FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions
What are the LEILAC projects?
The LEILAC (Low Emissions Intensity Lime And Cement) projects will seek to prove a new type of carbon capture technology can be applied to the cement and lime industries, called Direct Separation.
The LEILAC1 project developed, built and operates a pilot plant at the HeidelbergCement plant in Lixhe, Belgium to demonstrate this technology is unique because it aims to enable the capture of the unavoidable process CO2 emissions from both industries without significant energy or capital penalty other than compressing the CO2.
The LEILAC pilot is designed to run a throughputs of up to 240 tonnes per day, carry out fundamental research on the process demands and performance, and demonstrate that the technology works sufficiently robustly to begin scale-up planning. The project’s results are shared widely through ongoing publications, conferences and this website.
The LEILAC2 project aims to scale-up the direct separation technology developed and tested in LEILAC1 and to build a Demonstration Plant that will separate 20% of a regular cement plant’s process emissions –around 100 ktpa of CO2.
Why is there a need to reduce carbon intensity in cement production?
Due to climate change, there is an urgent need. Cement production currently accounts for 8% of global CO2 emissions.
The majority of CO2 emissions from cement manufacture, circa 65%, are unavoidable: released when limestone is transformed into lime during the production process.
In support of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9, cement production is expected to grow from about 4.1 billion tonnes in 2018 at between 3.3% to 8.2% CAGR over the next decade. In order to act on SDG 13 “Climate Action” – a cost-effective, timely option for producing low carbon cement and lime is critical.
What challenges are involved in reducing the environmental impact? (In materials or process)
The cement making process has unavoidable process CO2 emissions, released by the processing of the material limestone. This is a necessary component of ordinary cement, and these CO2 emissions will need to be prevented from reaching the atmosphere.
Are there any regulations for CO2 in cement?
In Paris in 2015 an agreement was made by all countries that global average temperature must be limited to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. It was also agreed to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.
Within Europe, cement plants are counted as sources of CO2 emissions, and are regulated under the EU emissions trading system (EU-ETS). The ETS is a cornerstone of the EU's policy to combat climate change and its key tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions cost-effectively. This mechanism sets a cap on the total amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted, with the total number falling each year. The European Parliament voted for climate neutrality by 2050.
Within the EU-ETS cap, companies receive or buy emission allowances, which they can trade with one another as needed. While cement plants currently receive ‘free’ allowances in Europe, this is a temporary derogation and are awarded based on benchmarked performance.
CO2 captured and safely stored according to the EU legal framework will be considered as “not emitted” under the ETS. Cement plant that do not stop their CO2 from reaching the atmosphere need to surrender allowances for each tonne of CO2 released.
What is carbon capture?
Carbon capture is the process of selectively removing and capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from industrial processes. It can then be used (e.g. as an industrial gas, or via technologies under development such as fuel recycling, etc.) or permanently stored (e.g. stored in saline aquifers, or via technologies under development that bind the CO2 permanently).
Both the cement and lime industries have high CO2 emissions with the majority of their total CO2 emissions being released directly, and unavoidably, from the processing of limestone (which is 50 % by weight CO2). Carbon capture is the only means by which these industrial processes can dramatically reduce their emissions.
Where will the LEILAC1 pilot be located, why, and what has it achieved?
The LEILAC1 project involves the construction of a pilot plant at the HeidelbergCement plant in Lixhe, Belgium. HeidelbergCement, as a major consortium partner, has provided the Lixhe site due to the plant’s already-advanced CO2 abatement strategies, including alternate fuels and waste processing.
LEILAC is a 5-year project starting in 2016 with front-end engineering and design. The pilot plant was built on time and on budget during 2019 and will be run for a number of years to demonstrate the technology.
With the commencement of operations, initial trials of the LEILAC pilot are extremely promising and the technology is working as expected.
It has not all been easy, since initial commissioning the team has had to face numerous challenges, mainly in the ancillary systems, such as the feed and conveying systems, rather than issues with the core technology.
However, due to the tireless efforts by the project team, it has successfully demonstrated that:
both limestone and raw meal can be processed;
that the CO2 is successfully separated;
that there has been no build-up of material on the reactor’s wall,
that the reactor (despite the numerous runs) is exhibiting no significant negative operational deterioration,
that there have been no negative impacts on the host plant, and no impact on clinker production; and
that the pilot is safe and easy to operate, with no safety incidents.
Where will the LEILAC2 Demonstration plant be located, why, and what has it achieved?
The LEILAC2 project aims to build a Demonstration Plant that will separate 20% of a kiln line’s process emissions –around 100 ktpa of CO2. This will be built and integrated on a large, fully operational cement plant in Hannover, Germany, operated by HeidelbergCement.
