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2020 / 2021 Edition

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‘Concrete Chemicals’ targets carbon-neutral cement

Rüdersdorf cement plant

International consortium of CEMEX, ENERTRAG and Sunfire launch lighthouse green hydrogen project

RENEWABLE energy company ENERTRAG, global cement producers CEMEX and electrolysis company Sunfire are launching ‘Concrete Chemicals’, a ground-breaking lighthouse project aiming to set the path towards decarbonizing the cement industry.

Together with industrial and academic partners, the international consortium has submitted an application under the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) funding call to receive financial support for the challenging start-up phase of the project.

In the current ramp-up of the green hydrogen economy, pioneering large-scale projects will be essential to achieve the EU’s ambitious climate targets, and Concrete Chemicals marks an important milestone towards carbon neutrality.

The consortium is setting the path for achieving a clean cement production process through converting emitted CO2 into valuable and renewable products, eg for the chemicals and transport industry.

Once the funding has been approved, a large-scale demonstration plant will be constructed at CEMEX’s Rüdersdorf cement plant – one of Germany’s biggest cement production sites. Concrete Chemicals is a substantial part of the Rüdersdorf Carbon Neutral Alliance aiming for carbon neutrality at this site by 2030.

After the planned commissioning in 2025, the facility will produce 5,000 tonnes of green hydrocarbons per year in the first project stage. The feedstocks for the plant will be CO2 captured on site from the cement plant and green hydrogen produced by a co-located Sunfire electrolyzer.

In a subsequent step, the produced green hydrocarbons will be converted into synthetic fuels and various renewable chemical products. Moreover, the consortium is investigating a methanol synthesis route that produces green methanol from syngas.

The final technological path will be defined during the project development with the determined product focus forming the basis for the technical design of the plant.

‘We support the urgency of action to address the climate challenge and have committed to a 55% reduction in CO2 from our 1990 baseline in our European operations by 2030,’ said Sergio Menendez, regional president for CEMEX EMEA.

‘Together with our industry partners, we can collectively transform ourselves into a CO2-neutral world. Concrete Chemicals is a promising project and a substantial part of the innovative Carbon Neutral Alliance initiative of CEMEX to develop industrial-scale demonstration projects utilizing ground-breaking technologies.’

In the scope of the project, German cleantech company Sunfire will provide a 20MW pressurized alkaline electrolyzer to produce green hydrogen and a high-temperature Co-SOEC (solid oxide fuel-cell) electrolyzer to generate syngas (a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide), marking the world’s first implementation of two different electrolysis technologies combined in one process.

‘We strive to bring renewables everywhere – especially to industry sectors with a heavy CO2 footprint,’ said Sunfire’s chief executive officer, Nils Aldag. ‘Our electrolysis solutions are helping our customers to develop a green hydrogen ecosystem and reduce their carbon emissions.

‘We look forward to contributing our deep expertise and reliable technology to the Concrete Chemicals consortium. Together with strong industrial partners and political support, we will take a significant step towards carbon neutrality.’

The Concrete Chemicals facility in Rüdersdorf will be powered solely by renewable electricity from ENERTRAG wind and solar power plants in the Brandenburg region, and the deployment of the project will serve as a blueprint for the cement industry in Europe and worldwide – demonstrating the technological possibilities to turn CO2 into utilizable products.

‘We’ve honed our knowledge in sector coupling and hydrogen production not only through our experience with the multiannual operation of our electrolysis plant, but also through active participation in several research and innovation projects,’ said Jörg Müller, chief executive officer of ENERTRAG.

‘Now we are bringing this knowledge to drive the energy transition into sectors that have historically been difficult to decarbonize and help to build a market for green hydrogen.’

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