Technology key as cement, concrete industries address water scarcity

Aug. 10, 2016

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Technology will play an increasingly vital role in reducing the consumption of and dependence on water in cement and concrete production, according to a new report.

The white paper from Solidia Technologies, a cement and concrete technology startup, comes as the global cement industry works to address the mounting challenge of water scarcity.

Technologies That Reduce Water Use in Cement and Concrete Help Global Industry Address Mounting Concerns of Water Scarcity” details how water scarcity can lead to practical and business risks for a wide range of companies and sectors, including the cement industry, as noted by the Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI) of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) in Protocol for Water Reporting.

"Water scarcity and increasing CO2 emissions are among the most pressing concerns of our time, and we’re seeing the industry recognize innovations that can help mitigate their impact," Solidia’s chief technology officer and paper co-author Nicholas DeCristofaro said.

Having developed a process for producing a sustainable cement and a non-hydraulic, CO2-cured concrete, Solidia Technologies provides a high-tech solution for water management to the global cement and concrete industries. Combined, the processes also reduce carbon emissions up to 70 percent and the curing time to one day, according to the company.

The white paper calls on cement and concrete producers to track how water is used, recycled or discarded, and to disclose where and how the water is drawn. Beyond monitoring and using best practices for reporting water use, it is critical that industry have access to modern technologies that can lower the usage, and thus the need, for water, with direct implications for global business continuation, Solidia officials say.

Concrete is the second most consumed substance in the world, after water. More than 30 billion tons of concrete were produced in 2011, consuming more than three billion tons of ordinary Portland cement (OPC).

Because concrete may take up to 28 days to fully cure, additional water is often added to the concrete to compensate for evaporation. When this added water is considered, the overall water consumed annually during OPC-based concrete production is estimated to be between 2.15 to 2.6 billion tons. 

Solidia Technologies has developed sustainable cement that reacts with gaseous CO2 rather than with water to form concrete. Like their OPC-based concrete counterparts, concrete objects made with this sustainable cement require the incorporation of water for shaping and forming only. However, the water used in concrete formulations based on Solidia cement is not consumed chemically and 70 to 80 percent of the water can be recovered during the CO2-curing process. The remainder of the water is retained in the concrete and can be recovered if needed. 

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