Episode 522 Concrete in Canada's Future

Douglas Hooton, professor emeritus of civil engineering at University of Toronto, Chris Cheeseman of Imperial College in London, and Michael Barnard are experts on concrete. Because concrete is the source of 8 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, we must urgently develop concrete that is carbon neutral or even carbon negative. Hooton describes the challenges and the current government plans for Canada to reach carbon zero by 2050 – but is it possible to reach that much earlier and even capture and lock away massive parts of the carbon already in the atmosphere? One determining factor is the cost. For the video, audio podcast, transcript and comments: https://tosavetheworld.ca/episode-522-concrete-in-canadas-future/


Douglas Hooton

Michael Barnard

Chris Cheeseman

Neil Hoult


concrete, cement, co2, carbon, materials, industry, building, limestone, question, people, China, carbonate, sequestering, coal, Canada, problem, plants, carbon capture


Robin Collins, Douglas Hooton, Adele Buckley, Neil Hoult, Chris Cheeseman, Michael Barnard, Metta Spencer, Tariq Rauf


        Metta Spencer introduces the first in a series of conversations being held in conjunction with the Canadian Pugwash group, which will be focused on four possible interventions that might be useful in reducing the threats or the amount of climate change.

The conversation in this episode focuses on the potential for adopting low carbon concrete or carbon negative concrete to reduce the threat of global warming. Experts in carbon, mostly physicists and other scientists who are members of the Pugwash community, discuss this issue. The conversation includes Professor Doug Hooton, who is an expert on sustainability of concrete, Chris Cheeseman, who is head of the materials section at Imperial College, Michael Barnard, who advises electric aviation startups and runs a think tank on electric power, Neil Hoult, who is a professor in civil engineering at Queen’s University, and Alan Slavin, Peter Meincke, and Adele Buckley, who are all retired physicists. Tariq Rauf, an expert on nuclear matters from Vienna, Austria, will co-chair this section of the work that Pugwash is undertaking to investigate concrete with Robin Collins.


        The Canadian government has mandated concrete producers to start producing low carbon concrete, and the government will purchase low carbon concrete. Professor Hooton points out that this is a step in the right direction, but there is still much to be done to reduce emissions from the concrete industry.

         The discussion revolves around the reduction of carbon emissions in industries such as steel and cement. The use of electric steel mini mills is increasing in the US, and coal and cementitious materials are expected to diminish as sources. One potential solution is using fly ash, a byproduct of coal-fired power plants, as a substitute for cement in concrete. Canadian standards were changed to allow the mining of fly ash backfills from landfills, which could supply the concrete industry with ash for the next 50 to 100 years. However, the process requires some additional processing, making it an imperfect solution.

         The focus of the conversation then shifts to reducing energy in construction, including the use of waste fuels. Waste fuels are defined as fuels made from waste materials such as tires, plastics, and wood, which can be used in cement kilns as a substitute for coal. Finally, PLC, or Portland-Limestone Cement, is introduced as an alternative to traditional Portland cement, which reduces carbon emissions by using less clinker and more limestone.

         Portland limestone cement is a type of cement that is made by grinding up raw limestone. It can be integrated with cement clinker to replace up to 15% of the cement without any negative effect on strength. This type of cement has been allowed in Canada since 2008, and in the US since 2012, but it has only been picked up in the last five years. Limestone cement has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of cement production by up to 15%. Cement kilns operate at very high temperatures and long residencies, which allows them to destroy almost anything, including waste fuels such as tires, wood waste, petrochemical waste, and carpets. Waste fuels can replace powdered coal in cement kilns, and up to 80% waste fuels are used in some plants in Iraq.

         The cement industry roadmap to reduce CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030 includes the optimization of sand and stone, the use of supplementary materials such as waste industrial material byproducts or natural pozzolans, and the use of Portland limestone cement. Limestone cement is just as durable as regular cement, and it has no negative impact on concrete’s longevity. However, there are barriers to the adoption of these innovations due to prescriptive limits in old specifications, lack of expertise to understand how to change them, legal liability for putting up a building that does not perform, and other problems.

         The podcast features a discussion on carbon capture and sequestration, and the possibility of electrification of cement plants as part of efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. The guest, Michael Barnard, argues that carbon capture and sequestration is mostly a “shell game” perpetuated by the fossil fuel industry, and not a solution that can effectively scale in mechanical carbon capture and sequestration. The host, Douglas Hooton, acknowledges that the industry is looking at electrification, and there are efforts to fund projects on electrification in parts of the cement industry, but he notes that while it is possible to electrify the calcination part of the kiln, it is not possible to get all the way at this point in time. The conversation also touches on low carbon concrete, specifically CEM 3B, which is a type of cement widely used in the Netherlands and has 65% blast furnace slag replacing cement. Hooton explains that this cement develops better long-term strengths, but construction schedules, which dominate the vertical construction industry, make it difficult to use in some cases. The discussion also includes comments and questions from Tariq Rauf, who inquires about the strength of high load-bearing structures, specifically the difference between the strength of normal concrete and CEM 3B at 28 days and 56 days, respectively.

         In a discussion between Michael Barnard, Douglas Hooton, and Tariq Rauf, they talk about the role of concrete in reducing heating and air conditioning costs. However, the efficiency of concrete as a thermal insulator is dependent on whether the building is designed to take advantage of it. Barnard argues that with electric heating and decarbonized grid electricity, the value of thermal load in concrete is diminished substantially, and building efficiency becomes an economic virtue rather than a climate solution virtue. The balance is changing over time and space. Hooton points out that in developing countries, there are a lot of issues with cement usage, such as inefficient use of cement, using bags instead of a ready-mix truck, and an underdeveloped industry that cannot handle transportation. Additionally, baked bricks are the main material used for construction in developing countries, and their kilns are often using outdated and inefficient technology. Hooton suggests that developing countries have access to large deposits of clay that can be used as a cementitious material for building materials like Adobe-type materials. Overall, the conversation highlights the challenges of balancing economic and climate solutions in the context of developing countries.

         The panel discusses the economics of carbon capture technology for concrete production. Douglas Hooton points out that replacing traditional materials with carbon capture alternatives can increase costs by three to four times or even ten to twenty times for carbon-negative materials. Metta Spencer raises concerns about the availability of calcium, as carbon capture technology depends on using demolished concrete, which can only provide a limited supply. Michael Barnard suggests that the building stock globally is transforming, and we are replacing buildings more rapidly than in the past. Chris Cheeseman notes that sequestering CO2 can be economically beneficial as there is a payment for it. Michael Barnard adds that carbon pricing and tipping fees can help make carbon capture technology more economically feasible. However, carbon pricing is still inconsistent and varies by country. He also points out that traditional concrete production commonly uses powdered coal or natural gas, which have significant carbon emissions. Methane leakage from natural gas and coal beds is also becoming an increasing problem.

         The group discusses whether COP27 will address climate change issues and notes that a report on reducing carbon emissions in the cement industry has been submitted to COP27. They also discuss the speed at which emissions need to be reduced, with Neil Hoult stating that the industry is answering the UN’s target of a 40% reduction by 2030, but Michael Barnard argues that more needs to be done. The cement industry is willing to move towards reducing emissions but needs government CO2 taxes to drive this change. The group also discusses global population growth and how it is slowing, with China’s population already being flat due to removing the one-child policy. Adele Buckley comments on the need for better concrete for rebuilding housing in Ukraine.


