On-Site Magazine

Funding pours in for clean air project

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May 31, 2013 by PATRICK CALLAN

Lafarge will use low-carbon waste materials to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at its cement plant in Bath, Ont. as part of a three-year project.
Lafarge will use low-carbon waste materials to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at its cement plant in Bath, Ont. as part of a three-year project.

Lafarge Canada Inc., Natural Resource Canada, Queen’s University and Carbon Management Canada are partnering on an innovative energy project designed to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions at Lafarge’s cement plant in Bath, Ont.

The three-year project involves four firings of the kiln using low-carbon waste material––construction and demolition waste, asphalt shingles, utility poles and railway ties––as fuel to help lower the plant’s annual carbon dioxide emissions by roughly 10 per cent.

Backed by $8 million in funds, including $2.68 million from Natural Resource Canada to build a full-scale demonstration plant, the project is scheduled to begin in August with the first kiln firing.

Lafarge, who is involved in a number of alternate fuel projects worldwide, has committed to reducing carbon dioxide emissions and reducing consumption of fossil fuels at its Bath plan. “This is an exciting project for the Bath plant and we’re quite happy that this process started,” says Richard Sebastianelli, plant manager.

If all goes as planned, the testing could have significant implications for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the cement industry worldwide, says Warren Mabee, the project’s lead researcher and Canada research chairman in renewable energy development and implementation with Queen’s University.

The Canadian cement industry produces roughly 3.8 per cent of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions, and of that, 30 to 40 per cent comes from burning coal and petcoke––both commonly used to fire kilns at cement plants.

“If Lafarge can reduce that per cent by a significant amount then we’ve done something real for the world. Something that will benefit all of us,” says Mabee. “We need cement but we can make it with a lower footprint.”

The benefit of this project, Mabee said, is that it will test the impact of low-carbon fuels––materials that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill­­––in a real, industrial-sized plant the produces on average 2,400 tonnes of cement per day.

In between testing periods the plant will revert to its normal fueling methods while researchers will analyze and compare actual results to their model.

“We will run the tests, compare our model outputs with what is actually measured at the plant so that we will know how accurate our model is. Where there are problems, we’ll go back and fix it,” says Mabee. “We’ll continue to refine the model so we get much closer to a real industrial process.”

Using results from the plant and their model, Mabee and his team will extrapolate their findings to see how much emissions could be reduced if cement plants were only using low-carbon fuels.

“Ultimately it will tell us how much better we can do with cement production. We can green that process and start bringing emissions down in real terms,” he says.

The project will be fully documented, both along the way and afterwards, with findings published in academic papers, and environmental and trade journals.

“It’s very important that we keep the public and industry informed about what we’re doing and that we try to communicate those results,” he adds.

A tangible, long-term strategy to reduce fossil-based emissions in the atmosphere is needed as we move towards our “carbon-constrained” future––one that will see more accountability in terms of reducing emissions, Mabee says.

“And we’ll need the science to back that up,” he says. “We can’t just say we’re doing it. we’ve got to show we’re doing it.”

Carbon Management Canada (CMC), an organization that supports research to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the fossil energy industry, is one of the groups putting up cash to back the project––$400,000 over three years.

With the cement industry generating around 10 million tonnes of emissions per year in Canada, a project such as this one was very appealing, says Richard Adamson, managing director of CMC. “The big issue as we go forward is as much around how we make decisions as it is around what technical choices or regulatory choices we make.”

As part of the project, Mabee’s team will look at full emissions comparisons, evaluate water use, burner optimization and do a life cycle analysis on different alternative approaches to reduction of emissions.

“And that’s key,” he says. “Life cycle analysis is becoming a ruler by which benefits from different pathways are assessed.”

When it comes to choosing which projects to fund, the CMC looks to invest in projects that not only have the potential for a large impact, but also connect many different groups, from academic researchers to industry professionals, on national and international scales.

“The more connected these various groups are, the more effective the innovation process is going to be in the long-term,” he explains.

Adamson adds that the kind of work being done by Mabee’s team is far more important that this particular project alone.

“It’s laying the groundwork for future projects. For people to be able to go forward and measure other projects in a similar area.”