Mexico and Colombia

How LatAm’s cement giants are sharpening their sustainability focus

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, October 13, 2022
How LatAm’s cement giants are sharpening their sustainability focus

Driven by the Paris Agreement and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the largest cement producers in Latin America are stepping up their sustainability focus by reducing emissions.

Colombian firm Cementos Argos is investing in co-processing which substitutes certain elements required for the operation of cement plants.

The company’s Central America head, Gustavo Uribe, told BNamericas that there is a big opportunity to expand this technique in Latin America, which lacks a market for co-processing.  

“A cement production plant operates with carbon or gas, what we do is substitute carbon and burn waste from landfills,” he said. Cement companies in European countries like Poland use more than 50% of co-processing waste, while in Latin America the level of usage is much less “because there is still no structured market around this type of waste, their recollection and transport,” said Uribe.

The amount of waste used at some of Argos’ plants in Colombia is 10% and the company is aiming for 30% at its Honduran operations, he added.

Mexico’s Cemex has introduced another element in its sustainability push: investing in carbon upcycling technologies. 

“Carbon upcycling’s proprietary solution infuses carbon into a grinding process for industrial residues, such as slag and fly ashes, to produce a more reactive supplementary cementitious material. These materials can then be used to replace clinker in cement production, Cemex said in a release. “The blended cement and concrete resulting from this process can achieve CO2 reductions of up to 30%.” 

The addition of clinker substitutes without compromising the strength attributes of cement “is a critical challenge to the industry decarbonization effort in the short term,” it said.

Holcim México is taking a different approach: Rather than modifying the production process to lower CO2 emissions, it is working to diversify its business model.

“Concrete is still a very attractive product but looking for greener materials is part of our company’s commitment to reduce CO2 emissions. In 2025, 25% of Holcim’s revenue must come from other materials, not from cement, concrete, or aggregates, and that’s why we have invested in solutions for roofs. It’s a corporate challenge,” CEO Jaime Hill told BNamericas earlier this year.

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