This transcript has been machine generated using “otter.ai.” Prior to using information from the transcript, please watch the video to catch any obvious errors.

Metta Spencer  00:00

Hi, I’m Metta Spencer. Today we’re going to talk about concrete. And today is a very important day. It’s the first in a series of what will be 16 or 20 hour long conversations that are being held in conjunction with the Canadian Pugwash group. And the thing is that the Pugwashers have been interested in nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction since the very beginning, but not as much as we should be about some of the other global threats to humankind, such as global warming, but we’re going to pull up our socks and get busy and try to rectify that omission now, because we have a project where we’re going to be having conversations over a period of four months for the next four months, about four different possible interventions that might be useful in reducing the, the threats of or the amount of climate change. So one of them has to do with the rapid adoption of low concrete, low carbon concrete, or what I would love to hope for carbon negative concrete, which then would not only stop being the source of something like 8% of the world’s carbon emissions these days, and then become a real a place a sick for almost say the same amount of carbon, because concrete is a very heavily used material. And if we actually get to the point of using and being able to produce adequate amounts of carbon negative concrete we will be able to do a great deal to reduce the threat of global warming. So I have some experts here on carbon and some, and some people who are also knowledgeable, mostly physicists, and other scientists who are members of the Pugwash community. And we will have a conversation about the potential for adopting low carbon concrete or as quickly as possible carbon negative concrete. My, My experts today are professor Doug Hooton, the University of Toronto.

Douglas Hooton  02:39

Good morning everyone, or afternoon, I guess.

Metta Spencer  02:40

I guess. London we have Chris Cheeseman, who is at the Imperial College. Yes.

Chris Cheeseman  02:46

Good afternoon, everybody. It’s actually across four in the afternoon here. And yeah, I work in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Imperial College, where I am head of the materials section. And on the tour section is focused on advanced infrastructure materials. Yeah,thank you.

Metta Spencer  03:07

 And in Vancouver is Michael Barnard.

Michael Barnard  03:10

Advisory Board, electric aviation startups advisory board redox. flow batteries. The future is electric think tank that I run. A couple other things emerging. So watch this space/

Metta Spencer  03:22

In Berkeley, California  Neil Hoult, who is a professor at Queen’s University normally, but he’s on sabbatical in Berkeley.

Neil Hoult  03:31

I’m a professor in civil engineering at Queen’s and  I learned about concrete materials from Doug Hooton. So he knows way more than I but I’ll try and contribute on the structural and engineering end of things.

Metta Spencer  03:49

Okay, very good. And we have some physicists. We have Alan Slavin in Peterborough, Ontario at Trent University, retired physicist, Peter Meincke. As also a physicist, I guess your last job was the president of the University of Pei and Adele Buckley, who is another retired physicist here in Toronto.

Adele Buckley  04:16

I’ve been following concrete off and on off and on for a little while. And so I’m really interested in what what is said today.

Metta Spencer  04:25

And in Vienna, Austria is Tariq Rauf, an expert on nuclear matters. And he is going to be the co chair of this section of the work that Pugwash is undertaking to investigate concrete so he and Robin Collins Okay, now let’s get down to business I’m particularly keen to start with Doug Hooton because I’m so thrilled to have been able to catch you Let’s say you and I had a conversation yesterday. And basically what I took away from that was that our project is really not going to even be necessary. Because carbon producers or I mean, sorry, concrete producers are already mandated by the Canadian government to start producing low carbon concrete, and that the government is going to purchase low carbon concrete. And so our work is already done. Is that oversimplification?

Douglas Hooton  05:40

I guess, but we’re on the road, I guess the point. And maybe I will say a few more words about my background, because I just said hello earlier. I am actually a professor emeritus. Now, I retired during COVID. But I chaired the Canadian concrete committee, the CSA committee, I chair the ASTM cement committee, in the US, and I chair the several committees at the American Concrete Institute, the UN, I do consulting on sustainability, as well as that. I’ve had a research chair and insert Research Chair for the last 12 years on sustainability of concrete. So I’ve been working with the industry and with the government to try and improve things along. I’m not alone in that regard. But I guess, yeah, the government just came up with a report on November the ninth, which you can download on sustainability, improving sustainability, right across the board, not just the cement and concrete industry, but all the supply industry, the whole, the whole environmental reduction, and their target is to reduce 40% of emissions by 2030, which is a pretty aggressive target. And then the ultimate goal everybody has is the 2050. net carbon neutrality. And by net means there will be emissions, but there’ll be balanced out by other things. But if you want to know with more conquer, I’ve got a half a dozen PowerPoint slides, if you want to take the time to walk through it, just introduce the topic.

Metta Spencer  07:12

Okay. You think that it’s very aggressive 40%? And by 2030, and and net zero by 2050? I think we can do a lot better than that. But go ahead.

Douglas Hooton  07:28

No, I think you underestimate the ability of things to change that quickly. But I understand why you’d think that but but just to  introduce this. This is data from the University of Bath in the UK. And Dr. Cheeseman, I’m sure he’s aware of it, showing embodied co2 and embodied energy on the x axis of all the building materials that are used. And what you see there is concrete as the lowest embodied energy and lowest embodied co2 Of all the building materials that are used today. And you can see that steel and plastics are way up at the other end. Cement, which is the largest producer, the co2 in the concrete industry is a component of concrete is only one small component about 10 to 12% of the volume of concrete. So concrete is lower than the cement because it’s so that is an ingredient. It’s not a final product. You can see even with biomass neutral timber is higher, in spite of the timber industries’ government-funded efforts to show they’re not. So why is this important? Even though it’s the lowest embodied energy, concrete, it’s the most widely used material on Earth. So we’re looking at 20 billion tonnes a year. And so it has a large impact on energy and co2 globally. But there on the right, you’ll see according to the EPA, it’s only one less than 1.25% of us co2 emissions, even though the global part is seven. And it’s about 1.4 of Canadian emissions. So we’re well below the average. And the reason for that is 50% of all the materials produced for construction are concrete. But in spite of that, the co2 emissions from the concrete industry are both the same as the steel industry, and less than the timber industry, even though the volumes are much lower with those materials. So concrete gets a bad rap, because people are aware of the fact that co2 is emitted in the production of cement that goes into concrete. So that doesn’t prevent us from making an improvement. And so where does this come from? We get about 659 or two kilograms of co2 per tonne of cement that’s produced cement being one component of God. And, but 60% of that comes from decomposition of limestone, limestone, calcium carbonate. When you heat it up, the co2 comes off You end up with Ca O, which is then combined with the other ingredients in cement. So that’s it a chemical decomposition that they can’t avoid. The rest is coming from fuel. And so the industry there was very thermodynamically efficient. We’re looking at about 80% from an EMIC efficiency, and this is actually out of date, it’s actually up to about ____ 85 now, which is pushing the limit. And they’re using more and more waste fuels in Europe, waste fuels, as opposed to like coal, powdered coal, or, or oil or gas are substituting much more of a fuel than we do here. We have restrictions that restrict the amount of wastes that are allowed to be used as fuel here in Canada, so there’s the chemical reaction, calcium carbonate goes to calcium oxide and co2, that happens at about 100 degrees Celsius, and cement to make the cement escript, about 1450 Celsius. So as well beyond that limit, so that the primary emissions are coming from that chemical reaction of limestone being decomposed. So why is the world 7% when we’re so low?The industrial countries are pretty well developed new down there at the bottom. What do you see the big plays here with co2 emissions is China and India and other developing countries, South Asia and Africa that are coming on and will continue to grow? China’s probably peaked now. But there was China produces more cement in a year than the US did in 100 years. It’s just just a huge scale. So what we do here is small relative to what they do, but we still need to deal with it. But as I said, cement is only one ingredient of concrete, if you look at the embodied co2 and embodied energy of concrete, blue, dark blue, there is the percent that’s coming from the summit, even though it’s only about 10, or 12% of the volume is responsible for the vast majority of the co2 and energy. The rest is stone and sand and water, and a small amount of chemicals, but it’s largely coming from the cement component of concrete. But this is us data just came out earlier this year, that the industry has developed environmental product declarations, product specific and location specific there’s over 60,000 environmental product declarations for concrete out there now. And they’ve just released some new ones for Canada, which are regional. And these are third party verified EPDs. And in the last seven years, say eight years, they’ve reduced their co2, global warming potential, which is largely due to co2 almost exclusively by about 20%. And they’re adopting new changes. Now, Portland limestone cement, I say at the bottom there, is coming on strongly in the US for the last 18 months. And so expect to see another reduction by next year. And they think they’re going to make this 50% reduction by 2030. In what they started out with in 2014. Now they were off to a good start, whether they can continue. That’s another story. Hopefully they will. But people are paying attention to it because the large players like Amazon, metta, all these big players are asking for sustainable solutions when they build things, these large data centers and supply centers. So the US government the GSA is putting limits now in the US OG,

