Ecocem's mission is to pioneer low-carbon cement technology. In Ireland, Ecocem operates from its Ringsend facility on the south docks. Donal O'Riain founded the company in 2000 with the intention of introducing low-carbon cement to the Irish market.
In recent years, Ecocem has shifted from being a supplier of GGBS to a pioneer of new and innovative low-carbon cements. This was further strengthened by the recent investment of €22.5m by Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), led by Bill Gates, to further strengthen its position in the drive to achieve the next generation of low-carbon cements.
Ecocem launched its innovation programme in 2013, focusing on three key areas:
- Increasing the substitution rate of GGBS to traditional cement using chemical and thermal activation.
- Produce blended cements
- Developing new products and applications for GGBS including renders, screed, superfine and soil stabilisation.
A total of 15% of Ecocem employees are now dedicated to innovation research; this includes 14 PhDs, two research laboratories, including the renowned ENS Saclay, and a newly opened high-tech R&D laboratory in South Paris for the implementation and technological transfer of new innovative solutions.
When considering product applications, ten to fifteen years ago, GGBS would only have been used primarily in ready mixed concrete. As a result of Ecocem’s investment in its innovation programme and its desire to understand the full potential of their product, GGBS is now commonly used in dry silo mortars, precast, tile adhesives, and numerous other construction products.
This has necessitated a methodical review of markets, products, and standards to determine if there is a demand for low-carbon solutions while maintaining product performance.
Here in Ireland, some examples include:
- Kilcarrig quarries have developed a dry silo Eco mortar using up to 36% GGBS, the first low carbon mortar produced in Ireland. Additional work has been successfully carried out using 50% GGBS for both M4 and M6 mortars, with both grades meeting standard requirements.
- Coshla Quarries in Tuam have developed a low carbon block using 50% GGBS and Ecocems activation system into their block production, thereby reducing embodied CO2 by approximately 48%.
- FLI Precast Solutions in Carlow uses a thermal activation hot water system to produce concrete between 22°C and 25°C all year. This allows them to maintain the schedule and turnover time of units with 50 percent GGBS. FLI has utilised this system to produce 66 percent GGBS concrete for their precast units.
The impetus for decarbonisation of cement in Ireland is the recently enacted Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce national carbon emissions by 51% by 2030. This ambitious objective will affect all government-funded construction projects, including those in the National Development Plan.
Expected to be announced and implemented later this year, sectoral budgets for the government and all industry sectors will create a real and immediate shift in how the construction industry addresses the Climate Emergency.
Decarbonising cement and the development of low carbon cement blends is critical to achieving our climate ambitions.