Australian concrete and building products supplier Boral is aiming to shift its electricity supply to 100 per cent renewables by 2025, as part of a broader commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
Boral said on Monday that it was “exploring all options” to meet a 2025 renewables target, which would cover the company’s energy needs outside of its Berrima cement kiln, which it said was on a “separate decarbonisation pathway.”
The company, which is majority owned by Seven Group Holdings, expects to use a range of approaches to source clean energy, including renewable energy partnerships, solar and wind power purchase agreements and on-site renewables “where it makes sense.”
A company spokesperson told RenewEconomy that Boral was also looking at utility-scale batteries and hydrogen as those technologies became more viable on the cost curve.
“As Australia’s largest integrated construction materials company, we have a unique opportunity to lead the way to make a meaningful contribution to build greener cities and create a net-zero future,” said Boral CEO Zlatko Todorcevski, in a statement.
“We are proud to be the first company in the cement sector to set science-based targets aligned with a 1.5°C pathway for Scope 1 and 2 emissions.
“Our decarbonisation pathways include shifting to renewable energy sources, and growing our proprietary lower carbon, higher performing concrete solutions.”
Just how much renewable energy the company will need to cover its operations – minus Berrima – remains to the seen, but the exclusion of the energy intensive clinker manufacturing facility from the 2025 target defers a lot of the really heavy lifting, both on sourcing alternative energy supplies and emissions reduction.
As this Carbon Brief explainer notes, the production of clinker – a crucial step in making cement – requires limestone (CaCO3) to be “calcinated” at high temperatures (up to 2,000°C) in a cement kiln, thus producing lime (CaO) and waste CO2.
Around half of the emissions from cement are those above-mentioned process emissions, according to Carbon Brief, while a further 40% comes from burning fossil fuels to heat kilns to the required high temperatures to make clinker. The last 10% lies in transport – which Boral has also put on its own decarbonisation pathway.
A 2018 sustainability report from Boral said its Berrima manufacturing plant accounted for around 60 per cent of the company’s total emissions, at that time.
Boral said this week that efforts to cut the emissions intensity of Berrima would focus on increasing the use of alternative fuels at the kiln and improving energy efficiency, as well as on “new and emerging technologies” with which it hopes to capture and store emissions.
“Collectively, our decarbonisation efforts aim to achieve carbon neutrality by no later than 2050 and deliver future growth by reshaping our business to be a leader through decarbonisation,” said Todorcevski.
“We have a clear line of sight to deliver on our 2030 targets and beyond 2030, we are working on new and emerging technologies.
“Just how we achieve our 2050 ambitions will depend on further development and commercial viability of new and emerging technologies,” he added.
“Our Innovation team is leading the way in developing high-performing sustainable products and solutions for our industry, including piloting carbon capture storage and use technologies.”
In a statement to RenewEconomy, a spokesperson clarified that the company expected CCUS to be a solution for emissions reduction “closer to or after 2030,” but it was continuing to invest in research and development and explore a range of opportunities.
The company is also pursuing its own R&D through its Innovation Factory based at the UTS Boral Centre for Sustainable Building at the UTS Tech Lab.
This includes a pilot-scale carbon capture and use project for re-carbonation technology known as mineral carbonation, towards which Boral was awarded a federal government grant of up to $2.4 million in June of this year.
As Boral explains it, this technology involves the processing of recycled concrete with CO2 to permanently store the CO2 in a mineralised form such as calcium carbonate, resulting what is known as mineralised carbon products.
“Our pilot project will develop a carbon storage technology where the carbon captured from our Berrima Cement plant in NSW will be stored permanently in recycled concrete, masonry and steel slag aggregates not only to store the carbon but also to improve the quality of these recycled materials,” the statement said.
“Essentially the CO2 will be pumped into a ‘carbon sink’ of recycled construction materials which can then be recycled in products.”