Michael Barnard  13:31

if I may ask a question, please. What is an SCM?

Douglas Hooton  13:35

Oh, I’m sorry, cement replacement materials supplementary cementitious materials. So we use largely industrial byproducts. Fly ash from the coal power industry, which is gone the way the dodo bird at the end of this year. As a replacement, you can replace 20 or 30% of the Portland cement with that it has seven tissues properties, blast furnace slag from the steel industry, and replace 25 to 50% of cement with that. We can also use natural pozzolans the way the Romans did volcanic ash and materials, although we don’t have a lot of volcanoes here. There are clays that we can we can heat treat at a low temperature and use them and there’s some out west. So there’s some of these other materials coming on, that can replace the cement and so supplementary cementitious materials are being used more and more to replace the Portland cement, which is what I showed in that big film.

Michael Barnard  13:35

Thank you very much for the definition just to the point of clarity for everybody involved. The blast furnaces will be diminished. The United States is already at 70% use of electric steel mini Mills, and that’s going to increase as we as steel decarbonize us. And similarly, Doug’s already mentioned that coal is going to go away so that cementitious material is also going to diminish as a source. And thankfully, we don’t have a lot of active volcanoes in Canada. Although I did have a view of one and, you know, Washington State, the point there is that this is a temporary solution to the problem. We do have a lot of those materials from coal and steel manufacturing, but it’s not a perfect solution yet.

Douglas Hooton  15:21

One thing we’ve done though, I just involve changing the Canadian standards last year, that now allow you to mine the backfills of fly ash, the landfills that exist. And there’s over in the US alone is almost 2 billion tonnes of landfill fly ash, that’s enough to supply the ash for the concrete industry for the next 50 to 100 years, depending on the rates they use it at. So I’ve, they have to process it, but it’s basically a mining operation, and getting rid of the landfill at the same time. So there is opportunity, we’ve already doing it in Alberta, there’s three plants doing in Alberta already. Because otherwise, because there’s no at the end of this year that we know cogeneration in Alberta. And then the only ones left then will be in Novus in Nova Scotia, the cement industry. This is the Portland Cement Association in the US. But this is happening in Canada, it’s happening globally, are doing roadmaps to neutral carbon neutrality, the and that’s a big thing that’s been coming on for several years. And they have sort of the clinker is the raw material made in the kiln, the summit is the final binder, which has less than just has more than things and blinker in it. And that’s what that’s the space I work in in concrete, which is the product people use. But there’s also things you can do to reduce energy and construction. And eventually, concrete as a carbon sink, oh, that’s a long way off. You can actually it actually sequestered carbon over time. But that’s a small issue.

Michael Barnard  16:52

Doug, another definition or request, please. PLC, and you’ve mentioned waste fuels twice now, without defining what a waste fuel is. So if you can share that, please.

Douglas Hooton  17:01

Sure. Well, Portland limestone cement is we take the raw limestone, not put it through the kiln, grind it up, integrate it with the cement clinker that’s made in the film, and use it to replace about 15% of the cement. That turns out, we can do that without any negative effect on strength. And so we’ve allowed that in Canada since 2008. It’s only really been picked up in the last five years here. So almost all concrete cement in Canada now has 15% limestone or up to, which was reduced the carbon footprint of cement by that amount, that replacement. In the US. It’s been allowed since 2012. But it’s only in the last 18 months. People have gotten past it and they’re actually using it. There’s a lot of barriers to the use of any change. It shouldn’t be plug and play. In other words, you should be able to replace Portland cement with Portland limestone cement with no influence, but people cite it up and down. And I’ve been going through battles last month with various organized not organization, but private companies who are claiming the sky is falling Chicken Little. And something that makes such a small change in the in the in the properties of concrete. It’s just it’s not the first time this has happened with a change in the industry. But it it always surprises. So your second question was about waste fuels. Turns out that the cement kiln because it operates at very high temperatures, and has a long residency 20 to 30 seconds of those high temperatures, it can destroy almost anything. You can put tires in there. A lot of company plants do that. You can put wood waste in there, you can put petrochemical waste in their carpets, all kinds of crazy things. In the Iraq some of the plants are running at 80% Waste fuels now. But in Canada, it’s I think the average is about 10 to 15%. Because every province has their own regulations that were what’s allowed, not allowed. And so it’s changing though. So as opposed to burning most most of them burn powdered coal Now, a lot less they’re switching to gas in Alberta, because they have it. That’s what I mean by waste fuel. But this road, if you understood the roadmap has been a cement.org, you can download this for free. I can supply that. So what I work on, is what we can do to get down that 40% by 2030. And we can do a whole bunch of things in concrete. One, we think that the sand and stone would be optimized now, but they’re not. In a lot of instances, we can reduce another five to 15% as required cement and concrete and improve the concrete quality by optimizing the cheapest thing in the concrete which is the sand and stone, the gradations. But it’s not being done largely due to capital investment in the car. plants having the extra bins to do that. And again, Portland limestone cement about 10% reduction. If we replace cement with supplementary materials, which could be waste industrial material byproducts or natural pozzolans, we can reduce the co2 almost in proportion to the cement replacement. So we can easily get to 40%. With with these things that are allowed now, and they’re all allowed in the standards, so you had a meal your hand up? Yes, sir. Yes, thank you. I’m just wondering if increasing the amount of limestone within the formula results in any impact on its longevity, specifically with erosion and the impacts of acid rain and other environmental factors. Because we know limestone as a building material tend to erode if it’s exposed to acid rain. Well, cement is also a lime based material. And it’s can be attacked by acids. So concrete, generally can be attacked by acids. But the amount we’re talking about is very small here. And we get, we actually designed the standards because I was involved with designing the US and Canadian standards for Portland limestone cement, to make them identical in terms of when they turn from a liquid to a solid, the setting time. And they’re a strength development, which affects construction schedules, which is huge for the contractors. So we designed them to be equal performance. From a physical perspective, in terms of longevity, they’re just as durable. I’ve been working on that for the last 12 years on durability, of limestone, cement and concrete, to all the different things that can attack concrete, and there’s no negative impact of using them. Thank you. Okay, you can do all these things. But there’s barriers. And I’ll just put out of the last three bullet points here. We’ve already allowed all these things I talked about the last slide in the national standards, CSA and ASTM, which are the national standards, but every state, every city, and there’s lots of private specifiers, there’s over 2000 specifications in the US alone for concrete. So people don’t just adopt the national standards, they got their own, and they often put prescriptive limits him while the specs in USA and Canada have minimum cement content. So even if you could make the concrete with less cement, they’re not allowed because these people have these old specs that probably go back 50 or 60 years, and they no longer have the expertise to understand how to change them. But what so they’re not willing to change them. So this specifiers cause a problem, but there’s problems all the way up to risk, because there’s legal liability for putting up a building. And it doesn’t perform in terms of public safety. But there’s also financial liability if things don’t come up. And so the contractor CRS, the concrete suppliers, theorists, even the finishers on the job, see risk, how does it affect them when these changes occur, and there will be subtle changes. But that’s where I’m been working on, I’ve been trying to work with some of the NGOs, to breakthrough energy to help deal with some of those issues. We’re hoping to develop some educational programs, because we need to get past those barriers to make moves to accelerate the adoption of these things. And lastly, after 2030, the prime thing to get down to net neutrality will be carbon capture and storage. Because the concrete industry does produce co2, because of the kiln operation. And that will likely raise the price of cement by a factor of three or four times. And and then you’ve got to do something with that captured carbon. If you’re living near the sea, like in Norway, they’re putting up a plant, they’re gonna put it under the old oil fields. There’s to actually pilot plants in Canada, one in Edmonton and one in Vancouver, where they’re doing carbon capture projects. And so the industry is already trying to work on this. But it’s, they’re having to develop the technology, it’s estimated need the same sort of, if we put it every cement plant, you’d have a co2, we’re not just cement plants, but all the industries, they’d have to have co2 pipelines, just like gas pipelines going across country to take to somewhere where it could be stored and sequestered. There’s a bunch of issues there. That’s gonna take time because that’s gonna turn that on.

