Skip to main content

The use of hydrogen fuel in cement production is still a path less traveled, only explored by a few companies. In two of our recent insights, we shared about the various colors of hydrogen fuel and its feasibility for use in cement production. Here, we share some recent projects in the cement industry that have tested and even implemented hydrogen fuel. 

In 2021, a global leader in cement, Heidelberg’s subsidiary Hanson UK, performed what was said to be a successful pilot production of cement using a mixture of grey hydrogen, meat and bone meal biomass (MBM), and glycerine–both of which are industrial byproducts. Although grey hydrogen is produced by steam methane reforming(SMR), which has significant GHG emissions, Heidelberg stated that it could soon be substituted by green hydrogen generated by renewable energy.

Hanson UK, geared this test toward participating in a sustainable industrial hub that’s under development in the UK. Plans include a nuclear reactor that will indirectly fuel an electrolyzer for hydrogen production, which Hanson plans to use at a nearby asphalt plant. The hydrogen portions of this project have received £1.6M from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and a total of £15M including other investment partners. 

Cemex, another global leader in cement, stated that they completed a successful Hpowered test run in 2019, then installed that technology in all of their European plants in 2020. In 2022, Cemex announced that they were installing similar technology at 5 plants in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Last year, Cemex invested in a ‘turquoise hydrogen’ producer, HiiROC, who uses a novel thermal plasma electrolysis to convert methane to H2 gas and carbon black solids, which can be incorporated into other industrial processes. HiiROC claims there are no CO2 emissions in this process, the cost is comparable to that of ‘grey hydrogen’(SMR), and the energy use is one fifth of that used by water electrolysis H2 production. Cemex plans to use this H2 in their plants in Europe, Southwest Asia, and Africa.

Cement production’s CO2 emissions come primarily from its main chemical reaction, calcination, and also from the combustion of fossil fuels producing the heat to drive this reaction. Usually, during production, the emissions from the two of these processes mix with each other, but the Low Emissions Intensity Lime And Cement project(LEILAC) by Calix Global aims to separate these two sources of emissions. Their goal is to use this separation to make it much simpler and more affordable to capture the CO2 emitted from the calcination reaction, since it is purely CO2, and not contaminated by other gasses from fuel combustion(separating CO2 from a complex mixture of gasses is a difficult task and a main contributor to the cost of carbon capture). Combining this technology with green hydrogen as a fuel source can then potentially remove fuel combustion emissions, and a pairing like this can make traditional cement production much easier to decarbonize.

A key driver in these projects’ ability to further test and adopt green hydrogen is economic feasibility. This is closely tied to regional policy, and we will discuss both of these aspects of hydrogen fuel in one of our upcoming articles