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Cement production is an industrial process with one of the highest levels of emissions: the majority of these CO2 emission are released by the limestone itself when it is heated. These emissions cannot be avoided by switching to climate-friendly fuels. The carbon capture application being tested at the pilot plants in the LEILAC (Low Emissions Intensity Lime & Cement) project offers a means of capturing these unavoidable carbon emissions in the future and either utilising them as a raw material in the chemical industry (CCU) or storing them underground (CCS).
Innovation: Separation of high-purity CO2
The plant developed in the project uses what is known as “Direct Separation” or DS for short. In this process, the basic raw material limestone is indirectly heated and fired inside a steel cylinder. The pure CO2 that is released in the process is captured and can then be transported and used. Since the CO2 produced no longer needs to be separated from a mixture of gases, this process requires less energy than other separation techniques. In the pilot plant, the needed temperatures of over 1,000 centigrade are still generated by burning natural gas; in future, switching to alternative renewable fuels will be possible.
Efficiency: Scaling up the technology
Alongside Calix, a total of eleven research institutes and companies are involved in the EU-funded LEILAC project, including IN4climate.NRW’s partners HeidelbergCement, Lhoist and Solvay. The test operation is currently running at an initial pilot plant in Lixhe in Belgium. The 10 tonnes of raw materials per hour that are deployed here equate to about five per cent of the capacity of a typical cement works. The follow-up project LEILAC 2, started in April 2020, aims to quadruple this capacity with a demonstration plant in a HeidelbergCement works in Germany by the end of 2024.
Effect: Proven technologies for carbon capture
The pilot and demonstration plants do not yet have a direct impact in terms of climate protection, since they subsequently release the CO2 captured for testing purposes into the atmosphere. The technology developed offers a solution for dealing with CO2emissions in a more climate-friendly way in the future, however, since these process-related emissions cannot be avoided even by switching to renewable energy. About 95 per cent of process-related CO2 emissions can be captured in future using this technology on an industrial scale. The LEILAC 2 demonstration plant will already be able to reduce emissions by 100,000 tonnes a year as soon as a cost-effective way of utilising CO2 under suitable conditions is available.