Michael Barnard  24:20

I think that you’re understating the issues with the carbon capture and sequestration, something I’ve assessed every substantive carbon capture and sequestration program globally. And mostly, it’s a shell game for the fossil fuel industry to perpetuate, you know, their life and it’s not something that can effectively scale in mechanical carbon capture and sequestration, which is a significant problem for a lot of netzero assertions. I do have one question for you, Doug, before we move off of this, which is one of the major wedges in reduction of co2 emissions, coal leaves moving to electrification of everything that’s possible. I’ve heard mixed, certainly we can produce very high quality, industrial heat with electric arc furnaces. We use them in electric steel mini Mills, we use them in aluminum smelters. The question for you is how much electrification of a cement plant is actually possible in terms of provision of heat, because I know there’s some chemical aspects, especially in the clinker drum, related to the jet of flame that has something to do with it. And I don’t know the details of that.

Douglas Hooton  25:34

I will claim to be an expert in all these things. But the industry is looking at electric. I’m involved with the global cement consortiums into Vandy research project. And they’re funding projects on electrification and of parts of the industry, they can probably do the lower end the calcination part of the kiln which is just getting rid of the co2 in the limestone, which takes place at eight or 900 degrees, they think they can get that part electrified. Well, it’s possible to do that, but I don’t think it’s possible to get all the way at this point in time. They’re looking at electric fleets of vehicles and other electric generator, a number of plants have developed cogeneration plants to use the waste heat to develop electricity. But again, these things are they’re doing them but it’s going to take some time. And I’m not sure.

Metta Spencer  26:28

Tariq has a question or comment. Tariq?

Tariq Rauf  26:36

Yes, thank you. So I was looking at an article in concrete quarterly. And they’re talking about a British standard called BSE 500 based on Portland cement and they refer to it as CEMI. And this article claims that a concrete mix of CEMI three B has more strength in the concrete for load bearing structures than normal concrete, which apparently reaches its full strength on Wednesday at 28 days. And with the CEMI three B, I can gain a further 40% by 56 days. So could you for a non specialist describe what might be the advantage and what are the concerns about low carbon concrete for heavy load bearing structures? Thank you.

Douglas Hooton  27:29

Sure. Well, CEM 3B has 65% blast furnace slag replacing cement. It’s the predominant cement used in the Netherlands, for example. It’s a very good material, and again, it reduces the clinker component, but subject to what Michael mentioned, the  availability of blast furnace slag is going to diminish with time as they go to Effect reduction electric arc furnaces to reduce the steel industry co2. So right now that’s widely used in in Netherlands. It’s funny though, that the same company that makes CEM 3 B in the Netherlands does not promote it in other countries in Europe where they sell cement. It  like National things. CEM 1 is just CEMI 1, which is just Portland cement in the European standard. So BS 3500 is the same as the EM 197. National Standard or European standard. So once Portland cement and one’s a 65 percents like they actually have 27 Nuxe you more 37 types of cement in the standard now with various amounts of filler. Some of them are limestone fillers, some of them have fly ash replacement, some of slag replacements. Some of them have natural pozzolana replacements and different proportions. So 37 types of cement, not that those are available everywhere. Typically, any country has two or three within the European Union.

Tariq Rauf  28:57

So could you comment about the strength business for high load bearing structures, this 28 day versus 56 day, whatever that means? Sure.

Douglas Hooton  29:06

Well, some of these cements, especially the ones that have a lot of replacements, with things like slag or flash, develop their early strengths more slowly, but they develop better long term strengths. So if you can wait like beyond 28 days, they do better things. And our Canadian standard actually reflects that. We have set our specs for the high strength concrete to 56 or 91 days, because we know that happens. But then, from a construction scheduling point of view, if you’re a developer, especially in high rise, that means it’s going to take you a lot longer to put up a building. And construction schedules dominate the vertical construction industry. For a lot of concrete, it wouldn’t matter. Residential, that sort of thing. So one of the things with the limiting co2 And we’ve discussed this with the people in California but legislation is He’s got to set a target for the whole project. Because different part, you may need small amounts of concrete to develop the strength quickly to speed the schedule, but you can make up for by using lower co2 concrete and the rest of the project. So your total project meets a target. But if you limit them to every piece of concrete, every cubic yard or meter has to meet the target, then you’re going to have a severe impact on the industry and the least severe pushback. So the trick is that these concrete to develop their properties at different rates. And so you’ve got to allow the flexibility. So when something like a column in a building, which often restricts when they can move up the mute, they use small amounts, though columns take a small amount of concrete, you allow them to use a fast concrete bear, but unforced labs, you could use something that moves more slowly, or foundations and those sorts of things. Thank you.

