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The Ever-Growing Concrete Industry

Global Demand for Concrete

Concrete is used the world over as a building material for creating everything from sidewalks to highways, foundations for houses to skyscrapers, bridges and infrastructure. It is literally found everywhere.

We’ve all seen ready-mix concrete trucks rolling down a highway with the barrel rotating to keep the product in a fluid state. The trucks are so commonplace that we hardly notice them as they cruise from the concrete plant to a job site. Seeing these trucks everywhere is testament to the health of the concrete industry.

How Concrete is Made

Concrete is manufactured by mixing together cement powder, water, sand, and gravel. Cement is a powder made from limestone, shells, clay, shale, slag, sand and iron ore. The use of cement as a building material began almost 2,000 years ago in ancient Roman and Greek civilizations. Today cement continues to be a versatile and fundamental ingredient in the manufacture of concrete.

In 2022 the global market for cement reached $363.2 billion U.S. and is expected to reach $U.S. 481.73 billion by 2029. To say that the cement industry is healthy is a gross understatement. Cement is the vital component in the production of concrete. And the concrete industry is driven by increasing population and rapid urbanization, creating a growing need for residential and commercial buildings.

A Downside of Concrete Production

Concrete production is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet. And greenhouse gases are known to be driving climate change around the world. The Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA) states that around 14 billion cubic metres of concrete are cast each year.

GCCA goes on to say cement production alone accounts for as much as 7% of all CO2 emissions- three times that of aviation. To make one metric ton of cement a furnace fires to 1,400 degrees Celsius which gives off one metric ton of CO2.

So, the concrete industry says it wants to be carbon neutral by 2050 and has set a target of reducing emissions an additional 25% by 2030. Doing so would save about 5 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions over the decade. That’s a good start.

How it May be Possible

The industry is proposing recycling concrete and doing away with some hydrocarbons by using biofuels in its furnaces.

A U.S. company expects to capture CO2 and use it to dry out the concrete mix, reducing water. A Canadian company is working on how to inject liquified CO2 and injecting it into the concrete to store it there.

GCCA also states that the industry is focusing on creating “green” cements using recycled materials. In Britain 26% of new structures are already being built this way.

The bottom line is greenhouse gases must be eliminated. After all, who needs a house if no one is alive to use it? It may be that serious.

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