany's HeidelbergCement.

The Swiss company - which has just chalked up a record net profit for the first half of 2004 - plans to construct a coal fired cement plant right up against one of New York's most affluent communities. And many residents don't like the idea.

Heidelberg, with the support of the World Bank, is now using its three Indonesian locations to showcase carbon reduction, by burning so-called "alternative fuels" (co-incineration). It promises that income from sales of its "carbon credits" will benefit poor Indonesians. The company and the Bank also claim that Indonesia is the first country to employ carbon emissions trading in the context of cement production.

However, just before the launch of this initiative, the distressed fisherfolk of Rampa Island in South Kalimantan protested that Heidelberg's rock dumping was threatening their livelihoods.

Cementing a reputation for innovation

By Lisa Urquhart, Financial Times

August 19 2004

Mention aggregates and most people's eyes glaze over. It is a subject that many feel is about as interesting as watching concrete harden.

But environmental and technical challenges have forced RMC, the UK's largest aggregates group, to come up with a range of interesting and innovative solutions for different strands of its business.

A new manufacturing process at the group's cement plant in Rugby has secured RMC a European Award for the Environment for its work in reducing sulphur dioxide emissions.

For the uninitiated, cement is made from cooking limestone, clay, sand and iron oxide at very high temperatures in specially constructed kilns. An unwanted byproduct of cement production is sulphur dioxide, the chief cause of acid rain.

Bob Millard, manager at the plant, which is part of RMC's Rugby Cement division, says concern about emissions prompted a decision to rebuild the plant. This led RMC to experiment with the design of cement kilns with interesting results.

"We found that adding clay, which contains the sulphur, at a different stage of the production process causes the lime to act as a desulphuring agent, dramatically cutting emissions." With the new technique, sulphur dioxide emissions are now 50mg per cu metre of gas, compared with 200mg for the previously most efficient kilns.

Unsurprisingly, the process has generated interest from other cement companies in Europe, and not only for its emission reduction but because of other benefits as well, Mr Millard says. He explains: "The sulphur goes into the cement instead and the increased sulphur helps the performance of the concrete. "Traditional kilns also produce gypsum, which has to be disposed of. The beauty of this process is that there is no byproduct, no requirement for additional energy and no additional cost."

But it's not just environmental concerns that have forced novel solutions. Moving from cement to concrete, this year the group ran into difficulties in fulfilling its biggest ever contract to supply 2.4m cu metres of runway for the airport extension in Dubai. Temperatures in Dubai average 30°C, rising to 50°C in the summer.

Graeme Clack of RMC said: "Two of the three ingredients of ready mixed concrete - aggregates and cement - are inevitably warmed by the sun as they are stored on site or trucked in." However, the ideal temperature range for concrete mix is 22°C to 25°C, meaning that not only would the concrete dry too quickly in the desert temperatures but it would fail to achieve the required strength needed for a runway. RMC solved this conundrum by bringing a bit of the Arctic to the desert. The group constructed several ice-making plants that produced more than 650 tonnes of flaked ice and iced water. Adding this icy slush to the concrete mix ensured that it dried at a suitable temperature, allowing work to continue. Closer to home, the group is also helping to solve a recycling problem.

White and brown glass, used to bottle soft drinks, spirits and beer, can easily be recycled for the same purposes. Green glass, however, finds it slightly harder to achieve an afterlife and often ends up in landfill sites. This is mainly because one of the chief uses of green glass is bottling wine, and - much as English wine advocates like to trumpet the quality of the home tipple - home-produced volumes come nowhere near those imported from France, Australia or Spain. To help address the issue of 1m tonnes of excess glass in the UK, RMC is asking motorists to drive over it. Fortunately, most drivers will be blissfully unaware of this as the group has turned it into "Glassphalt".

Glassphalt is made up of one-third glass combined with limestone and bitumen and has this year been used in repairs of parts of the M50 and M6 motorways, replacing the normal layer of aggregate below the road surface.

So for those who think aggregates are uninteresting, it might be "time to think again" says Rob Gaimster, national technical manager of RMC materials. But, as president of the institute of concrete technology, he might be just a little biased.

Unspoilt by 'progress'

By Cait Murphy, Financial Times

August 20 2004 (slightly abridged)

Ten years ago, a photographer took pictures of every building on Warren Street, the five-block long commercial heart of Hudson, in upstate New York. It's a depressing chronicle of boarded-up shopfronts, empty sidewalks and two antiques shops.

