Global cement producers put their money behind carbon-free concrete

Concrete production site

First six start-ups to receive backing of world-leading cement companies as part of drive to reach Net Zero.

The Global Cement & Concrete Association (GCCA) has named the first six start-ups to be backed by its member companies as part of the first-ever Innovandi Open Challenge to produce carbon free concrete by 2050, in line with the Net Zero target to combat global warming.

The first six, chosen from more than 100 entrants to the Open Challenge, are based in the USA, Canada, the UK, Italy, and the Netherlands. UK-based Coomtech and MOF Technologies are among them. More are expected to be announced over the coming weeks.

The six have now joined forces with world-leading cement companies to form part of formal consortia to test, develop, and deploy ground-breaking technologies. And they intend to work quickly, with the technologies being developed to a point at which they can be demonstrated later this year.

Because it is not clear how carbon-free cement could be made, one of the key focuses of the cement industry is on the development and implementation of technology for carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS).

Coomtech, for example, has developed a low-energy, low-cost drying technology using kinetic energy created by managed, turbulent air, to remove moisture, giving a new slant to a 100-year-old process. A single Coomtech-enabled plant is said to be able to cut CO2 emissions in a year by as much as it would take 600,000 mature trees to remove from the air.

MOF, meanwhile, has developed a system that overcomes the traditional adoption barriers of energy use and cost with its Nuada carbon capture technology by using metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) to deliver energy-efficient CO2 removal at about a quarter of the cost of conventional amines (which are ammonia-based compounds for removing CO2).

GCCA members have committed to moving from the dozens of pilot carbon capture projects already announced or under way to having 10 industrial-scale carbon capture plants by 2030 as part of the Net Zero Roadmap announced by the organisation in October last year.

GCCA chief executive Thomas Guillot says: "It’s a proud moment to see the industry coming together to support such innovative start-ups on their journey. Our member companies were greatly impressed by their ambition to be a key part of the climate solution. The programme is another big step forward towards unlocking innovation to help us achieve our net-zero goal.

"As the need for resilient and sustainable communities to support a growing global population becomes more pressing, cement and concrete will be essential to providing the infrastructure and buildings that society needs. Achieving net-zero concrete relies on several different groups playing their part, and as an industry we’re looking outwards as well as inwards, to see how start-ups like these can support our goals.

Davide Zampini, head of research & development at cement company CEMEX, says: "The GCCA’s Innovandi Open Challenge is a stimulating initiative that has united experts from GCCA’s various members. It has brought the industry together to achieve a common goal – to identify and accelerate the development of the most promising and innovative ideas to reduce our carbon footprint.

"It's more evident than ever that only through collaboration and innovation will the industries represented by the GCCA be able to reach their 2050 goal of producing carbon-neutral concrete. We cannot wait to discover the opportunities and support the start-ups."