This aims to demonstrate the overall efficiency of the technology, as the reactor will be integrated into the kiln line in a kind of second preheater string configuration, where the calcined material is directly fed to the existing rotary kiln and the impact on clinker quality as well as the energy-efficiency can be demonstrated.
The demonstration plant will also show the applicability of less carbon intensive heat sources for the required calcination heat, i.e. the use of electricity and alternative (biomass rich) fuels. The project will ultimately seek to validate the anticipated Capex and Opex for full scale application, a modular design for scale-up, operability and maintenance details, and integration and plant layout considerations.
Engineering, supported by HeidebergCement, IKN, CIMPOR, Certh, Polimi and Calix, has already commenced on this ambitious build.It is expected that the Demonstration plant will become operational in 2023.
What will happen to the LEILAC1 Pilot plant?
Supported by Engie Laborelec, LEILAC2 will also oversee the electrification of the LEILAC 1 Pilot plant. This will investigate and demonstrate the ability for the technology to process cement meal and lime, while rapidly ramping up and down the use of electricity (switching rapidly from fuel to electricity).
This potentially could enable cement plant to be intermittently used by the grid to balance power-peaks, a key demand for the wider energy transition by enabling more renewable generation without the need for additional intermittent generation from fossil fuel power stations or losses and expenses of large scale batteries/energy storage.
What is your progress to date in reducing carbon?
The LEILAC1 pilot, which is the first step in applying this technology to the cement industry, has just become operational and is working – successfully separating these unavoidable process CO2 emissions.
The next scale up step is the LEILAC2 Demonstration plant, and construction should commence towards the end of 2022, which will separate around 20% of a typical cement plant’s process emissions.
We will also seek to use electricity with this technology – meaning there would be no CO2 emissions associated with heating. It could also be used for load-balancing (see below).
Which organisations are involved?
The LEILAC project has received €12m in grant funding as part of the European Union’s Horizons 2020 program. HeidelbergCement, CEMEX, Tarmac, Lhoist, Calix Limited, ECN part of TNO, Imperial College, PSE, Quantis, and the Carbon Trust are all working to apply this critical technology to the cement and lime industries. LEILAC1’s project partners are collectively expected to contribute an additional €9m to enable the application of this key technology.
The LEILAC2 project has received €16m in grant funding as part of the European Union’s Horizons 2020 program. The LEILAC2 project consortium consists of Calix, HeidelbergCement, CIMPOR, Lhoist, IKN, Certh, Polimi, BGR, GSB, Engie Laborelec, Port of Rotterdam. LEILAC2’s project partners are collectively contributing an additional €17m to enable the application of this key technology.
All of the partners recognise that the long-term future of the cement and lime industries, which are both vital for many aspects of the European economy, hinge upon a reduction in their CO2 emissions.
Will there be more information?
We will extensively share our findings via this website and via a visitor centre at the LEILAC sites. We will also organise “open-days” for the general public (post pandemic).
How does the technology used in LEILAC work?
The LEILAC project is based on a technology developed by Calix, which aims to enable the efficient capture of the unavoidable process emissions from lime and cement production. The process CO2 which is chemically released from the limestone accounts for most of the CO2 emitted from lime and cement processing. The LEILAC technology seeks to simply re-engineer the existing process flows of a traditional calciner, by indirectly heating the material being processed via a special reactor.
This unique system enables pure CO2 to be captured, in the case of limestone (CaCO3), as it is released during calcination to lime (CaO), as the furnace exhaust gases are kept separate. This elegant solution requires no additional chemicals or processes for a pure CO2 stream.In principle, that means that the cement manufacturing process is not significantly altered.
From a process perspective, the additional cost of the process should be comparable to the conventional process.
Will there be any environmental impacts from the LEILAC pilot site?
No. The LEILAC project will be testing a slipstream from the existing cement making process. It will test separating pure CO2 through a new engineering design. No additional chemicals or process steps are used, and as a result the LEILAC plants will not have any impact on the net emissions from the host cement plants.
What are the major technical barriers?
The major technical barriers are those being addressed in LEILAC1 pilot related to increasing the operating temperature, mitigating corrosion and fouling of the steel, and identifying a commercially viable route to scale up to production from a feed of 10t/h to about 300 t/h, preferably with a retrofit capability.
These issues have been at the forefront in developing the design for the pilot-plant at Lixhe.
Following the successful activities undertaken in LEILAC1, LEILAC2 seeks to take the next step in applying this novel technology to the cement industry.
