CemWeek compiles some of the most popular news of a bubbling year that shows a cement industry more aware of its environmental impact, and thus more open to green solutions

The most read stories of 2019 on CemWeek reveal a cement sector more awake to its environmental responsibility, one that pushes it to embrace, and actively participate in, solutions to the increasingly pressing challenges of climate change.

As a consequence, in mature economies, total and per-capita cement consumption will possibly experience a modest decrease until 2050. Conversely, in developing economies, growing population and their efforts towards modernization are forecast to widen their slice of world cement demand.

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US boosting oil well cement demand through 2024

CW Research, in its World Oil Well Cement Market Forecast 2024, projects consumption of cementitious materials for drilling in the US to reach roughly four million tons by 2024.

The upward trend will be supported by an improvement in drilling activity, in turn underpinned by the recovery of oil prices.

“Finding its footing, US exploration activity has again wound up with drilling activity resuming after a period of ‘cricket- like’ silence. Although global oil dynamics are still playing out, somewhat reducing demand for sweet light US-type crude, a reasonably strong US economy is supporting renewed drilling and consequently a notable uptick in oil well cement demand,” notes Robert Madeira, Head of Research for CW Advisory and Research.

One of the world’s largest crude oil producers, the US market has an estimated daily production of around 10 million barrels per day. That makes the US the leading oil and gas well driller in North America, and also the leading market for oil well cement consumption in the region.

The US alone accounts for roughly 40% of the global oil well cement consumption, thus making North America the largest regional consumer of the commodity. Oil well cement demand in the country peaked in 2014 at over seven million tons. However, consumption collapsed in 2016 following challenging conditions in the oil and gas industry. By 2018, oil well cement consumption recovered by over 50 percent, mainly on the back of a large addition of onshore and shale wells.

On the production side, Cemex is the major oil well cement manufacturer in the United States, with four manufacturing units, followed by LafargeHolcim with three, and Buzzi Unicem with two.

Customer-wise, Schlumberger, Halliburton, and Baker Hughes emerge as some of the largest oil well cement consumers.

Although buyers in the US market require API certification, the market for non-monogrammed oil well cement is strong. This is due to the pricing deferential between monogrammed and non-monogrammed oil well cement, amidst a premium pricing strategy adopted by renowned manufacturers for their API-certified cement. As a consequence of the acceptance of non-monogrammed cement in the market, API-certified companies are oftentimes discouraged from renewing their certification.

 

Rural, affordable housing boost cement demand in India

Between April 2018 and January 2019, cement demand increased by 13.6 percent year-on-year in India. The increase was almost double the seven-percent previously forecasted and was mostly supported by affordable and rural housing.

The same segments, coupled with infrastructure projects such as new roads, metro project, and irrigation, are expected to boost cement demand by seven percent during 2019-20.

Additional cement demand is expected to reach 24-28 million tons of cement in 2019-20, surpassing the expected increase in capacity of 17-18 million tons per annum.

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Researchers investigating new type of cement

Kemal Celik, professor of civil engineering at New York University Abu Dhabi and the director of the Advanced Materials and Building Efficiency Research (AMBER) Laboratory, is leading a team of researchers to discover a way to convert magnesium oxide into a type of cement.

The team is based in the United Arab Emirates, and they realized that they could tap the over 70 operating desalination plants for access to brine left over from the process of purifying seawater.

The process of synthesizing the mineral that is typically found in salt deposits and brine into a cement-like substance requires less heat than making ordinary cement, and it also hardens over its lifetime, absorbing carbon dioxide over time, potentially making it a carbon-negative building material.

The research proved that the produced material is as strong and adaptable as ordinary cement when used in concrete, and it could prove useful as an outlet for brine from desalination units that don’t know how to dispose of it, particularly in areas that have limited potable water resources.

And, as the material is able to pull excess carbon from the atmosphere, it could also allow the building industry to lower its associated emissions.

