If we want to tackle climate change, we have to talk about cement - which is a problem not just for the construction industry but also for the British government, which rightly sets ambitious targets for carbon reduction, at the same time as it sets ambitious targets for housebuilding. Cement is obviously a big deal in construction generally, not least for the production of concrete, for which it is a large component part and something which won't go away as a building material, no matter how green we get. But the real trouble we have therefore, is that cement is now responsible for 8% of global carbon emissions - a quite phenomenal statistic.
There is hope, however, as CEMEX - one of the largest global producers of concrete - has announced a pledge to reduce its carbon emissions by 60% by 2030, and to achieve full carbon neutrality by 2050. Gonzalo Galindo, the head of Corporate Venture Capital at CEMEX, was a guest on the property podcast PropCast earlier this month, where he spoke to Blackstock Consulting's Andrew Teacher, explaining how they aim to achieve this.
Their first step has been to tackle the process of creating cement in the first place - a process which involves incredible amounts of heat (kilns heated to 1700 degrees Celsius), which logically is achieved by cement factories around the world by burning fossil fuels. Galindo explains that they as a producer have already managed to reduce their fossil fuel consumption by 50% in favour of renewable types of energy, and expect to go to 100% renewable electricity within a decade. Excitingly, they have invested in a particular company, Synhelion, which has developed solar power technology capable of generating enough heat for industrial level chemical reactions. They hope to have their first solar powered kiln up and running within 2022, and to be able to roll this out at scale by as soon as 2023.
Another big issue in the production of cement however is the chemical reaction that occurs in the process, which necessarily produces carbon dioxide. Galindo admits there is no way to work around this chemical reaction itself - it can't be avoided and CO2 will be released as a result. What can be done however, is to recapture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. CEMEX is investing in companies such as Carbon Clean, which create technological solutions to capture and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, to then safely store it.
Galindo goes on to explain how as a corporation they are also investing in AI technology to create much better efficiency in the supply chain, reducing waste; everything from wasted materials, which by their nature have unnecessarily emitted carbon, to wasted fuel. AI is also being used to predict the way that different soil types behave, and by studying this it is possible to calculate the minimum quantities of concrete required to provide safe building foundations, depending on soil type.
Fascinating times. Fascinating stuff.
To listen to the PropCast episode featuring Gonzalo Galindo speaking with Andrew Teacher, click the link at the top of this article - or, copy and paste the following into your browser: https://soundcloud.com/propcast-property-podcast/cemex-bosscast?utm_source=clipboard&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=social_sharing