Published 10 November 2016

A climate-neutral cement industry

– Carbon capture and storage in Sweden?

Creating a climate-neutral cement industry is one of the biggest challenges in the develop­ment of Swedish society, and the Swedish Parliament’s goal is to achieve close to zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2045. Achieving this goal will very probably require special methods in the cement industry, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) or carbon capture and utilisation (CCU).

The cement industry is currently responsible for approximately five per cent of Sweden’s total emissions of greenhouse gases. These emissions are associated predominantly with the calcination reaction that occurs when limestone is burned to produce calcium oxide or quicklime. This means that a shift to using alternative fuels in the chemical process will not result in a climate-neutral cement industry.

CCS and CCU are solutions that involve a great deal of risk, both technical and commercial. It is primarily countries with large gas interests, such as Norway, the Netherlands and Japan, and certain American states, that are pioneering the use of these methods. By processing carbon dioxide these countries are able to develop existing value chains for gas, as well as industries for transport and liquefaction of gas. Furthermore, the institutional conditions are frequently better in these countries than in Sweden, as the state is better informed about gas issues, and rules and regulations are better adapted to gas interests.

In Sweden there are four specific institutional barriers.

  1. The allocation of responsibility between state and companies is unclear when it comes to the transport and storage of carbon dioxide.
  2. Prices associated with the emission trading scheme are too low for it to be profitable to invest in carbon capture.
  3. The EU’s directives do not create incentives for carbon storage from biological sources, which would be of interest to a forest nation like Sweden.
  4. There is uncertainty regarding the legal right within the EU to provide technology-specific support.

However, the industry considers the greatest obstacle to CCS in Sweden to be the lack of public legitimacy. A clear political line is needed in order to be able to tackle the risks that development of CCS involves.

All in all, it can be stated that there are better conditions for CCS in other countries. One strategy may therefore be for Sweden to support projects focusing on CCS for the cement industry in these countries rather than in Sweden. Sweden could, for example, participate in the CLIMIT research programme in Norway, which is open to international ventures.

A political prioritisation of CCS for the cement industry also needs to take into account the fact that new materials from forest materials are expected to become a growing rival to cement as a raw material for the construction industry. The production cost for cement will probably increase by at least 30 per cent if CCS is used. This will strengthen the competitiveness of biomaterials. For a forest nation like Sweden, a good strategy may be to prioritise the development of bio-based materials as an alternative to cement instead of CCS.

A climate-neutral cement industry – Carbon capture and storage in Sweden?

Serial number
Direct response 2016:24

Reference number

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