Firstly it will seek to demonstrate an effective scale up route, separating 20% of a regular kiln line’s CO2 process-related emissions –around 100 ktpa of CO2.per year. This aims to also demonstrate the overall efficiency of the technology, as the reactor will be integrated into the kiln line in a kind of second preheater string configuration, where the calcined material is directly fed to the existing rotary kiln. This will enable an assessment of the impact on clinker quality as well as the energy-efficiency.
The demonstration plant will also show the applicability of less carbon intensive heat sources for the required calcination heat, i.e. the use of electricity and alternative (biomass rich) fuels. As such, furnace-side activities will be a major point of investigation.
What about the CO2 that LEILAC1 and 2 projects will capture?
The pilot and demonstration plants are designed to address the engineering challenges for applying this new technology to the cement and lime industries. While the CO2 will be separated to prove that the technology can work, at this stage it is not planned to compress or liquefy the CO2 separated during the course of this project, due to the intermittent nature of the test runs.
Given both LEILAC plants will be testing a slipstream from the existing cement making process, the total emissions of the host operational cement plants will not increase.
When applied at full scale, the CO2 would be either stored or used. See the storage and usage sections of the website and FAQ for more information.
Why the need for CCS?
In Paris in 2015 an agreement was made by all countries that global average temperature must be limited to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. It was also agreed to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. However, the IPCC has stated that very few models could limit global heating to 2 °C if carbon capture and storage (CCS) was not extensively used.
When making lime or cement CO2 is released as an intrinsic part of the production process, and cannot be avoided (for example by using renewable energy). As such, carbon capture is the only realistic means by which these industrial emissions can be further reduced to support EU to be carbon neutral by 2050.
Is CCS technically mature?
The separate elements of capture, transport and storage of CO2 have all been demonstrated, but integrating them into a complete CCS process and bringing costs down remains a challenge. There are two large projects currently working in Europe, at Sleipner (operating since 1996) and Snøhvit (operating since 2008), capturing and storing around 1.7 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
With the EU’s Innovation Fund commencing in 2020, a large number of large scale projects have been initiated. These projects will be critical in developing this important decarbonisation approach at scale.
However, the CCS technology has not been applied to the cement nor lime industries, as traditional methods of capturing the CO2 are either too complex or expensive. New approaches are required, and LEILAC will provide an elegant and cost-effective way of doing so.
How much will carbon capture cost?
While traditional approaches are quite expensive, LEILAC aims to demonstrate that this new type of design will allow all of the process CO2 emissions to be captured without significant energy or capital penalty.
The downstream processing costs of liquefying, transport and safe storage are not part of these projects. These essential steps are not cement or lime specific and are developed in cross sectorial approaches with all CO2 emitting industries and utilities.
Carbon Capture and Utilisation technologies, such as using the CO2 for growing algae or as a building block for the chemical industry, are important contributions with respect to circular economy and, to some extent, to mitigate climate change.
Several CCU applications are already commercially applied, although the CO2 abatement impact is marginal for the moment. Nevertheless valuable know how is generated, and having a developed CCU application on hand allows initial and small scale carbon capture technologies to be commercially applied. Such early movers support the wider deployment of CCS, while the CCU in itself will have a limited climate change abatement value.
Details of some of these uses of CO2, and particularly how recycled concrete fines could be used to store the CO2, will be examined within the LEILAC2 project.
If the ‘Direct Separation’ technology in LEILAC can capture the process emissions, what about the rest?
When integrated into new plants, or retrofitted into existing plants, which are fired with biomass or waste using current best practice, by using ‘Direct Separation’ technology the total CO2 emissions would be reduced by more than 85% compared to conventional fossil fuel fired lime and cement plants, without significant operating issues, energy or capital penalty.
The LEILAC technology can also be used in conjunction with “end-of-pipe” carbon capture technologies that are currently being developed for the power, cement and lime industries to capture the remaining CO2
Should electricity be used – and the potential decarbonisation of the calcination step will be demonstrated within LEILAC2 – then there would be no additional emissions. Equally, if biomass is used with a “end-of-pipe” technology, the plant would be carbon-negative.
How have the cement and lime industries been addressing carbon reductions to date?
Both industries, despite being under intense global competition, have been actively investigating methods of reducing their CO2 emissions. One of the primary means to date has been through continuous investment in the most energy-efficient technologies and production processes.
The use of alternative fuels, including biomass and waste, has allowed there to be a substitution of coal , giving cement plants up to 14% emissions reduction. The Direct Separation technology will enable the lime industry to achieve similar substitution for the first time, because impurities in the fuels will not contaminate the end product as it does in conventional kilns.
