13.2 Cement


In Canada, cement production is responsible for 7.6% of emissions from the industrial sector. Around one-third of emissions from cement production results from the combustion of fuels, while the rest derives from the decomposition of limestone in the production process. As a result, this is a key industrial sector requiring profound transformations in pathways to net-zero emissions. 

Given the size of most facilities, a significant share of cement production can be equipped with carbon capture (Figure 13.1). In net-zero scenarios, this share reaches 62% of output as early as 2040 (NZ45 and NZ50), with changes occurring only after 2030 for NZ60. A steel-slag substitute, where the slag is used as a primary cementing material with wood chips as filler in several applications, also replaces part of the production (only after 2030, except in NZ45), reaching 17% of demand. While the carbon pricing added in CP30 helps trigger the adoption of the steel-slag substitute (albeit reaching proportions similar to NZ scenarios only in 2060), CCS remains too expensive without the NZ constraint. 

Figure 13.1 – Cement production across scenarios #

Comparing reductions in NZ50 with emissions in the reference scenario (Figure 13.2), carbon capture allows for over half of the emissions abatement after 2035. Interestingly, this share reaches a high of 58% in 2040, and decreases slowly afterward as REF emissions continue to grow at a higher pace, given that the maximum number of facilities equipped with CCS is reached before 2040. This suggests a limit to the role CCS can play in reducing emissions from cement production, indicating that other strategies (as listed in the introduction above) are needed.

Figure 13.2 – Emission reductions in cement production (NZ50) #

Similarly, the steel-slag substitute reaches its full potential in 2040. Importantly, the evolution of emissions in NZ50 vs. REF also shows how fuel switching has a limited impact in cement production.

Finally, a key result is that around 25% of emission reductions in cement production come from a reduction in industry output in 2040. Moreover, as carbon capture installations are unable to keep pace with the increase in REF emissions, reductions in production constitute an even larger share of emission reductions over time, reaching 30% of abatement compared to REF in 2060. In other words, more than a quarter of emission reductions in NZ50 would be much more costly without decreasing production by a similar share.