Cement producers must cut carbon from production 

The cement industry is heavily dependent on integrated mills, which incorporate energy-intensive steps in kilns that require high temperatures. Photo / File 

What you need to know:

  • By 2050, the goal is to increase the percentage of bioenergy used in cement production from the current 50 percent to 70 percent 

Uganda has outlined a comprehensive plan to completely decarbonise manufacturing sector. It now requires cement manufacturers to substitute bioenergy for fossil fuels in all manufacturing processes.

This is a component of the nation’s energy transition plan, which was made public by the government last week. By 2050, the goal is to increase the percentage of bioenergy used in cement production from the current 50 percent to 70 percent.

Bioenergy refers to energy derived from organic materials, typically plants and plant-derived materials like biogas, wood and methane.

The cement industry in Uganda is heavily dependent on integrated cement mills, which incorporate energy-intensive steps in cement kilns that require high temperatures. 

As a result, the industry has recently seen an increase in the use of fossil fuels after biomass was outpaced by growing demand coupled with seasonal variations in availability. 

Notable fossil fuels examples are coal, diesel, petcoke, and heavy fuel oil (HFO).

According to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, “changes in the cement-making process and improved biomass supply chains will lead to a decline in the share of fossil fuels to 15 percent by 2050,” meaning the use of these fossil fuels in energy provision must be reduced from the current 50 percent at least to 30 percent by 2030. 

“Some of Uganda’s main cement producers already have targets to increase the share of bioenergy in their processes by 2030, with the largest supplier announcing an aim to meet 85 percent of kiln fuel with modern solid biomass in the coming decades,” it noted in the Uganda Energy Transition plan.

Cement production involves several key stages, including the extraction of raw materials, such as limestone and clay, the processing of these materials, and the actual manufacturing of cement through processes like grinding and clinker production, and finally, the packaging and distribution of the finished product. 

An integrated cement mill, which is dominant in Uganda’s industry players, handles all these stages in one location.

The energy ministry cautions that, as it becomes more urbanised, managing the seasonality of agricultural residues will become more important as bioenergy usage increases as well as efficiency improvements of processes that moderate the growth in energy demand over time.

“Fully decarbonising cement requires installing carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technologies, as carbon dioxide emitted from the production of cement represent a major source of emissions from industry,” the Energy ministry noted in its Energy Transition plan.

“In the case of Uganda, process emissions account for around 50 percent of the sector’s total carbondioxide emissions today. Given the high share of bioenergy, installing CCUS could make the sector a carbon sink, since capturing carbon dioxide from sustainably harvested bioenergy generates net-negative emissions,” it added.

Cut emissions   

Uganda wants her cement manufacturers to decrease the amount of clinker used in cement from the 75 percent world average to 60 percent, in addition to reducing emissions from cement production. 

But, it wants to help limit the demand for cement in the first place by adopting more innovative aggregate mixes in concrete while lessening the use of cement in construction.