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Low carbon fuels for Canada’s cement production

Lead PI Warren Mabee

Lead PI Warren Mabee

KINGSTON, ON, May 2013 – Researchers at Queen’s Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy are working with Lafarge to test using low carbon fuels including construction and demolition waste, asphalt shingles, utility poles and railway ties, to help power cement plants.

Canada’s cement industry is responsible for up to 3% of the country’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and about 30-40% of those emissions are due to burning coal and petcoke. But there has been some reluctance to introducing mixed biomass waste as low carbon fuel in cement plants, says Dr. Warren Mabee, the lead investigator on the joint project with Lafarge.

“There has been concern about using some waste streams, partly because of a lack of good science to quantify emission reductions, and partly because people are worried that combustion of these materials might lead to other kinds of pollution,” he says. “This project is designed to explore these issues. We will be able to verify the practicality and safety of using these feedstocks in a real industrial process. Work to date indicates that they are safe and highly suitable.”

Carbon Management Canada (CMC) a national network that supports game-changing research to reduce CO2 emissions in the fossil energy industry as well as from other large stationary emitters, is providing Mabee and his team (including Dr. Andrew Pollard, also at Queen’s) $400,000 over three years.

Mabee’s CMC-funded research feeds into a larger project undertaken by Lafarge and Natural Resources Canada. Together, all partners have contributed more than $8 million to develop innovative solutions to power Lafarge Canada’s cement plant in Bath, Ontario, by re-using local surplus materials as low carbon fuels.

Mabee’s project will also produce the first science to include comparative life cycle assessments, full emission comparisons, evaluation of water use, and burner optimization.

The low carbon fuels will include debris from construction and demolition sites, materials that can’t be recycled and railway ties. Cement plants combust burn fuel at a high enough temperature to achieve complete combustion which eliminates harmful emissions and converts non-combustible components into cement.

“These burners are already set up to handle coal – a very dirty feedstock – and therefore it’s easy for us to manage any negative emissions associated with burning cleaner, lower carbon alternatives,” says Mabee. “We will be measuring the impact of low carbon fuels a real plant making real cement. This will give us a very good sense of how these fuels will perform in the real world.”

In its most recent round of funding, CMC is awarding $3.75 million to Canadian researchers working on eight different projects. The awards were made after a rigorous, international, peer-reviewed process.

For printable PDF:

W. Mabee – Low carbon fuels