Production of lime fell at the end of the 1980s as a result of changes in patterns of consumption, specifically the biggest consumer, the steel industry, drastically reducing its specific consumption of lime. Production started to grow again in the mid 1990s with the growing use of environmental applications, such as water, sludge, soil, acid gas, and disinfection treatments. Apart from these two applications, lime is also used in construction and clay soil stabilisation, chemicals, paper, food, feed, and healthcare, etc.
In EU 27 in 2006, production was estimated at 28 million tonnes, roughly 12% of the 227 million tonnes produced world wide. This was worth a value of some € 2.5 billions, and numbers employed are estimated at 11 000.
The EU lime industry is characterised by the existence of several big EU producers operating on an international stage, giving them access to global best practice and technology, and markets for a wide range of applications. Lime production technology and efficiency have evolved over several thousand years, 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. In some of its applications, lime plays a very positive role in terms of the environment, such as in water, sludge, soil, acid gas and disinfection treatments.
The industry is capital and energy intensive, with energy costs accounting for up to half of total production costs. Lime kilns are long-lasting (about 40 years), which means that it can be difficult for producers to comply in the short term with legislation affecting energy or emissions, for example, depending on the stage in the life cycle of the kiln, and in any case, the cost of compliance with environmental legislation can represent a significant proportion of production costs. 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 would require access to breakthrough technologies.
The lime industry addresses environmental issues by means of a continuous dialogue with all stakeholders and by participating in several initiatives aimed at better informing the public, such as the European Minerals day. It is in competition, especially around the periphery of the EU, with other countries which do not conform to European quality standards, or meet European standards on energy use, environmental control, or working conditions.
Innovation challenges for the lime industry include using the environmentally friendly applications of lime to further improve the industry's overall image, and continuing research for more environmental applications and speciality products.
The EU lime industry operates in competition, especially around the periphery of the EU, with other producers in other countries which do not have to conform to European quality standards, and do not necessarily meet European standards on energy use, environmental control, or working conditions. Guaranteed long-term access to the lime industry's raw material, calcium carbonate, is an important issue.
Lime is a heavy product with a relatively low selling price, so transport costs dictate over what distance it can normally be transported on a regular basis under viable conditions. Therefore, delivering lime over long distances is rare except for certain speciality products, or to areas of the world with no natural source of limestone. Only a very small percentage of total production is exported, and this is mainly to neighbouring countries. Where the biggest producer has identified potential markets, it has usually taken the decision to invest in production capacity in those markets.
The lime 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, REACH, sewage sludge, and the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora.
Besides CO2 emissions, the lime industry's emissions can be NOx, SO2, CO, and dust, and primary measures have been taken to improve product quality. The quantity of wastes that can be used to substitute fossil fuels and raw materials is limited for quality and supply reasons. As to wastes produced during the lime production process, they are mainly in the form of unburnt or overburnt products. In modern kilns, very little product out of specification is produced, but when this occurs, it usually consists of dust collected from the exhaust gases. Small quantities of partly calcined material can be produced when the kiln is started up from cold. These are recycled back to the kiln wherever possible, or otherwise sent to landfill in exceptional circumstances.
The lime industry falls within the scope of several pieces of environmental legislation, the principal ones including IPPC [108 KB] , the emissions trading Directive [162 KB] , REACH , and Directives on sewage sludge, and mining waste [443 KB] .
Soil management is 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 land use planning for continued extraction are also important issues.
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 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.