Martin Schneider is Chief Executive of VDZ since 1 January 2000. He has a background in
physics and started his career in the cement industry 1991 in the field of environment and sustainability. He was head of VDZ’s department of environmental technology, later he was assigned head of the department of cement chemistry. Being the head of VDZ for more than 20 years now he has further developed VDZ into a knowledge centre of the cement and concrete industry, providing services for the whole construction value chain. Martin not only heads VDZ with its 200 experts in Duesseldorf but also serves as a strategic advisor for many cement companies around the world.
In 2003 Martin was also assigned managing director of ECRA, the European Cement Research Academy. ECRA is a platform on which the European cement industry and its stakeholders supports, organises and undertakes research activities within the context of the production of cement and its application in concrete. Its main activities today are on carbon capture as well as future grinding technologies.
The Cement Plant of tomorrow
In decarbonising its value chain, the cement and concrete sector is going through its biggest transformation ever. Aiming at net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 different pathways have been developed, requiring the cooperation of all stakeholders including representatives from the cement, concrete and construction industry, policymakers, researchers and sustainability experts, architects and planners.
Against this background cement plants of tomorrow will have to implement all CO2 abatement and saving measures to the best extent possible – conventional and breakthrough ones. Reducing the clinker factor by well tried and proven constituents, optimising the reactivity of the clinker to its best, substituting fossil fuels by alternative ones are pathways which will still play a growing role in future cement production. A bigger focus will be on the use of alternative raw materials – depending on the degree of being decarbonated the contribution will be to lower the CO2 emissions from calcination but also to contribute to resource efficiency. Innovation will be seen in process technology implementing artificial intelligence and machine learning. Data templates will be used to forward relevant information digitally to the users of cement. Grinding technology and on-site logistics will be further developed to reduce electrical energy consumption and therefore indirect CO2 emissions.
Once all these measures being implemented the remaining CO2 will be captured at the clinker plant. Different capture technologies are already today about to be further developed to a high degree of maturity. The choice of which capture technology will be chosen will depend on site specific aspects such as existing process technology, access to steam, carbon neutral electrical energy or oxygen. The successful decarbonation will require access to storage or utilisation of CO2. This will be the most important policy ask and will require a respective CO2 infrastructure to be developed.
Finally, the relevant markets for future cements need to be developed. This not only requires the respective standards to be amended but also procurement schemes to be implemented. This will allow to take advantage of cement and concrete with respective carbon footprints to be reduced continuously in the coming years.