Michael Barnard  30:55

So another piece of context for this discussion, which is important is that the ratio of embodied carbon to heating and other carbon is changing as we electrify. So as we move to heat pumps, and away from natural gas furnaces and oil furnaces was fairly prevalent in Canada, the energy grid electricity decarbonize as the residential and commercial heat provision and air conditioning provision decarbonize is radically and so for new buildings, one of the key things is to reduce as much as possible, the embodied carbon, because that becomes a dominant component in the carbon footprint in the space. In Vancouver, of course, where I live, we’ve now moved to ban the use of natural gas in new buildings. And in major retrofits, they have to go away. In the condo building, I’m in with 300 units, we’re looking at probably in the next five, seven years as the gas boiler ages out, we’re probably going to replace it with a heat pump system for commercial buildings, which is completely fit for purpose. And so that’s one of the reasons that I tend to concrete. While it’s, you know, I call it the great glue that holds our society together. But it is a carbon problem that is going to become a greater percentage of the carbon problem for new for new infrastructure.

Douglas Hooton  32:21

However, on the other side of that carbon is concrete is a good thermal insulator in terms of acts as a heat sink to actually reduce your heating and air conditioning costs, if that’s if the buildings are designed to take advantage of that. So you actually get some big air that? Well, no, it’s been there’s a lot of data out there. We’ve instrumented bill, no,

Michael Barnard  32:42

I don’t disagree with you about the ability, Doug. The big F is if the building is designed to do that.

Douglas Hooton  32:48

Right. And that’s where architects should be spending some of their time. I’m not sure once

Michael Barnard  32:54

again, yeah, once again, though, if heating is electric, and the grid electricity is decarbonized, then the the value of the thermal load in the concrete is diminished substantially from it may be a, the way I describe it, is a building efficiency becomes an economic virtue, not a climate virtue. And so as we think about that, as we move through heat pumps and decarbonizing electricity than the rest of the question, like for example, fixing building envelopes, so that they’re less leaky putting an insulation was become an economic value propositions as opposed to climate solution value propositions, the balance is changing over time and space.

Douglas Hooton  33:40

Sure, but that right now, where the biggest plays are in China, India, in developing countries, China opens a new coal plant almost every week, at least they weren’t in prior to the pandemic.

Michael Barnard  33:56

I would like to point out that China has builds more wind and solar every year than the rest of the world combined has built 40,000 kilometers of high speed electrified grid tied rail is building more grid storage has turned on more, you know, hydro electric, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The coal problem is going to go away in China. And they are going to be they’re well ahead of targets. Anybody who chooses to bring up China as the reason we should not be better here is going to get an argument. So please, let’s stick to the topic.

Douglas Hooton  34:31

No, but I’m just saying right now, I’ve been to China many times and you can’t cut the fog with the smog from the coal plants. I walked right up to a coal plant. I couldn’t even see it.

Michael Barnard  34:41

And China has cleaned up its air substantially in the past decade with it has planted more trees planted over 4 billion trees in areas larger than the size of France. It’s improving those things. It has 500,000 electrified buses on its roads. Once again Stick to cement in Canada, please. Okay, we’ll argue quite a bit if people choose to bash China as a reason not for us not to be better.

Douglas Hooton  35:09

 I’m not saying we shouldn’t do anything. I’m just saying, You got to be careful what you believe when it comes out of China. I there’s over 1000 cement kilns in China that have 1800s technology that if you ask anybody about it, they will deny they exist. And they’re totally inefficient. But just like their coal, the coal mines, they say, don’t exist anymore, because they shut them down. But then you hear about coal disasters where they’re still operating, you got to be very careful about what you believe coming out of China. They don’t you’re I agree with what you’re saying, I’ve been on their high speed rail, I see what they’re doing. They’re big hydroelectric plants, but they’re still doing a lot of other things. It’s a huge country with a huge population.

Tariq Rauf  35:47

A related question is, in a lot of developing countries, they use baked bricks. The concrete is just the binder. But most of the construction is bricks, like in South Asia and so on. And most of these brick kilns are also 18th century if not older technology, using coal or various types, also slave labor conditions. So what’s the solution for these countries where for them, these baked bricks are cheaper than concrete? If one is making a house or or a developer?

Douglas Hooton  36:28

Yeah, well, there’s a whole bunch of issues there. One of them is the environment they’re building. They never see freezing, which is a huge issue. They have a lot of clay resources there. This right around the equator about 20 or 30 degrees us so the quitter is huge, killing clay deposits, which can be utilized as the cementitious material for use as a building material like aesthetic, Adobe type materials, and they do use it. So the other thing is that the most of the cement that’s used in developing countries is not coming out of a ready mix truck. It arrives on a site as in bags, some of its mixed by hand, some of its mixed in small mixers. And typically those sorts of concrete use both four or five times as much cement as you would with a ready mix of sophisticated ready mix plant. So they’re totally inefficient in terms of how they use the cement. But that’s what they have. A lot of the times it’s due to the transportation network, and the industry that hasn’t been developed to have those things. And maybe that’ll change with time.

Metta Spencer  37:34

We have had shows already, mostly featuring Blue Planet concrete. And one of them was with Brent Constantz, the founder and inventor of the technology, which is low, not only low carbon, but extremely carbon-negative. And the second one was with Chris Cheeseman here who can probably recount what we talked about the other day with Peter Fiekowsky, who made a trip over to the blue planet production site, and gave us some photos of what they’re doing there. Now, if you can speak to the question of whether or not it is really true that carbon negative concrete is far far in the future, or whether as I understand it, it’s right here. And now I when I talked to Brent Constantz  several months ago, it may have been about a year ago, he said, I believe that they’re building 60, Blue Planet plants in China. And God knows what they’re doing now, because he’s he’s obviously a ball of fire trying to promote the thing. Chris, can you can you speak to this whole question of whether or not carbon negative concrete is actually in the in the wings waiting to make its appearance?

Chris Cheeseman  39:08

I’d like to start by saying that I agree with everything that Doug said, actually. I mean, that was a great introduction to look to the current situation where we are. I think, yeah, so the western world is moving definitely in the in the right that with the developed world, is moving in the right direction. But I think Mike was saying to keep the the focus on Canada. But in terms of course, global warming is a global issue. And we saw from one of the graphs that Doug showed that cement production is increasing in many parts of the world where the same sort of technologies, they could be used, but they’re just, they’re behind and then they’re unlikely to instigate those things in near time. So I wanted to make that that point to start with now On the blue planet, technology is very interesting for sure. So this is where these guys are making carbon negative aggregates. So that’s that’s quite a revelation to me actually, I haven’t seen the plant but I was in discussion with with the people who were involved in it. And it does seem, because if you’re going to make that huge part of concrete, which is the biggest part of concrete, which is the aggregate carbon negative, then that changes the balance. So that’s very interesting. I think the points on that the problems with future supply of coal fired power and blush are very relevant indeed. So our research in college is looking to develop some other types of supplementary cementitious materials, which are themselves also carbon negative. Right. So I think this is a really exciting area. And if you combine carbon negative aggregate from the Blue Planet and you combine it with the some of the very interesting, the current carbon negative supplementary cementitious materials which can come along, that’s the SEM that are defined there, then you could actually move to a situation where you could see quite carbon negative concrete, which is, which is beyond what we were thinking about a few years ago, really. But it’s very exciting. I think, of course, the problem is, as I said earlier, isn’t the USA, Canada or Europe, it is how you get this technology into Southeast Asia? Because that’s where the that’s where the big growth in concrete use, and therefore carbon emissions is? I’m not sure that answered your questions. But those are my comments.

Metta Spencer  42:10

Thank you. Also, Michael, Bernard, you were the person who drew my attention to blue planet in the first place. And so you may be more familiar than most people with it. Do you have any comments about that?

