Lafarge’s cement plant in Bath, Ontario, has been working tirelessly in the pursuit of carbon emission reduction strategies and has planted multiple energy crops that may eventually contribute to a segment of the 110,000 metric tons of coal and petroleum coke that the plant goes through as fuel each year.
Lafarge environmental and public affairs manager, Robert Cumming, in an interview with BioMass Magazine, says that the company recognizes that the cement industry represents 5% of the world carbon emissions. “We (the cement industry) use a lot of fuel,” Cumming said. “Not nearly as much as the power industry but we’re up there, and the reason we need so much energy is because we’re heating rock up to almost a semi-molten level, about 1,400 to 1,500 degrees Celsius.”
Last year, Lafarge and Queen’s University’s Energy and Environmental Policy Institute began a multiyear life-cycle assessment study. Together they have been developing planting trials of perennial crops, using the 2,500 acres of land surrounding the cement plant.
“During this multiyear trial, we will try to confirm that we can get at least a 90 percent savings on CO2 by growing these crops,” Cumming said. “Last summer, we contracted a number of local farmers to grow four different crops.”
The harvest, which yielded 950 1,050-pound bales, will be processed by Mesa Reduction Engineering and Processing Inc., before they are burned with the coal. Lafarge will use between 10-30 percent biomass during these tests. Cummings explained that this after this process occurs, Lafarge will undergo a full emissions testing program, with emission testing technology firm RWDI Consulting, to measure the effects and the benefits of the fuel. The firm will also test the plant’s traditional fuel in order to produce data for comparison.
Lafarge has already reduced its CO2 emissions by 20 percent since 1990, and in light of recent governmental commitments, need to further reduce those emissions by about 18 percent.
Ontario has a target of a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2006 levels by 2020. This means Lafarge would have to replace nearly half of its fossil fuels with biomass. “We need to start work today to build the future,” Cummings said. “We recognize that carbon challenges are coming, and we intend to meet them head-on. We do have other possible solutions, but this one (biomass) is the most promising.”