Fast forward a decade, and the picture is entirely different: almost every single building, many of which date back a century or more, has been restored. About 70 are antiques shops, and there must be a dozen art galleries. The streetscape bustles with traffic and pedestrians. A number of the Hudson River's little communities have seen a revival, but perhaps nowhere faster than in the eponymous Hudson, a town of 7,500 inhabitants 110 miles north of New York.

"We've gone through extraordinary changes," says David Birch of Barns & Farms Realty. "A guy whobought a building for $1 in the early 90s sold it in late 90s for $150,000. Now it is probably worth $350,000."

Many people in Hudson have this kind of story about the metamorphoses that have left architectural and social marks on the place. The first European to land there was Henry Hudson himself in 1609; the Dutch settled in 50 years later, followed by Quaker merchants known as "The Proprietors". In the 1780s, they laid out the grid that still defines downtown Hudson, and turned the sleepy farming community into a thriving little port city, with a sideline in whaling (the street signs in Hudson still feature a whale).

When whaling declined, Hudson reinvented itself yet again, this time as a travel hub and industrial centre, with a brothel district on Diamond Street that was a popular embarrassment. The year 1962 marked a sea-change, recalls Denis McShane, whose family has run Rogerson's Hardware on Warren Street since the 1860s. That was when the first out-of-town shopping mall opened. Hudson began to lose its role as the market town for the county, and was also hit by successive factory closures.

The only thing that went right was that the local administration somehow in the 1960s and 1970s managed to avoid getting money for "urban renewal", which left wreckage in so many other places. Untroubled by economic growth, Hudson sank. But its buildings still remained, an attractive, eclectic mish-mash of Italianate, Greek Revival, Georgian, Federal and neo-everything. The antique dealers saw the architecture, the old-fashioned town common, the access via train and major highways, and took a chance. The rest is history.

[The] community, however, is under strain. St Lawrence Cement, a Canada-based subsidiary of Switzerland's Holcim, wants to replace a cement factory on the other side of the Hudson with a coal-fired plant in next-door Greenport, with barging facilities in Hudson itself. The community is divided; the mayor, re-elected in 2002 with 62 per cent of the vote, is for it; basically all the newcomers are against it.

Daniel Odescalchi, SLC's spokesman, figures the company has spent four years so far on the project, and is waiting to get the go-ahead from state environmental authorities. Will that happen? "Absolutely," he says. "When you look at science and facts," in terms of public health and air quality, it's "not a problem at all." But much of Hudson does not agree: red signs screaming "Stop the Plant" are as common as posters advertising an upcoming Philip Glass concert.

Sam Pratt, executive director of Friends of the Hudson, a lobbying group that has become the focus of opposition to the plant, notes that the cement barges would be right next to a park, and disputes the company's assertions on air pollution and the effect of a massive smokestack. And yet the property boom has taken off despite the threat of a cement plant in Hudson's back yard. "I can't tell you the number of people who come here because they want to reinvent themselves," says estate agent Tom Eaton, a resident since 1977. That kind of passion doesn't go out of style.

German Company Signs First Carbon Finance Deal in Indonesia

The World Bank - News Release, Washington DC

July 9 2004

Transaction shows the possibilities of the cement industry for dealing with climate change

Cologne, GERMANY, June 9, 2004 ­ The Indonesian cement company Indocement majority owned by the Heidelberg Cement Group of Germany along with the World Bank and the group of six governments and the 17 companies that make up the Prototype Carbon Fund (PCF), today signed an agreement for the PCF's first cement sector project for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Sustainable Cement Production project is sponsored by Indonesia's second largest cement producer PT. Indocement Tunggal Prakasa Tbk (Indocement). The project plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by implementing technologies and techniques not yet applied in the Indonesian cement industry.

The PCF and Indocement will sign the emissions reductions purchase agreement today in Cologne Germany at the first Carbon Expo, a trade fair event for the global carbon market. Globally, cement production accounts for about 3-4% of total human caused greenhouse gas emissions. Considerable potential exists in developing countries to reduce such emissions by adopting new technologies, processes and methods in cement production. Indocement is intending to introduce new types of cement in Indonesia, as well as undertake fuel change projects in the companies' three Indonesian locations, namely, Citeureup (about 45 km south of Jakarta), Cirebon (about 300 km east of Jakarta) and Tarjun, South Kalimantan.

The project is intended for the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 international agreement to limit climate altering greenhouse gases. The CDM will allow industrialized countries and companies with greenhouse gas reduction commitments, to purchase some of their required reductions, in developing countries. The Indocement Sustainable Cement Project opens all kinds of possibilities for Indonesia and other countries, in which reductions in greenhouse gases are exchanged for development dollars. The project demonstrates the potential and value of the Clean Development Mechanism as a powerful development tool for these countries. The Indocement project will produce greenhouse gas emission reductions of three million tons.