Michael Barnard  42:25

The comment I have is that I think you have a false memory. I don’t think I did bring blue planet to your attention. I did. I certainly talked about cement with you a year or two ago, as a significant issue that we had to deal with. I talked about the efficiency conundrum, that were you know, the shift in balance that we’re coming into. But I don’t believe I mentioned blue planet that said, I did look at Blue Planet. And I do spend a fair amount of time looking at the chemistry related to carbonates and stuff, the contextually agora energy technologies is an electrochemistry solution, which uses gaseous co2 and bromine and a redox flow reaction to create formate and can actually create carbonates and bicarbonates as an additional process there. So I’ve looked at those things. I’ve looked at the co2 reactions out of limestone kills, as well, you know, it’s one of those fundamental things that goes on. And so as I look at the blue planet technology, I looked through the, you know, I looked as much as possible the chemistry, there were two or three points that he made. I think, Doug, and Chris, you probably have, and, Neil, you’ll probably have better context for this than I do. I’ve certainly looked at the mining numbers for rocks for aggregate and sand, as you know, in kelp, and limestone is they’re just the biggest things we mined globally. And, you know, when the gentleman whose name is I’m terrible is named so my apologies when Brent was speaking, and I did review the Brent Constantz podcast yesterday, metta. When he was speaking, he, he made three or four claims, which I felt were potentially a bit over his skis, and he understated a couple of other things, is the way I would describe it. So the claims that he made about being over his skis, I would say that, saying that we’re short of rock and sand, when we’re in a huge ball of rock, floating in the sky floating in space is an interesting claim. I’d say there are local shortages and, and, and challenges, especially in his target space, in San Francisco, where there’s strong environmental requirements and a lack of ability to create new quarries. But I would not assert that we’re short of aggregate in that regard. We are short of high quality sand for beach remediation and for other uses. That’s an interesting point and I’d like you know, Doug and others to comment on that. But the point that I was interested in, he is correct in terms of the his comments around carbon capture and creation of co2. I’ve dealt with Graziella Tunisski and Peter Eisenberger of global thermostat. I’ve had David Keith told me I was quite an acid horrible person to my face over a zoom call, based upon my comments, my entire case study on carbon engineering, which is a complete and utter waste of time and money. And the assertion that, that Constantz made about the energy requirements of carbon capture are bang on. The most expensive part is baking the co2 out of the carbonates that it’s being captured in. And so as he articulates the continuous filtered solution for flue carbon capture, and then taking those carbonates and turning them then into a solidified aggregate. That actually does, it is a lower energy requirement. But he is very silent on the actual costs. He never mentions the cost variance between those things. And so as I look at the San Francisco terminal, one airport, I believe it was that he mentioned, that’s a specific pocket of the future where they’ll pay through the nose for carbon neutral, and carbon negative cement. And so the question I have is, I’m gonna say this really clearly, sand and rock is dirt cheap. And so his materials are not dirt cheap. And I don’t know, you know, he’s apparently got a very fast mechanism there. But I don’t know what the price point is. So Doug, Neil, Chris, others a comments on the aggregate argument that he makes in terms of the economics and availability, please.

Douglas Hooton  47:00

Good question on the economics, I think that’s the main concern here. Can you scale it up. And at what cost? Even cement? It’s about seven cents a pound, or what? 15 cents a kilogram. So if you’re going to replace something that cost weight, even carbon capture, you’re looking at three to four times increase in cost. And some of the so called carbon negative things, and I can’t speak to Blue Planet, specifically, wood push cost by a factor of 10 or 20. The claims of carbon negative materials so I think it’s it’s it’s a tall order. Can you scale it up? And can you do it economic? You’re right about San Francisco, like you say they’re gonna pay any price? Because it’s a cachet thing. But run of the mill residential construction with low strength concrete? You’d be making things out of wood pretty soon.

Metta Spencer  47:55

The thing that bothered me was the access to the calcium, because his technology depends on using demolished concrete. And I imagine you’re going to use that up to three years. And then where will you get the next batch of calcium? And if you’re gonna get it from going back to limestone, and there’s obviously no percentage. And as far as I can tell, I can’t see how you you’ve made any progress that way. So I don’t know, what’s the next best source of calcium after you use up your demolished concrete? Good question.

Michael Barnard  48:37

I’ll start. I’ll just say the building stock globally, is transforming fairly rapidly. buildings don’t last as long as they used to we are replacing which is a problem. You know, one of the simplest things we can do is not tear down old buildings and retrofit them. And so at least in the developed countries, there’s a greater trend towards that refurbishment, and then then the embodied carbon is just sitting there still, we don’t care. We just insulate electrify. And you know, we’ve got a low we’ve got a low carbon building from that perspective. But having lived in Singapore for two years, and traveled in Asia, I know that massive concrete structures disappear and reappear in very different forms in exactly the same space very rapidly. So as we articulate the potential for concrete waste, there’s a lot more than you might think, meta as an example, while the new city council in Vancouver is putting this under reconsideration. We’re talking about getting rid of the Georgia viaduct here, which is a massive concrete span of bridge with an awful lot of concrete in it. Now, the question from the question there is, you know, how much of that as he grind it up? And what is the energy required for grinding it up and purifying and getting rid of the rebar and other components? You know, that’s other questions around, you know, the blue planet technology. The question there is, what jurisdictions is cement a ongoing stream that is suitable for this? And what scale is it at? And it varies by country, it varies by other things. So,

Chris Cheeseman  50:29

just going back to the economics is Chris here. I mean, there’s also the fact that they are sequestering co2 And I thought there was a payment for sequestering co2. I mean, that there is a price there’s a there’s a price for for that sequestration, that may be changes the economics of that process.

Michael Barnard  50:50

So, yeah, when I, when I listened to him, his articulation was pretty clear that it needed a carbon price. But it also needed the tip price, basically is diverting waste from landfill where you have to pay per ton for the landfill. And that’s a saving, and then you’ve also got the carbon pricing. Now, you know, as we look around the world, carbon pricing is pretty iffy. The carbon border adjustment, which included domestic manufacturing, didn’t an industrial carbon pricing limited states was asked by mentioned earlier this year, so that one is in advance. The EU’s, ETs and carbon border adjustments are increasing, which is good. China to mention, China again has a new carbon market, which is twice this fiscal value of all of Europe’s at the present and growing. So and we of course in Canada are getting the excellent carbon price just increasing through 2030 At present to an almost enough 133 Us is about 50 bucks short of where it needs to be. So watch that space. If rational economics prevails, it’ll go up again, that cap of 170 Canadian will be removed, which would be good. So yes, it that is kind of the question mark there. To another point that Doug made, though, a significant number of the while there’s two fuels to fossil fuels commonly used, but Doug is talking about powdered coal and natural gas inside that clinker thing where the quick lime is mixed with clay, there’s a jet of flame. That’s, you know, five meters wide and 10 meters long. It’s just this absurd jet of flame. That is powdered coal or natural gas, or coal, we’ve now been discovering methane emissions from coal beds are much more significant than we expected. And upstream, methane leakage from natural gas has turned out to be a much greater problem than was expected as well with an average of 1.5% global, upstream fugitive emissions per context, that means that natural gas electrical generation is 200 to 330 grams of co2 per kilowatt hour more than we thought it was supposed to be 400 to 450, just for the co2, it’s actually 600 to 750 Gram co2 e per kilowatt hour, which is in the range of really good coal, by the way. So. So that’s kind of the point is we’re going to start seeing co2 e emissions being priced and monitored and managed, which will also impact cement manufacturing, in my opinion. And so that’ll drive if we do this intelligently and carefully and slowly, that will drive electrification and refueling and a bunch of other stuff. But it’s a hard target. cement manufacturing. As a Doug’s point out, the biggest thing we do.

