Cement is the essential ingredient in concrete which is vital for economic development. Cement production, an essential requirement for modern economies accounts for about 5% of global anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). Up to 60% of that CO2 arises directly from our primary raw materials, Limestone (calcium carbonate - CaCO3), with 40% from fuel combustion.

The challenge for the global cement industry is to balance the increasing demand for cement with our commitment for continuous improvements and recognition of our responsibility to use resources wisely for the benefit of future generations.

CMI member companies are committed to making cement products in a responsible manner so that they contribute Ireland’s future sustainable development.

The following list outlines the primary drivers of sustainability for CMI members:
  • Production of high quality cements to satisfy our customers’ requirements
  • Ongoing investment in energy efficient plant and equipment
  • Replacement of cement clinker with locally available secondary cementitious materials for the production of Eco-efficient CEM II cement
  • Substitution of fossil fuels with specially prepared alternative fuels produced in Ireland to improve the energy security of the industry
  • Promotion of excellence in health and safety standards for all our members activities
  • Maintenance of ‘good neighbour’ status in each of our local communities
  • Compliance with all relevant environmental legislation and protection of biodiversity at all of our manufacturing facilities
  • Ensuring that sustainability is central to all business decisions

The three principle levers available to the cement industry to improve the sustainability of cement production and cement products are:
  1. Energy efficiency investments
  2. Fossil fuel replacement and
  3. Clinker Replacement

Energy efficiency investment
Over the past decade CMI members have invested €300 million in Ireland in new and upgraded energy efficient manufacturing facilities, operating with best available technology. These investments mean that the cement industry in Ireland requires less energy to produce each tonne of cement when compared to the European average.

Fossil fuel replacement
Fossil Fuel replacement is a ‘win-win’ with clear environmental and economic benefits.

It is the ambition of CMI members to become less dependent on imported fossil fuels and instead use indigenous alternative fuels to further improve the sustainability of the products.

The use of alternative fuels by Ireland's cement industry delivers broad ranging environmental, social and economic benefits:
  • Direct CO2 reductions because the alternative fuels are less carbon intensive than fossil fuels
  • Indirect CO2 reductions due to diversion of waste from landfill
  • Reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels by using locally prepared alternative fuels
  • Reducing transport related emissions from the increased use of local fuels
  • Procurement of fuels at home encourages investments in sustainable waste management practices
  • Additional investments in alternative waste treatment facilities are not required
  • Helps secure local employment

The replacement of imported fossil fuel with locally sourced alternative fuels represents a significant improvement in the energy security for the cement industry. This switch to local residual fuels also greatly assist with Ireland's 'diversion of waste from landfill' and energy recovery targets.

The cement industry is the ideal resource recovery option for residual wastes and in partnership with the waste industry is delivering significant improvements in waste treatment technology in Ireland.

Clinker Replacement
Clinker replacement, a fundamental feature of modern cement production directly supports the desire to maximise resource efficiency. The industry is producing high quality cements from local resources but with a target to continually reduce the energy inputs.

The European cement standard details a wide range of approved cement types. The basic component of many cements is clinker which is produced in the cement kilns at high temperature. Throughout Europe a range of naturally occurring materials or industrial by-products, can be used in specified proportions as partial clinker replacement materials. The use of these materials in the local markets can help reduce the energy requirement for cement production and improve the resource efficiency of the process.

In Ireland two materials exist locally, limestone and flyash (from Ireland’s two coal fired power stations) and CMI members transformed cement production in 2006 with the introduction of eco-efficient CEM II cements incorporating limestone and/or flyash. These cements manufactured with local clinker replacement materials now account for over 80% of the cement market in Ireland.

The investments made by CMI members mean that the production of CEM II cements with limestone, one of Ireland’s most abundant rock types, as clinker replacement is a viable, secure and long-term solution.

CEM II cements can be considered to be the most sustainable cements in the Irish market as they address all three pillars of sustainability, environmental, economic and social.