Challenges in usage of Hydrogen in Cement Industry

With its zero-emission characteristics, hydrogen has become a promising decarbonization path for the cement industry. While there are several issues that need to be resolved in the use of hydrogen, there are also many advantages, so much so that the growth of a hydrogen economy can make the cement sector more sustainable in the long-term.
Dr S B Hegde, Professor, Jain University, and Visiting Professor, Pennsylvania State University (USA)

With more than 7% of all CO2 emissions, the cement industry ranks among the top global producers of the gas. There is a mounting pressure on industries to decarbonize as nations strive to achieve their climate goals set forth in the Paris Agreement.

Usage of Hydrogen in Cement Industry
Hydrogen can be used in the cement industry in a variety of ways to cut emissions:

Fuel substitution: Hydrogen can be used to produce cement instead of fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. Due to the fact that burning hydrogen only emits water vapour and not carbon dioxide, this can significantly lower CO2 emissions.

fossil fuels like coal and natural gasFigure 1: H2 usage in cement and steel, not on cars

Less Clinker %: A significant portion of the CO2 emissions in the sector are caused by clinker, a crucial component in the manufacture of cement. As hydrogen can be used as a reducing agent in the raw mix, its use can help decrease the amount of clinker required in the production of cement. This can contribute to a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions.

CO2 capturing: Hydrogen can be used to capture and use carbon dioxide emissions from the production of cement. Capturing CO2 emissions and using them as a feedstock to make other goods like building materials or fuels is known as carbon capture and utilisation.

fossil fuels like coal and natural gasFigure 2: Typical Cement process

A Route to Decarbonization
Although hydrogen presents a promising route to decarbonization in the cement sector, there are a number of obstacles that must be overcome:

Cost: Producing green hydrogen currently costs more than producing hydrogen from fossil fuels. However, the price of green hydrogen is anticipated to decrease as the cost of renewable energy continues to decline.

Infrastructure: For widespread use in the cement industry, the current hydrogen production, storage, and transportation infrastructure is insufficient. For development of the required infrastructure, significant investment is required.

Safety: Due to its high flammability, hydrogen must be handled and stored with extreme caution. To guarantee the safety of hydrogen use in the cement industry, adequate safety measures must be put in place.

Opportunities in Cement Industry
  • By using hydrogen in the cement industry, nations can significantly reduce their CO2 emissions and work towards the Paris Agreement’s climate goals.
  • In the cement industry, hydrogen use has the potential to lessen reliance on fossil fuels and boost energy security.
  • The growth of a hydrogen economy in the cement sector has the potential to bring about new employment opportunities in fields like manufacturing, R&D, and infrastructure development.
fossil fuels like coal and natural gas
Concluding Remarks
While there are a number of issues that need to be resolved, there are also a number of advantages in using hydrogen in the cement industry, and the growth of a hydrogen economy has the potential to give the sector a more sustainable future.

About the author
Dr. Hegde has served in the cement industry in India and abroad for more than 31 years where he has held leadership positions in reputed cement companies. He has published more than 156 Research Papers in National and International Journals and has 6 Patents to his credit. He is also a recipient of Global Visionary Award 2020 instituted by World Vision Academy and Gujarat Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Ahmedabad.
International Concrete Construction Technology, May - June 2023
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