Douglas Hooton  54:04

The technology to electrify the kiln operation of cement plant. They’re working on it, but it’s not there yet. They tried hydrogen fuel. Recently in the UK, there was a trial of hydrogen fuel firing of the kiln. But it’s a lot more difficult, because it’s not like electric reduction furnaces where they’re using big carbon electrodes and melting the material. We can’t melt the cement, it’s got to remain it’s like a ceramic process. And so it’s a lot more difficult to control that. And then long residence time that big flame is to get these reactions to go through to completion. So that the cement does what it’s supposed to do. So they’re working on it, but I think we’re a long way off from electrified kilns, unfortunately, or other things in the in the process like turning the mills like the grinding energies about 10 or 15%. That’s electric energy, that if it’s clean energy, that the trucks they use can be electrified, there’s a whole bunch of Things that can be done but kiln itself is difficult at this point in time, I’d say we’re, for some time off from getting that in place, the cost of a cement plant, a single count cement plant, you’re looking at almost $500 million for cement plant. So if you say we’re going to switch to electric plant, unless you can reuse that the equipment that’s there with those changes to huge capital investment. And that’s one of the things that prevents us from the industry, not us. Industry from turning on a dime with some changes, even relatively modest changes are highly capital cost intensive. Anyway, that’s shouldn’t stop us from moving forward.

Metta Spencer  55:37

Robin and then Adele, please.

Robin Collins  55:40

So the first question is a basic question, which I probably should know the answer of. But I’m coming late into this conversation. My assumption is that existing buildings that had been built with cement do not continue to produce co2. But this the co2 production is in is in the burning off of in the limestone process. Is that generally the case? Yes. Okay. So when we speak of carbon negative cement, I’m assuming what that means is, the buildings will continue to absorb carbon dioxide. If that’s incorrect, please clarify if it’s correct, how  is that done?

Douglas Hooton  56:27

What’s funny,  concrete will absorb co2 into the surface. You get a carbonate reactions to the calcium hydroxide and the calcium silicate matrix. But it’s slow a diffuse co2 diffuses in so it’s a slow process, you’ll see the outer 10 or 20 millimeters over many years carbonate. So it is sequestering co2 But only a small fraction of what went into making it in the first place. If you crush it, no, if at the end of life, if you take down a building, you crush it in the aggregate size, and leave that in the stockpile for a sufficient period of time it will absorb a lot more co2, you’re exposing a lot more surface area to carbonate, even carbonate most of what’s there. Now, what percentage that is of the total? I don’t know. So there are opportunity, but there is some sequestration in the over the lifetime. But I would say it’s a small, I think you’re looking at 5%. And some people are saying we should make concrete the carbonates better to sequester more co2. But one of the things that causes corrosion of steel, rusting of steel, is when concrete carbonates it loses its pH and then it makes the steel liable to corrosion in the moist environment. The big thing we worry about Canada is often the ICER salts or sea salts to do that. But in a lot of parts of Europe and Africa in Australia, carbonation is what causes a lot of the deterioration because also reduces the pH of the concrete. It makes the steel reinforcing steel susceptible to corrosion. So it’s a funny thing. And of course, it’s the outer part of the concrete that protects the steel. And that’s the part you don’t want the carbonate.

Robin Collins  58:04

So this surface absorption, are you referring to all cement? Or are you talking about carbon negative cement?

Douglas Hooton  58:11

All concrete.  If it’s exposed directly not painted over.

Robin Collins  58:17

So the negative we’re talking about, it’s got something to do with something else. Carbon negative concrete is not about this surface question. It’s something else. What are we talking about when we’re talking about carbon negative cement? 

Michael Barnard  58:33

Why don’t I take that briefly the blue planet argument, what they do is they crush recycled cement. And they do run it through the carbonate process drawing co2 into the atmosphere, and then they make aggregate from that calcite and so then they rebind that into cement. And so what you have is an aggregate which is drawn partially out of co2 from the atmosphere. But that is the process of making the aggregate not after the aggregate after the grid is used with cement to make concrete. Okay. That’s one example of this type of thing.

Robin Collins  59:12

Alright, the other two questions directed, I guess at Doug two, in one of your early graphs, you said that timber was the greater problem in terms of co2 production. Can you clarify it was it was by far the larger problem? This is after it’s been cut and used as a construction material? It’s still exuding carbon dioxide. Is that what you’re saying?

Douglas Hooton  59:39

No, I think well, that craft was developed at Bath University and they talked about it. They had some qualifier on that is the ministry says they’re sequestering carbon. What they’re doing is cutting down trees that did sequester carbon using a fraction of that to hold that carbon in the woods structure. And the stuff that’s left on the ground deteriorates over time, it might produce methane, which is what 20 times worse than co2. And so they’re not using all of it. Now the industry’s gotten more efficient at using the wood waste, and they’ll you know, cross laminated timber, all these various products they make now to use to produce less waste of their timber, but you’re stopping the carbon sequestration when you take the tree down. And yes, you can replant the trees and they claim that’s neutral, because they’re replanting, what you’re developing your sequestering the co2, not immediately, but over a long, many years and decades, and those trees grow again. So there, I’m not sure I’m not sure how that plays into the numbers at Bath University. I don’t know how they calculated those numbers, you’d have to talk to Jones.

Michael Barnard  1:00:56

Okay. And to be clear, those are, I would articulate that there are significant studies which say the opposite. This is a matter of some debate, a big part of the problem. And a lot of these things is where you draw the system boundaries here at some and the assumptions on the make around these things. A big part of what I tried to figure out is where the heck is the system boundary being drawn? Because this doesn’t make sense, right? Like, if you look at all that stuff, whatever, the fossil fuel industry, they’re drawing it so tightly, that they’re ignoring enormous amounts of other things. And so this is a case where I haven’t I personally haven’t seen a meta analysis or systemic review of all the literature that I consider credible across these spaces yet, but I also haven’t gone looking heavily for one. So

Robin Collins  1:01:44

okay, Doug, if I can get the source of that piece from you. So often. Okay. And my final question was, were you were saying that the industry was targeting 50% reduction, carbon problem by whatever? 2030? Something like that. Okay. Given the scale of the problem, is that fast enough? And let’s, let’s include China in this conversation. Let’s, let’s include all concrete in this conversation. Is that fast enough, even if China were to do the same thing?