The cement and lime industries have also, in line with national or European supporting mechanisms, been co-investing in other capture technologies, such as the new post-combustion (MEA) pilot-plant at Brevik (which is applying a number of traditional capture techniques to the cement process for the very first time – which could be used in conjunction with LEILAC’s Direct Separation technology).
How is CCS treated under the EU’s Emissions Trading System?
The EU-ETS provides the main incentive for CCS deployment. CO2 captured and safely stored according to the EU legal framework will be considered as not emitted under the ETS.
Additional incentives will have to be created for CO2 captured in a cement or lime plant and used or converted elsewhere into chemicals or e-fuels, particularly, in the case of the latter, when those e-fuels can be used back as part of the fuel-mix in a CO2 stationary source like a cement kiln equipped with CO2 capture technologies in a sort of “closed loop” process.
What will the outcome of the projects be?
At the conclusion of the LEILAC1 project a Cement and Lime industry CCUS Roadmap will be developed. This Roadmap will be based on the outcomes of the LEILAC pilot’s construction and test, full-scale techno-economic study, Life Cycle Analysis, and retrofit report.
This Roadmap will explore, in depth, the timing and opportunities for the widespread roll out of the Direct Separation technology. This will be important in informing decision makers and industry of the viability of the widespread deployment of this technology as a means of accelerating the decarbonisation efforts of the industry, based on verified data.
Using the European targets for emissions reduction, this should also provide tangible information regarding potential costs for the industry, which has had limited economic deep decarbonisation options until this point.
At the conclusion of the LEILAC2 project, it is hoped that it is possible to validate the anticipated Capex and Opex for full scale application, a modular design for scale-up, operability and maintenance details, and integration and plant layout considerations.
What is industry and government doing to support the decarbonisation targets?
The cement and lime industries are very actively pursuing all available decarbonisation pathways. Policy makers are trying equally hard during this period – providing grants (such as LEILAC1 and LEILAC2, recipients of EU funding) to support research and early movers, and provide a clear vision– while protecting the local economy within this transition to a decarbonised society.
As such, the current collective objective facing industry and government is threefold: to maintain economic prosperity, meet cement and lime market demand, while dramatically lowering CO2 emissions.
The LEILAC Projects aim to meet the challenge of global change as quickly as possible.
What reductions do you think will be achievable and in what timeframe?
The only method of dramatically reducing these unavoidable CO2 process-related emissions from reaching the atmosphere is to employ carbon capture and storage. This involves capturing the carbon, and then permanently storing it so it cannot reach the atmosphere.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that very few models could limit global warming to 2°C if carbon capture and storage (CCS) was not extensively used – and this will particularly apply to cement as CO2 is released as an intrinsic part of the production process, and cannot be avoided.
Carbon capture technologies have been proven commercially for a number of years, and are operating at scale already but its adption by the cement and lime industries will require further development before they can be deployed at commercial scale. However, as they normally involve new processes or chemicals, conventional technologies normally increase the cost of production.
Supported by the European Union, the LEILAC (Low Emissions Intensity Lime And Cement) projects will develop a breakthrough technology that aims to enable the cement and lime industries to capture the CO2 emissions emitted from the raw limestone as it is processed, for minimal environmental or economic burden. The Calix process does not involve any additional processes or chemicals, and simply involves a novel “calciner” (kiln) design (that replaces the conventional kiln’s preheater and precalciner configuration into a single Direct Separation Reactor) - aims to capture over 95% of these unavoidable CO2 process-related emissions without significant cost.
The LEILAC technology is being applied to the cement sector at the moment, and is being scaled up. With all going well, full scale applications of the technology should be applied by the mid to late 2020s. The aim is to the rapidly roll the technology out as quickly as possible.
Regarding the captured CO2: the EU’s CCS Directive lays down extensive requirements for ensuring the CO2 does not reach the atmosphere and is safe. There are two large projects currently working in Europe, at Sleipner (operating since 1996) and Snøhvit (operating since 2008), capturing and storing around 1.7 million tonnes of CO2.
How is LEILAC connected to renewable energy use?
The LEILAC technology could enable a very large industrial plant to act as a load-following buffer to intermittent renewable generation. This capability will support any region’s Energy transition by demonstrating how calciners can use excess (or peak) electricity from variable renewable electrical energy sources.
This use of heavy industry to address intermittent energy generation will be of significant importance in creating grid stability (rather than just turning off or down industrial users), and ultimately enable more renewable generation to be deployed quickly without the need for additional intermittent generation from fossil fuel power stations or losses and expenses of large scale energy storage.
Where can I find out more about LEILAC or CCUS?
If you have any questions about LEILAC, the pilot plant, the technology, or CCS in general, please contact us.