Shree Cement helping to create the zero-carbon built environment futureDr Anil Kumar Trivedi, Shree Cement Ltd, India.
This article was first published in International Cement Review in November 2019.
India’s cement industry accounts for over 7% of global cement production and plays a critical role in the country’s initiatives to modernise and develop its infrastructure. Shree Cement Ltd (SCL) is one of India’s top three cement producers and a top 100 company in terms of market capitalisation, operating a cement capacity of more than 40Mta across eight states.
Being at the forefront of sustainability has always been an intrinsic part of SCL’s business. The cement producer was the first Indian cement company to publish a sustainability report (for FY04-05) and join the Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI). As a signatory to the CSI, SCL has delivered on its promise to reduce its energy footprint by implementing leading practices in the industry as well as transferring knowledge to the wider cement sector. The company’s vision is to be the leading cement producer in India, creating value through business practices that emphasise a triple-bottom line of economic, social and environmental performance.
In this context, SCL announced this year its commitment to set a science-based target to cut its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, in line with the requirements of the Paris Agreement. It believes the industry plays a key role in climate change mitigation and the company recognises its responsibility to reduce GHG and adopt low-carbon growth. Since cement manufacturing requires the combustion of large amounts of fuel and creates carbon dioxide (CO2) as a byproduct of the calcination process, it is a critical issue to address. Therefore, SCL is taking measures to improve energy efficiency, in addition to exploring alternative fuels (AFs) and blended cements.
Improving energy efficiency
In an energy-intensive industry such as the cement sector, energy efficiency is a prime concern. There is an urgent need to optimise the industry’s energy consumption as well as reduce the load on central electricity systems. SCL has undertaken several energy efficiency initiatives, resulting in the saving of 7680MWh of energy and reducing CO2 emissions by 6297t in the last year. For example, replacing HPSV lights with LED lights at the main sites resulted in a saving of 87.51kWh of energy. The company’s strategic approach to optimise costs through energy efficiency makes it one of the lowest energy-consuming companies in the Indian cement sector.
Similarly, SCL incurs high costs from generating power from conventional power sources like coal, so the company has invested in on-site green power generation.
Furthermore, it is consistently increasing the share of renewable energy sources to the total energy produced on-site. Last year some 39% of the total energy produced was derived from renewable energy sources, including waste heat recovery systems (WHRS) and solar power. It currently has the highest installed capacity of WHRS in the Indian cement industry equivalent to 126MW. This accounts for 32.4% of the total installed capacity throughout the Indian cement industry, which has the second-largest total after China globally. SCL has also installed a 62kW solar power plant at Beawar, Rajasthan, and a 21MW wind power plant at Kopal, Karnataka. The cement producer is also increasing its capacity for processing AFs appropriately to maximise its use at other plants and gradually replace conventional fuel use.
Optimising clinker use
An additional way in which SCL is reducing its process emissions from cement is by optimising its clinker use. The company is significantly increasing the use of fly ash, which is the most important alternative raw material (ARM) in its production value chain. Presently, 73% of the total quantity of ARMs used is made up of fly ash and a further 13% consists of synthetic gypsum from synthetic gypsum plants. SCL saw a 22% increase in the production of synthetic gypsum from captive sources last year compared to the previous year. Some of the other materials used include bed ash and granulated blastfurnace slag (GBS). These products ensure consistent performance of the final product without compromising quality.
With demand for low-carbon construction growing, these innovations provide the edge in an increasingly environmentally conscious global marketplace. To date 22 cities from Cape Town to Tokyo have committed to the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment, which was launched last year. This will require them to enact regulations and planning policies to ensure that all new buildings within their jurisdiction are operating at net-zero carbon from 2030 and that all buildings, including existing buildings, operate at net-zero carbon by 2050. Some 12 companies, as well as four states and regions, have also signed up to this commitment. Likewise, in India, the Kochi Municipal Corp (KMC) has partnered with World Resources Institute India (WRI India) to develop a roadmap and action plan for all buildings to achieve zero-carbon potential for Kochi city.
Improved emission control
Apart from minimising its GHG emissions, SCL is taking every step to ensure that no fugitive pollutants adversely affect the health of its employees, communities and environment. To achieve this, the company has installed and upgraded emission control devices such as electrostatic precipitators (ESPs), baghouses and various dust suppressions systems to control stack emissions. Several further measures across its plants include plantations, water sprinkler systems, paving and constructing concrete roads.
Environmental performance monitoring and reporting
SCL monitors and discloses its environmental and GHG emissions performance to initiatives such as CDP’s climate change disclosure programme (since 2010). As a result of its efforts, the cement producer has achieved a 41.5% reduction in specific GHG emissions from the base year 1990. In addition, SCL has also achieved a 75 and 22.5% reduction in SO2 and NOx emissions, respectively since last year. Furthermore, SCL’s net CO2 emissions stood at 547kg CO2/t of cement, down 0.4% from 549kg CO2/t in 2017 and down one percent from 552kg CO2/t in 2016, despite a massive 19% expansion of its business.
Protecting and maintaining healthy biodiversity such as green cover, diversity of flora and fauna and other natural resources is another integral part of SCL’s approach to sustainability. Taking into account the extensive limestone mining and quarrying activities that are involved in its operations, the company attributes high importance to biodiversity management and ensures that the impacts of its activities on ecology are mitigated. Therefore, SCL continuously plans to increase green cover around its sites and enhance natural carbon sinks. Last year the company planted over 90,000 saplings and this year, it will plant 100,000 more.
SCL believes that the word ‘success’ is plural by definition, in the sense that its success is not separated from the safeguarding of the planet and the wellbeing of the people that live on it. Energy saving has been a profitable way for SCL to reduce its contribution to global warming and remain sustainable. Likewise, innovation of its industrial process, such as using alternative, often recycled, materials to make blended cements, has further reduced its environmental impact.
The cement industry is now in a critical period where companies must do all they can to limit global warming to protect human health and economic growth. SCL is ready to play its part.