Douglas Hooton  1:02:04

40%. I think that’s the number that came up with. Well, it’s a good question. Now, if nothing is fast enough, I guess. But it’s also about the ability to, for the industry to switch it’s not as simple as saying, as of today, you’ve got to do this. The construction industry is a very complicated industry, it’s got many moving parts, you’ve got a lot of players, the owners, specifiers, designers, you’ve got contractors, you’ve got materials, suppliers, don’t submit to concrete aggregates to concrete, concrete suppliers, you got contractors, subcontractors in the various trades, and all of these people are, and then if so, they’re all potential barriers to change. Because they all see risk in change. And because a lot of it is legal liability to in the building code, if you if a building collapses, these people go to jail. So they’re worried about how change is gonna affect the structural safety. Now, but I think it’s more than that, to me, that’s more things failed out of durability problems, they deteriorate faster than the more often they collapse from structural issues. So it’s, it’s it’s not a simple thing to move quick enough to the other thing is, the demand for concrete has to do with urbanization. both India and China and the developing if they want the same things we’ve got in the population is growing. As long it this whole thing is population driven, right. So as long as the rural population grows, and we move to urbanization, China has had a huge urbanization, cloud from a rural country to an urban country very quickly. And I’ve been to China many times, and it’s amazing what they’ve done. And their lifestyle has changed. But it it’s there’s a cost associated with that. And they build these things, big infrastructure projects. I was at a freeway that was supposed to last 100 years, and it was less than 10 years old, it was already deteriorating. Not that there’s cement wasn’t any good, or the concrete wasn’t any good. But a lot of their labor is very low level. And so things don’t get executed always well. I’m not saying that across the board, but I’ve seen evidence of it where things that should have lasted 100 years are not going to last 20 and we see buildings coming down in China because they changed their minds about where things should go or that recently toppling multi storey buildings before they even open. So it has to include the whole planet.

Adele Buckley  1:04:55

And my question is in the chat, it seems to me that these issues would get there A big boost if, if cop 27 was talking about them at least in in some way, so that now the entire Asian and Western nations were on on that topic. So is there anything happening there?

Douglas Hooton  1:05:18

Yes, actually, I just got a an email today with a link to a report submitted to cop 27. There is a cement Refik a bunch academics include Karen Scrivener from EPFL. At cop 27, they’ve issued a report that was released today at least I was able to get it.

Neil Hoult  1:05:35

If you’re interested in Robins question,is a 40% reduction by 2030. fast enough. I mean, that’s roughly the targets that the UN has said we need to be to stay below 1.5 degrees of warming, right. So the 45% by 2030, net zero by 2050. So I think that isn’t fast enough. They’re answering the question that the UN has posed anyway, at least as far as that industry is considering.

Douglas Hooton  1:06:00

The one thing that cement industry has said in the United States, those, they want government co2 taxes, because a lot of the things they want it because of the cost of putting some of these things in place the capital costs, it’ll be the co2 taxes that drive them in that direction, accelerate their change. So the industry is asking for it. They’re willing to move, they’re asking for it, but they need that sort of carrot and stick approach with the carbon taxes.

Michael Barnard  1:06:26

Demographically, we’ve been dealing with global population growth, you know, for longer and more seriously than we have been dealing with climate change, you know, grow Brooklyn’s towards a sustainable future in 1982 said, Make people affluent, and, you know, teach women family planning, that’s actually working, you know, the range of peak population is 27, to 2100, with 9.7 to 11 billion people. And so we are going to see diminishing population growth, and then it coming in the coming decades. So that’s that rate of change is slowing. And we’ll see peak population the last quarter of the century sometime. So that’s a beneficial thing, we’re gonna get over the Malthusian trap. With that regard. China’s population is already fairly flat, for you know, they removed the one child policy, the growth, primary growth is in Sub Saharan Africa right now, which is a different problem space. But China as another example, they’ve taken 850 million people out of abject poverty, poverty and subsistence farming, and into the lower middle class and middle class, which has been, you know, a tremendous advance, obviously. And that does mean that, among other things, they aren’t having nearly as many kids simply because of that, that process. And so the question is, you know, those curves, I am optimistic about us achieving, you know, at some point this century, will finally better that multicuisine cycle, but that’s going to be what it is. So,

Metta Spencer  1:08:04

Adele is waving her hands. Okay, let’s

Adele Buckley  1:08:06

just rebuilding all the housing that’s been destroyed in Ukraine requires one heck of a lot of concrete and one would hope that it could be the better concrete. Just a comment.

Metta Spencer  1:08:21

Okay, I think we’ve used up our time and then some, but I want to remind you that when you go to the website, to save the world.ca, I will, I hope to have this up by sometime tonight. And it’ll, it’ll stay there indefinitely, and lots of people will come and look at it. And and if you have another thought or another dispute that you want to pursue, there’s a comment column below. So I want to encourage everybody to go check out that comment column and add any second thoughts that may occur to you or questions that we could address in subsequent shows what because we’re going to be holding one of these shows every Monday, about one or another of the four different issues that that were concerning that the Pugwash group has decided to investigate over the next four months or so. So, if you have another thought, at any point during that four month period, or even later, come and add your, your thoughts on that Comments column, and you can debate there, you can reply to each other and so on. And so that will give us an opportunity to pursue whatever unfinished business we may have here today. I want to thank you all, it’s been extremely useful, very valuable, and I think we can make a real contribution to public discourse discourse by sharing this kind of show with our network, the people who need to be talking about such issues as, as climate At and concrete, we can help stimulate a conversation. And that’s really what’s going to be putting the political pressure on all the decision makers to do the job as fast as we possibly can. So thank you well, and

Tariq Rauf  1:10:18

thank you. Thank you very useful.

Metta Spencer  1:10:23

Project save the world produces the shows, and this is episode 522. You can watch them or listen to them as audio podcasts on our website to save the world.ca people share information there about six global issues too. To find a particular talk show it or its title or episode number in the search bar, or if the name of one of the guest speakers. Project save the world also produces a quarterly online publication piece magazine, you can subscribe for $20 Canadian per year. Just go to pressreader.com on your browser, and in the search bar enter the word “peace.” You will see buttons to click to subscribe.


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On the subject of the scale of China’s contribution to the global carbon footprint, including cement/concrete, there are a few ways of assessing it. One, which I find least convincing, is looking at the cumulative numbers from the start of industrialization (year ~1750 is a starting point that one data organization uses) for different states, including China, USA, “Europe”, etc. Here China doesn’t look so bad over 275 years, mostly because China’s industrialization began late compared to many other regions. But if we start from 1970, when the data start to convincingly show the impact of anthropogenic climate change; or 1990 when the IPPC reports began; then a different story emerges. Around 2006, China passed the USA as worst carbon producer. Now China is #1, more than twice as bad as the USA (#2). Another way of looking at carbon is on a per-capita level. Here, China fares much better and is half as bad as Canada. Canada is among the worst half dozen which includes Belarus and several oil producing states. We need to look at carbon per state (that’s where decisions are made) and per person (that’s how each of us compares). But it would be wrong to ignore either evaluation. They tell us different things. The third factor that is critical is the TRAJECTORY of states in terms of carbon production totals. Are we getting better or worse? This applies not only to concrete/cement (construction) but every aspect of industry, transport, power generation and agriculture, etc.

For reference:

Green House Gases have continued to rise over past three decades. The GHG emissions in Canada in 1990 was a 600 megaton CO2 equivalent, by 2017 it had increased to 716 megaton CO2 equiv.
Records show a dip in 2020 in Canada to 672 megatons. https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/environmental-indicators/greenhouse-gas-emissions.html However, globally the numbers are dire:

The worst culprits are
China — 9,877
United States — 4,745
India — 2,310
Russia — 1,640
…Canada — 672

but on a per capita basis (2019), the worst are: Belarus, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, Brunei and then Canada (with Canada’s being about twice that of China).

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