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Saturday, 25 January 2020
Raw materials & technologies, Technologies

Substantial global carbon uptake by cement carbonation

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Cement manufacturing is among the most carbon-intensive industrial processes, but an international team of researchers has found that over time, the widely used building material reabsorbs much of the carbon dioxide emitted when it was made.

Substantial global carbon uptake by cement carbonation. Source: Bernd Sterzl/

Substantial global carbon uptake by cement carbonation. Source: Bernd Sterzl/

Calcination of carbonate rocks during the manufacture of cement produced 5% of global CO2 emissions from all industrial process and fossil-fuel combustion in 2013. Considerable attention has been paid to quantifying these industrial process emissions from cement production, but the natural reversal of the process - carbonation - has received little attention in carbon cycle studies.

Carbonation represents large net sink of CO2

Researchers use new and existing data on cement materials during cement service life, demolition, and secondary use of concrete waste to estimate regional and global CO2 uptake between 1930 and 2013 using an analytical model describing carbonation chemistry. They find that carbonation of cement materials over their life cycle represents a large and growing net sink of CO2. In total, they estimate that a cumulative amount of 4.5 GtC has been sequestered in carbonating cement materials from 1930 to 2013, offsetting 43% of the CO2 emissions from production of cement over the same period, not including emissions associated with fossil use during cement production. The scientists conclude that carbonation of cement products represents a substantial carbon sink that is not currently considered in emissions inventories.

The study is published in: Nature Geoscience.

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