"We are very happy to cooperate with the PCF for this project, says Mr. Oivind Hoidalen, Indocement's Technical Director. "We believe, that the combination of our expertise in cement technology and the PCF's knowledge about the CDM will lead us to success." Regarding the climate impacts and sustainable development aspects, Mr. Hoidalen said that "In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the use of bio fuels and other waste materials produced in the proximate areas of the sites, our project will contribute to sustainable development in a socially responsible way".

The driving force is the Kyoto Protocol, which commits industrialized countries to reduce their carbon emissions by 5 percent below 1990 levels in the period from 2008 to 2012. Companies can supplement their commitments at home by purchasing lower cost emissions in developing world countries. As a result, projects in developing countries will get a new source of financing for sustainable development in the energy, industrial and waste management sectors, land rehabilitation, and clean technologies. Industrialized countries can meet part of their Kyoto obligation, while the threat of climate change is reduced at lower overall cost.

Indocement is a leading example of the opportunities available through carbon finance. The project is part of the portfolio of the PCF. Six governments and 17 companies teamed up with the World Bank in 2000, and contributed $180 million to create the PCF. The carbon finance business has taken on a new sense of urgency in the face of mounting evidence that the Earth's climate is changing, which could have dire consequences for major parts of humanity. The main culprits are fossil fuels that are pumping heat trapping carbon dioxide into the Earth's atmosphere creating an invisible blanket around the planet. Climate change, and accompanying disrupted weather patterns could wreak havoc on the planet, particularly parts of the developing world.

The threat climate change poses to long-term development and the ability of the poor to escape from poverty is of particular concern to the World Bank. "The World Bank is catalyzing a market in which private capital can flow from OECD countries to developing countries for clean technologies and for development that is sustainable," said Ken Newcombe, World Bank fund manager for the PCF. "It is critical that projects such as the Sustainable Cement Project show the possibilities that exist under the CDM. There is a limited opportunity to get such projects in under the very real constraint that exists with lead time for the CDM. World Bank experience shows that projects can have a three to seven year project cycle, so the window is rapidly closing for projects to be accepted under the CDM for the 2012 deadline."

Five years after it started, the global carbon finance market providing credits for reductions in greenhouse gas emissionshas the possibility of becoming a US$10 billion a year market according to research by Point Carbon. Yet right now most developing countries are missing out on the benefits of carbon finance dollars. The Bank's responsibility is to make sure that an equitable share of this money, much of it private sector, ends up in the hands of the poorest, in the poorest areas of developing countries.

HeidelbergCement successful with first CDM project in Indonesia

Company press release

July 11 2004

Indocement, HeidelbergCement's Indonesian subsidiary, signed an agreement with the Prototype Carbon Fund, managed by the World Bank, regarding the sale of CO2 reduction certificates as part of a CDM project for the period from 2005 to 2012. The "Clean Development Mechanism" (CDM) recognizes investments in emission reduction measures in developing countries by generating emissions certificates, which can be sold or used in the European Emission Trading Scheme.

This project is the first CDM project within the South-East Asian cement industry and is strongly supported by the Indonesian government. By introducing low-clinker quality cements and strengthening the use of secondary fuels, a yearly average of more than 500,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions will be eliminated over the next 10 years. The secondary fuels used will primarily be agricultural by-products such as rice husks and residues from palm oil production.

HeidelbergCement's Indonesian subsidiary is one of the first companies worldwide to have developed a CDM project. Until now, only five CDM projects have been approved worldwide, as the Clean Development Mechanism, monitored by the United Nations, is subject to strict conditions. Preparations for the project lasted two years and were carried out by Indocement in close cooperation with the World Bank.


June 2004

The fishing community of Rampa, in South Kalimantan, Indonesia are demanding that a cement company removes the waste rock which it has deposited in their fishing grounds. The Indonesian cement company, PT Indocement Tunggal Prakarsa, and its German parent company Heidelberg Cement Group, are refusing to listen to them. The livelihoods of several thousand local people are at stake. 2 fishermen and 3 local activists have been arrested but released on bail after the most recent protests in their 2-year struggle. WALHI/FoE Indonesia is asking for letters to be sent to the German Embassy in Jakarta and to the Indonesian Environment Minister.

For more information see Friends of the Earth International cyberaction page at Bahasa Indonesia readers only see:

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