Sustainable production and use of concrete can have a significant effect on the environment, since concrete is the most-used material (other than water) on the planet, representing about half of all man-made materials by mass. Multiple parts of the aggregates, cement, concrete and asphalt paving value chain can generate carbon emissions, ranging from extraction machinery to cement kilns to transportation vehicles. Summit Materials is a supporter of sustainable business practices and we are committed to furthering environmental sustainability through a number of key initiatives and strategic partnerships. In order to help accelerate progress for the entire building materials industry, in October 2021, we signed an industrywide agreement for better control of carbon emissions known as the Portland Cement Association’s (PCA’s) Roadmap to Carbon Neutrality.
“A lower carbon future requires the cooperation of the entire cement-concrete-construction value chain,” said David Loomes, president of Continental Cement and senior vice president of Summit Materials. “We are delighted with the quick adoption of PLC by our customers and specifiers who supported this pivotal change.”
Roadmap brings together multiple stakeholders
Founded in 1916, the Washington, D.C.-based PCA is the premier policy, research, education and market intelligence organization serving cement manufacturers across the country. Last year, PCA leaders drew up an ambitious plan aimed at achieving carbon neutrality (by eliminating or offsetting carbon emissions) across the cement and concrete value chain by the year 2050.
To make that happen, the PCA has committed to collaborating with industry experts, researchers, policymakers and key companies, acknowledging the challenges involved with coordinating policies and regulations, technology and innovation, and consumer demand.
“Achieving carbon neutrality across the entire value chain by 2050 will require industry development of an entirely new set of metrics, means and methods to track the industry’s Roadmap progress,” said Eric Holard, PCA Climate and Sustainability Council co-chair. “Once we’ve established effective measurement, PCA companies are committed to transparently demonstrating progress.”
Tenets of the plan include:
– Proposed strategies and opportunities for carbon reduction at several building phases, including production at cement plants, design and construction and everyday infrastructure use.
– Identification of five main areas of opportunity: clinker, cement, concrete, construction and carbonation, with specific pathways to carbon neutrality for each.
– A movement toward broad-scale adoption of currently available products, technologies and approaches that can help achieve carbon neutrality sooner.
Summit: On board and moving forward
For Summit, the decision to sign the Roadmap to Carbon Neutrality was an easy one because its goals align so closely with our own.
Last year, we launched our own long-range plan called the Elevate Summit Strategy that includes specific objectives for addressing CO2 emissions from our cement operations, with deadlines set for 2030 and 2050, respectively. Looking ahead, we believe that about 25% of our 2020 baseline impacts can be addressed by 2030 and 50% to 75% can be addressed by 2050 — all using currently available technologies. In the interim, we’ll balance some of our CO2 impact with market-based offsets and credits and eagerly explore emerging technologies such as carbon capture, sequestration and fuel switching.
Steps we’ve already taken include conversion to Portland Limestone Cement (PLC) at our Davenport, Iowa, plant, which produced 1.1 million tons of cement last year alone. The modified formulation has a higher limestone content but performs the same as traditional Portland cement, with a 10% average reduction in carbon footprint.
We’ve also switched to alternative fuels where possible; in fact, close to 40% of the energy used at our cement plants was produced by such fuels in 2021, compared to the 25% industry average. Summit is also using telematics by Samsara to track fuel efficiency and emissions in our vehicle fleet, helping us set targets for better emission control.
Overall, we believe our strategies strike the right balance between leveraging technologies available today, supporting the expansion of the low-carbon economy and ultimately adopting best-of-breed technology (once solutions are scalable) to eliminate carbon emissions from our processes.