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The latest news on our journey to reduce CO2 emissions in the cement industry

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November 16, 2023 0:32

In November, Cemvision starts demo production of green cement – completely without carbon dioxide emissions. The facility is financed by Bill Gates, who will support the Swedish startup for one more year.

Claes Kollberg was well aware that the cement industry was a major climate villain when he was a freshly graduated engineer. That’s why he applied to Cementa, as the company was called then.

– I wanted to enter the worst industry and try to make a difference. Also, I wanted to work in Africa, where I had done my master thesis, and at KTH’s job market days, Cementa had a map with lots of dots in Africa, he says.

We meet in Degerhamn on Öland at Cementa’s former cement factory. The autumn wind is chilling; the enclosed area looks deserted. Heidelberg Materials, as the company is now called, has ceased its operations in the plant. But when Claes Kollberg started here as a trainee in 2002, production was in full swing, and carbon dioxide was billowing from the chimney. When he left the company 15 years later, he was factory manager. In the meantime, he spent five years in Africa to build and renovate cement factories in Tanzania and Gabon. He also started algae farming in Morocco, where the algae were fed with carbon dioxide from a factory’s flue gases.

Indeed, emissions were reduced during his years at the company. But in 2018, Claes Kollberg chose to go to Vattenfall and the Swedish green steel venture Hybrit.

– I wanted to work in an industry where the development towards fossil-free moved faster, he says.

Two years later, he made a comeback in the cement industry. This time, as co-founder of Cemvision, which he started with Paul Sandberg and Marcus Olsson, who also have heavy backgrounds in the cement business. Their inspiration came from how Tesla managed to accelerate the fossil-loving automotive industry.

– To say that we are the Tesla of the cement industry might sound cliché. Still, we are also a player who wants to accelerate the green transformation with new solutions in a traditional industry, says Claes Kollberg.

Cemvision’s solution is to “mix with the chemistry” in new cement recipes without virgin limestone, which is the problematic ingredient in common so-called Portland cement. When limestone is heated, carbon dioxide bound in the Earth’s crust for millions of years is released. Additional emissions come from enormous kilns heated with fossil fuels.

– Our raw materials are recycled from industrial waste, the temperature and energy consumption are significantly lower than in traditional cement production, and our kilns will be powered by green electricity, summarizes Claes Kollberg.

Otherwise, the company is secretive about the details. But the technology has been reviewed by heavy experts, who gave the thumbs up. Among thousands of applicants, Cemvision receives support from Bill Gates’ climate fund Breakthrough Energy. This is after extensive due diligence of technology, business potential, and founders.

The fund finances Cemvision’s research, development, pilot, and demo trials for two years starting September 2022. In addition, the company gains access to a large expert network. Last summer, an important milestone was reached when the company produced its first fossil-free cement clinkers on a larger scale – one ton per day – entirely based on recycled material from the mining and steel industries.

In November, a larger demo plant will be operated at a secret location in Central Europe. In addition to the rotary kiln, the facility includes all the process steps in a small cement factory with the capacity to produce 12 tons per day.

The next technical challenge is to electrify the kilns. Plasma technology and hydrogen will be tested, for example. At the same time, trial castings are underway in cooperation with concrete manufacturers and users. The partners' names are not public except for the Nordic constructor Peab, whose subsidiary Swecem has invested in Cemvision.

Since last year, the number of employees has increased from four to twelve, and Claes Kollberg hopes to have significantly more colleagues joining soon. The company wants to raise around 10-12 million euros to build the organization required for a large-scale cement producer.

– Our ambition is to produce 5 million tons of cement by 2030 and grow globally, says Claes Kollberg.

However, the company will never be able to replace all the Portland cement worldwide. The by-products used as raw materials will “only” suffice for 25 percent of global production. Claes Kollberg is therefore clear that more solutions are needed to reduce the cement industry’s emissions, including capture and storage of carbon dioxide, CCS, which Heidelberg Materials wants to invest billions of Swedish kronor in.

– We support everyone who does something instead of just talking. But CCS is far too expensive and energy-intensive to be a realistic alternative in, for example, Africa, where the most construction is taking place.

Where will your first factory be located?

– The fastest way to get started is to use existing cement factories that are not in operation or where the limestone is running out. There, the environmental permits are in place, and the staff is trained.

As here in Degerhamn?

– Anyone who owns factories that are not in operation is welcome to contact us, says Claes Kollberg diplomatically and continues:
– We need to get started quickly to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Humanity’s survival depends on it.

November 16, 2023 0:32

Swedish CemVision has completed largescale pilot production of fossil-free cement.

The results indicate huge reductions in the cement industry’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Swedish tech company Cemvision, which develops technology for the production of environmentally friendly cement, has now produced large-scale volumes of fossil-free cement based entirely on recycled materials from primarily the mining and steel industries. The result enables the production of what is potentially the market’s most climate-friendly cement. The cement industry accounts for 8 percent of global emissions, an estimated 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually, a figure that can be quickly reduced with the help of Cemvision’s technology.

Cemvision has produced fossil-free cement in its pilot plant, which has a capacity of several hundred tons per year. Test production is now moving to the company’s demo facility, with an annual capacity of several thousand tons of cement. In the following step, Cemvision invites collaborations to scale up production to hundreds of thousands of tons and, with it, almost as large savings in carbon dioxide emissions.

- We are a climate-first company making high-performance cement. With our competence and experience, it is our duty to produce the most environmentally friendly cement for each application to help in the battle against climate change, says Claes Kollberg, co-founder and CTO, Cemvision.

According to Cemvision’s method, the solution for fossil-free cement is to let other industries’ residual materials become high-value raw materials, which is both resource-efficient and means that carbon dioxide emissions are completely avoided. Manufacturing cement also requires high temperatures to process the raw materials. Cemvision’s solution enables the use of green electricity instead of coal or other fossil energy sources that the industry uses today. Thanks to raw materials other than limestone, the total energy consumption in Cemvision’s production is also significantly lower than in traditional cement production.

Cemvision’s cement can be used as a drop-in product to help traditional cement manufacturer reduce their carbon footprint, or used as a stand-alone cement product
to replace traditional cement and consequently provide a completely fossil-free alternative.

- The cement industry’s climate impact is a huge global problem. In the short term, there is no alternative to replace the world’s need for cement, the main ingredient in concrete and the world’s most used building material. Instead, we have now proven that it is possible to produce cement with new methods and other raw materials, by successfully producing large volumes of cement with minimal emissions, says Oscar Hållén, CEO of Cemvision.

large-scaleTest results from the large scale pilot production show both cost and performance benefits. The product’s properties show early high-strength development, which can enable faster and new ways of building. It also means that the amount of cement can be reduced in concrete constructions which also affects the industry’s emissions.

Among 8 shortlisted climate startups, Cemvision made it all the way as one of the winners in this year's Startup 4 Climate.
November 16, 2023 0:32

Among 8 shortlisted climate startups, Cemvision made it all the way as one of the winners in this year's Startup 4 Climate.

The annual Startup 4 Climate is one of Europe's leading startup competitions, premiering innovative technologies that can drive real change to tackle climate change and lead the energy transition.

The prize of 1 million SEK will be put to good use

As we are currently ramping up our production, moving from pilot scale to demo scale, the prize money will be put to good use financing part of the production and initial electrification trials, says Oscar Hållén, CEO

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