Clean Tech

Trying to cement a sustainable future

Preeti Mehra | Updated on January 09, 2018


“We have been pro active on sustainability in India”, says CSI co-chair Mahendra Singhi

The Indian cement industry takes pride in being a key contributor to the country’s circular economy. Mahendra Singhi, Group CEO, Dalmia Cement Bharat Limited and co-chair of the Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI) in India, tells BusinessLine that the domestic industry uses around 40-50 million tonne fly ash and 15 million tonne blast furnace slag annually to produce blended cements.This would otherwise require coal based thermal power plants to allocate 18,720 hectare additional land for fly ash disposal alone. Excerpts:

What are the measures being taken in India to make cement a more sustainable product?

Indian cement industry has proven to be the most proactive on matters related to resource efficiency, energy and environment. A testament to this is the ever growing CSI membership in India for promotion of sustainable operations. Compared to just 25 per cent in the world, more than 65 per cent installed cement capacity in the country is member of CSI.

We are global leaders in energy efficiency improvements as we have one of the most energy efficient cement plants located in India.

Considering the global average electricity consumption per tonne of cement (kWh/tonne of cement), Indian cement industry’s average is 23 per cent less and our best performing plants are operating near 64kWh/tonne of cement , which is about 38 per cent less than the global average. Similarly, our specific thermal energy consumption (kCal/kg of clinker) is about 12-15 per cent less compared to the global average.

The detailed breakdown of the energy savings achieved during the perform, achieve and trade (PAT) cycle highlights cement sector delivered 16.6 per cent in energy savings despite having only 9.1 per cent share in the total primary energy consumption in industrial sectors covered under the PAT cycle 1.

Also, in order to avoid a futuristic competing water use scenario, progressive cement companies here have taken targets to become water positive.

Substituting aggregates used in concrete with fly ash is happening for many years. Have you been able to go beyond this?

Yes, our cement industry has been proactive in use of fly ash in blended cement production. The environment friendly disposal of fly ash has helped in creating value for both thermal power plants (waste generator) and the cement industry (waste disposer). In the last five years (FY 2011-12 to FY 2015-16), Portland Pozzolana Cement (PPC) production in India has helped avoidance of about 212 million tonne CO2. This is equivalent to creating about ₹1,564 billion natural capital value within a five year period on Greenhouse gas (GHG) emission avoidance alone.

Even though cement industry is the largest utiliser of fly ash, the annual fly ash utilisation ranges only 58 to 61 per cent. However, recent trends highlight that utilisation of fly ash in cement is showing stagnancy rather than growth.

What are the barriers the industry faces?

Geographical barriers being faced in further utilisation of fly ash is the location of coal based thermal power plants and cement plants... Hence, introducing freight subsidy can bridge the situation by allowing transportation of fly ash from surplus areas to cement clusters where its availability is limited.

Other barriers include reluctance in using fly ash based cement in government projects, which is improving but not reached its true potential. Additionally, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) specification of PPC only limits fly ash blending up to 35 per cent at present.

How far has India been able to embrace the concept of recycling concrete and using waste as a potential recovery opportunity?

Recycling of concrete is well-established in developed countries. However, it is a major challenge in India due to multi-stakeholder involvement in solid waste management. As long as dumping of construction and demolition (C&D) waste remains a cheaper option then its recycling, progress in this regard may remain slow. At the same time, some C&D plants are successfully working in Delhi and other major cities.

What are the challenges that CSI and Indian companies face in their effort towards manufacturing more sustainable cement?

CSI in India and more particularly progressive cement companies have been successful in India to produce cement with very low carbon and energy footprints compared to global cement industry average. However, the potential of cement industry has been utilised successfully in disposal of wastes containing calorific value. In Europe, on an average 30-40 per cent of kiln heat comes from burning of waste materials (alternative fuels). In India this value has only reached 4 per cent despite enormous potential. In my opinion, we require to shake our solid waste management system at every level.

We have been demanding implementation of policies on ‘Polluter to pay’ and introducing ‘landfill tax’.

Organisations such as GIZ and Development Alternatives have been researching new and sustainable building materials. Is CSI following and supporting these developments?

Yes, GIZ and Development Alternatives (DA) have been providing research towards sustainable building materials and the cement industry is allowing them an opportunity to interact with our top leadership. We invited DA to our CSI India CEO meeting in September to learn more on their R&D efforts to develop Limestone Calcined Clay Cement (LC3).

Published on November 07, 2017

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