Home 5 The cement and concrete industry 5 How cement and concrete are made

How cement

and concrete

are made

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Cement is a fine powder that acts as the glue that —when mixed with water, sand and aggregates— binds concrete together. In other words, it’s the essential ingredient in concrete.

Cement is manufactured by heating a precise mixture of limestone, clay and sand in a rotating kiln to temperatures reaching over 1400ºC. This results in the production of cement clinker, an intermediate product in the manufacturing process. The cement clinker emerges from the kiln, is cooled, and then finely ground to produce the powder we know as cement. The fuels combusted to heat the kiln account for about 40% of cement-manufacturing emissions. The remaining 60% are “process emissions,” inherent to the chemistry of cement that are effectively irreducible without carbon-capture technologies.

The Canadian cement and concrete industry has taken many steps that have reduced its carbon footprint over the past 30 years. The industry has published Concrete Zero: Canada’s Cement and Concrete Industry Action Plan to Net-Zero. The Action Plan includes tangible targets for 2030 and 2040 and a progress review in 2025, while promoting accountability and transparency with stakeholders.

Cement is only a small part of the recipe for concrete, typically making up only about 7% to 15% of the total concrete mix. The other basic components of concrete are sand, gravel (fine and coarse aggregate) and water.

Chemicals, called admixtures, are sometimes added during concrete production to trap air, remove water, change the viscosity, and alter other performance properties. Producers enhance the bonding process of cement with supplementary cementing materials (SCMs), which are by-products from other industries and processes. Using these by-products in this way diverts them from landfills, extends their economic value and supports the transition to a circular economy.

Furthermore, carbon utilization and storage technologies that take waste CO2 from industrial processes and inject it into concrete to make it greener are already commercially available and in use.

The core ingredients of cement (limestone, sand, and clay) and concrete (cement mixed with sand, gravel, and water) are among the most commonly available raw materials on Earth.

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