 

World cement demand to shrink to 4 billion tons by 2050

Global cement consumption can contract to 4.01 billion tons in 2050, according to CW Research’s long-term forecast available in the 1H2019 update of the Global Cement Volume Forecast Report (GCVFR).

Under this scenario, cement consumption would decline sharply in China, but show moderate gains in both advanced and emerging economies. Functionally, factors such as environmental restrictions, substitutes and evolving construction methods would also pressure growth.

“The largest growth in cement consumption is expected for the emerging markets and developing economies as their economic indicators gallop to catch up with the levels of the advanced economies. Additionally, continuous population growth in these markets would also constitute an important demand generator”, observes Prashant Singh, CW Group’s Associate Director.

Brisk population growth in some regions, coupled with rapidly growing urbanization rates in under-developed and emerging economies, is likely to exert a positive impact on cement demand through 2050. Given that population growth in emerging and under-developed markets is rising at a clipper rate, per-capita cement demand is projected to grow slower than total cement demand in these markets.

In mature economies, total and per-capita cement consumption will possibly experience a modest decrease until 2050. With ever-tightening environment norms, and focus on more environmentally-friendly and sustainable construction processes, CW Research projects developed markets to register an increase in the usage of alternative building materials including low-clinker cement, alternative fuels, and precast concrete. These are expected to complement, not replace, the consumption of cement due to its ubiquitous nature.

The Chinese cement market, the catalyst for global cement demand, is currently at a demand peak of 2.3 billion tons, but is prone to a significant contraction in cement consumption as the government continues to enforce strict rationalization efforts of cement capacity. Cement demand growth over the period until 2050 is expected to follow a more moderate pace as the growth focus changes from government spending to a consumption-driven economy.

In North America, Western Europe, and developed Asia-Pacific countries, a slight increase in cement consumption is projected for the 2018-2050 period, driven by recurrent construction and maintenance needs.

In markets in North Africa, Middle East, South America and Emerging Asia, GDP is forecast to record a more-than-double increase to 2050, which, coupled with population increase, is likely to translate into an expansion in cement demand.

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Brazil’s cement sales rise in January-August

Cement sales in Brazil reached 35.9 million tons in the first eight months of 2019, increasing by 2.9 percent year-on-year.

In August alone, sales reached 5.1 million tons, a rise of three percent over the equivalent month of 2018. Meanwhile, domestic sales and imports totaled 5.1 million tons in this month, growing by 2.9 percent year-on-year, and 2.8 percent year-to-date in total.

“The indicators are recovering. Construction GDP started to react in the second quarter, as did sales of construction materials, such as rebar, crushed stone, among others, ”says Paulo Camillo Penna, president of the National Cement Industry Union (SNIC).

”The real estate sector remains the driver of cement demand. Accumulated launches up to June were 15 percent higher than the same period last year, while sales increased 12 percent over the same period. The external environment appears as the biggest unknown in the scenario, at this moment, impacted by the US-China trade conflict that may have effects on the activity level ”, concludes the executive.

 

Scientists develop new process to remove carbon emissions from cement manufacturing process

Researchers from MIT claim they have developed a new method that can remove most of the carbon emissions from the cement production process without affecting the resulting product.

The new process uses an electrolyzer instead of heating up the ground-up limestone, making electrodes split water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, creating an acid at one electrode and a base at the other.

The limestone is then dissolved in the acid, while calcium hydroxide is created at the other end, in solid flakes, which can then be harvested to produce cement. This will still produce carbon dioxide during the dissolution of the limestone, but instead of being released into the year, it can be captured and repurposed for liquid fuel production, or for carbonating drinks.

Researchers added that the produced carbon dioxide can also be combined with oxygen produced by the same system and burned to fuel the rest of the new cement-making process, thus making it sustainable. Its possible sale to other industries could also present an added-value for manufacturers.

The technique so far was only demonstrated in lab, and shown to work at a small scale. The scientists say it can be scaled up easily, but more work needs to be done before it can be implemented in the real world.

 

This article originally appeared on CemWeek Magazine #52

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