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Cement, the second-most consumed substance globally after water, plays a vital role in infrastructure development through its use in concrete for buildings, roads, and other structures. However, its production process contributes significantly to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, accounting for approximately 8% of global CO₂ emissions – exceeding the emissions from the entire global aviation sector (IEA, 2023).

Sources of Emissions for the Cement Industry

  • Chemical Decomposition: The primary source of CO₂ emissions in cement production stems from the calcination of limestone (CaCO₃) into calcium oxide (CaO) at high temperatures (~1450°C), as represented by the following reaction: CaCO₃ (s) → CaO (s) + CO₂ (g). This process inherently releases roughly half of the total CO₂ emissions associated with cement production.
  • Fossil Fuel Combustion: The remaining CO₂ emissions originate from the combustion of fossil fuels, primarily coal and gas, used to heat the kilns during the calcination process.

The Cement Industry’s Global Impact

The cement industry’s total CO₂ emissions, encompassing both the calcination reaction and fossil fuel combustion, are estimated to be around 2.8 billion tonnes annually. This translates to approximately 8% of global CO₂ production (IEA, 2023). Highlighting the industry’s significant contribution to climate change, if its emissions were attributed to a single entity, it would rank as the third largest emitter globally, following China and the United States. China is the world’s largest cement producer, accounting for over half of global production (USGS, 2023). Other major producers include India, the United States, Vietnam, and Brazil. While specific production figures are not readily available, both Austria and Germany have established cement industries. Heidelberg Materials (formerly HeidelbergCement AG), a multinational headquartered in Germany, is a major player in the European market.

Data suggests that China’s cement production process has a higher CO₂ footprint compared to some European producers. This might be attributed to factors such as a higher reliance on coal-fired kilns in China.

The Path to Sustainability

Emerging technologies offer promising solutions to mitigate the environmental impact of cement production. One such example is the development of carbon-negative cement by Brimstone, a California-based company (CBS). This innovation utilizes readily available calcium silicate rocks, which are approximately 200 times more abundant than traditional limestone. Notably, unlike limestone, calcium silicate rocks do not contain inherent CO₂, potentially leading to a negative lifecycle carbon footprint for the resulting cement product.

Green Cement: A Sustainable Alternative?

Green cement refers to formulations and production processes designed to reduce the environmental impact of cement production. Strategies include:

  • Reducing Clinker Content: Clinker, an intermediate product containing calcium silicates, is a major source of CO₂ emissions. Green cements aim to decrease clinker content by incorporating supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs) like fly ash or slag.
  • Alternative Fuels: Utilizing biomass or waste-derived fuels in the kiln can reduce reliance on fossil fuels and their associated CO₂ emissions.
  • Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS): Emerging technologies aim to capture CO₂ emissions from the production process and store them underground, potentially mitigating the environmental impact.

Looking Forward

The cement industry faces the crucial challenge of reconciling its vital role in infrastructure development with the pressing need for environmental sustainability. Continuously exploring and implementing innovative solutions like carbon-negative cement holds significant promise for the industry’s future, paving the way for a more sustainable and environmentally responsible future.

Floodlight: Emissions Solutions for the Cement Industry

Floodlight uses satellite data to help monitor emissions coming from facilities. Our data can be used to analyze scope 1 and 2 for any facility across the globe. As cement plants move towards becoming greener Floodlight can help by keeping track of how the emissions decrease over the coming years. The data also can be used as an outside source to help validate internal emission reports. Floodlight’s scientific approach is a major upgrade over the traditional usage calculation that many companies still use. It allows for much quicker turnarounds and eliminates potential greenwashing.


1. IEA, “Cement,” accessed May 2024.

2. CBS, “Cement industry accounts for about 8% of CO2 emissions. One startup seeks to change that,” Jan 16, 2023.

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