The majority of EU cement producers are operating on a global level, with the USA as a major trading partner. Depending entirely on the demand of the building and civil engineering requirements, the cement industry provides direct employment in local areas and through a wide network of indirect jobs and activities related to the main manufacturing process. Environmental concerns are of paramount importance for the sector, and innovation includes the use of wastes as alternative raw materials and fuels.
Output in the cement industry has been climbing steadily in recent years, up 23% between 1998 and 2007. Total tonnage produced in EU 27 in 2006 amounted to just over 267.1 million tonnes, with a value of € 19 billions. Output in 2007 is estimated to have reached 272 million tonnes. This represented approximately half of one per cent of total value added and a quarter of one per cent of numbers employed in total manufacturing. Demand for cement is cyclical, depending entirely on building and civil engineering requirements. Employment has been decreasing steadily over recent years, and in 2006, it is estimated that there were 56 500 direct jobs (EU 27)
The majority of EU producers are operating on a global level, giving them access to global best practice and technology. Cement production technology and efficiency have evolved to the extent that they represent the best possible in terms of environmental performance. Raw materials are extracted mainly on-site, which avoids unnecessary transportation and the costs and environmental damage which that could cause. Cement plays a significant role in reducing overall environmental impact by the fact that it uses carefully selected wastes from other industrial processes as secondary raw materials or alternative fuels, for whose disposal other solutions would have to be found, and these might be less environmentally beneficial. In fact, the role that the cement industry has played in various Member States, e.g. in disposing of animal remains at the height of the mad cow disease, was indispensable.
The industry provides direct employment in local areas and through a wide network of indirect jobs and activities related to the main manufacturing process. The industry has become much more conscious of its image in recent years and has been making efforts to improve it. It makes great efforts to promote itself well enough to ensure that the significance of its contribution to society is appreciated.
The cement industry is capital intensive, with the cost of laying down a cement production installation equivalent to around three years' turnover. It is energy intensive, with energy costs accounting for over a third of total production costs and entails very long-term investments. The industry has reached a level of performance which in many cases can not be improved upon with current technologies, so that further major improvements at the production stage are unlikely in the short term.
Innovation in the cement industry include increasing the use of wastes as alternative raw materials and fuels, the development of new products, some with very positive environmental impact as in energy and CO2 efficient buildings, adaptation to climate change, and seeking market opportunities for cement-based products
Cement is a high-density product with a relatively low selling price so transport costs are determinant for trade. In 2007, 3% of production was exported outside the EU, whilst non-EU 27 imports supplied 7% of consumption. The main destinations for EU 27 cement and clinker exports is traditionally the USA, because of its unstable domestic demand. Imports, three-quarters of which are clinker, come mainly from far eastern Asian countries, like China, Thailand, and the Philippines.
Where European cement producers have identified demand for cement in non-EU countries, they have generally invested in manufacturing sites in those countries. As such, EU companies now own almost 60% of US production capacity, and have significant production facilities in the rest of the world.
The cement production process is energy intensive, and CO2 emissions result from the mineralogical transformation process used in its production as well as from the use of energy, so the industry has every incentive to reduce its energy consumption, and environmental concerns are of paramount importance. It falls within the scope of several pieces of environmental legislation, notably the Directives on emissions trading, IPPC, the incineration of waste, the management of waste from extractive processes, and REACH.
Besides CO2 emissions, the cement industry's main emissions are NOX, SO2, and dust. Dust abatement has been widely applied for many years and SO2 is a plant-specific issue. NOX abatement has taken off in recent years with more than 100 SNCR (selected non-catalytic reduction) installations in the cement industry. Some plants have installed primary measures to improve clinker quality, thus reducing energy consumption and emissions to air.
The possibility of the cement industry achieving an agreement in the area of CO2 emissions is being explored by industry through the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. This could provide a level playing field and alleviate the risks of carbon leakage.
The cement industry falls within the scope of several pieces of legislation adopted at European level, including those concerning IPPC [108 KB] , the incineration of waste [138 KB] , EU ETS [162 KB] , and the management of waste from the extractive industries (mining waste Directive [443 KB] ).
Soil is also an important issue for the industry, since soil has to be removed as a primary step to the quarrying of limestone, but is usually saved for use in quarry restitution. Access to raw materials and the complex permitting system for planning and extraction are important issues as well. The BAT reference document was adopted by the Commission in December 2001 under the provisions of the IPPC Directive, and has to be taken into consideration when the permit conditions based on best available techniques are determined. The revised cement, lime, and magnesium oxide BREF was adopted at the IPPC Information Exchange Forum meeting in April 2009.