The best way to transition to a low-carbon economy is to accelerate the circular economy transformation. At JSW ~70% of our input material requirement is met from waste.
JSW Cement - Manoj Rustagi, Executive Vice President & Chief Sustainability & Innovation Officer
The Indian cement industry has taken many initiatives on its own to decarbonize. As a matter of fact, today Indian Cement companies are most efficient globally and have much lower carbon footprint. Case in point is JSW Cement which is having a specific carbon emission intensity of 220 kg/MT of cementitious material, which is less than 38% of the global average of 580 kg/MT of cementitious material. Now what is needed is a demand pull for low carbon cement and concrete which will lead to next level of innovation and reduction in carbon emissions. It is correct that the transition to Net-Zero for sectors like Cement is more difficult than others and therefore the need for a broader collaborative approach involving all stakeholders, both private and public.
Green policies and ratings
Cement and concrete are used in construction of houses, infrastructure, and industrial projects. There is a need for a “green procurement” policy for all public projects. Government agencies have to lead by demanding low carbon products and then others will follow. This policy will have a snow-balling effect and will accelerate decarbonisation of building materials like steel and cement. The Government of Canada has initiated and announced a “cement breakthrough” which emphasises usage of low carbon cement and concrete products and provides policy enablers for corporates to accelerate decarbonisation.
Recently, SBI announced concessional interest rates for green homes; builders get higher FSI for green homes; however, the process of ratings that determine the certification of “green homes” do not sufficiently take into account low carbon building materials. Today, the process of “green ratings” is heavily tilted towards operational carbon/energy efficiency and does not give sufficient weightage to “embodied carbon”. This has to change. The rating should be based on full life cycle analysis of the built environment and rating points need to be assigned accordingly.
Carbon capture, use, storage
Supplementary cementitious materials
Currently, fly ash and blast furnace slag are being used as supplementary cementitious materials in blended cement production. However, standards in India are prescriptive and not performance based. So, even if technically more fly ash or slag could be used to get the desired strength of the cement or concrete, it cannot be done because of prescriptive standards that limit use of supplementary cementitious materials. Brazil has already started working towards performance-based standards and we should also work towards it.
Capital intensive technologies
Developing and deploying innovative technologies for decarbonizing cement production is definitely required. However, technologies such as CCU, electrification of kilns, concentrated solar thermal, etc are all capital intensive and the need is to look for ways and means to fund/finance such new and innovative technologies. Cement is a low-price commodity and creative financial instruments are needed to support adoption of new technologies and transition to a low-carbon economy.
Carbon mitigation levers
At JSW Cement, we are working on fundamental research to increase the usage of alternative raw materials and alternative cementitious materials. We are still not a listed company but have sustainability and ESG compliances at par with any other listed company; and this comes from our ethos of being responsible. We have got our ESG risk rating done by Sustainalytics (a global leader), which is available in the public domain. With a score of “17”, JSW Cement is rated number one in the construction material industry sector across the world.
Clinker Substitution: At JSW Cement, clinker is blended with other supplementary cementitious materials like blast-furnace slag to produce blended cement, which has a much lower carbon footprint than OPC. Currently, 89% of its total product portfolio is made using either blast-furnace slag or combination of slag/fly-ash. Both GGBS and PSC (Portland Slag Cement) contain a significant amount of blast-furnace slag, which not only conserves natural resource like limestone, but lowers the clinker factor and consequently lowers carbon emissions and specific energy consumption.
Alternative fuels and raw materials: As part of its climate action strategy, the company is shifting towards using more alternative fuels and raw materials. Currently we are replacing ~8% of our fuel requirement with alternative fuels and ~4% of our raw mix with alternative raw materials, which will increase to more than 30% by 2030.
We are gradually increasing our green power through solar power plants, Waste Heat Recovery Systems (WHRS), and are sourcing renewable energy through Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). Currently, ~4% of our power portfolio is coming from renewable energy, which will increase to 50% by 2030.
There is this thought globally that the best way to transition to a low-carbon economy is to accelerate the circular economy transformation - a circularity imperative. And the cement and concrete industry is at the centre of such a transformation.
The manufacturing process of cement, technically and intrinsically allow for it to use various types of wastes. In fact, the cement kiln is known as the best incinerator for processing waste as it has zero solid residue from the process. We process waste like Municipality Solid Waste (MSW), Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF), waste from Pharma companies, biomass and agriculture waste, multi-layered plastic waste (MLP) which is not recyclable, hazardous waste like medical waste, liquid industrial waste, spent pot liners (SPL), tyre chips, to name some, as sources of energy and alternative fuels.
We also use waste like steel slag; red-mud and SPL as alternative raw materials to replace limestone; waste like Blast Furnace Slag and Fly-ash and Pond-ash as SCMs; and chemical gypsum and industrial gypsum in the final cement making process. The list is endless, and the potential is even more.
The cement industry is at the centre of the circular economy transformation and a boon for many other industries in tackling their waste handling problems. At JSW, ~70% of our input material requirement is met from waste, which is a benchmark.