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UK commits to reducing carbon emissions in concrete production

12th October 2023 by Sean Couldwell Concrete 0 comments

The UK uses approximately 11.7 million tonnes of concrete. However, producers are developing methods to diminish the carbon cost associated with concrete.

Although concrete is a low-cost, high-strength material, Chatham House research reveals that the concrete sector accounts for 8% of carbon dioxide emissions. In response to this, some architects and developers have opted to use timber as an alternative building material to reduce their reliance on concrete. However, commercial timber buildings usually require concrete flooring.

Standard concrete production involves using cement as a binder, which is fired in kilns heated by fossil fuels at temperatures ranging between 1,400 and 1,500 C. Although researchers have tried using electricity or hydrogen to heat these kilns instead of fossil fuels, they have been unable to reach the high temperatures required for producing concrete.

UK manufacturers are turning their attention towards carbon capture technology, though this has yet to be implemented on a commercial scale. The government is investing £1 billion into researching ways in which captured carbon can be stored and used for other purposes as part of the strategy towards reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The government has promised a further £2 billion of funding.

Another strategy involves replacing cement components in concrete with alternative materials such as blast furnace slag (a by-product from iron and steel production) or pulverized coal ash. Kaolinite is a binder requiring lower heating levels between 650C and 750C. Karen Scrivener – a materials chemist- has developed LC3, which also reduces carbon emissions.

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