The first climate-neutral cement plant in Europe will be built in Poland

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The first zero-emission cement plant in Europe is to be built in 2027 in Poland, in the Kujawy region. Holcim is in the process of implementing the GO4ECOPLANET project, under which 100 percent of the carbon dioxide produced by Cementownia Kujawy will be captured. This is the first CCS technology in Europe that enables full capture of CO2.

Holcim plans to create the first zero-emission cement plant in Europe, which is to be built in Kujawy, thanks to the introduction of the CCS technology. What is this technology and why is it so important for the cement sector?

Jolanta Zdunowska, Carbon Capture and Storage Projects Technical Director:

GO4ECOPLANET, which will include capturing carbon dioxide, is a unique project on a global scale. Already in 2027, it will allow for a 100 percent reduction of CO2 emissions of the Kujawy Cement Plant. This will be possible thanks to the use of Air Liquide's innovative Cryocap FG technology, which can be replicated in other cement plants. This solution is also the first CCS (carbon capture and storage) technology in Europe with complete capture of CO2 emissions. It must be emphasized that it is impossible to avoid CO2 emissions in the production of cement with the currently available technology because they come from the production processes. Only CO2 capture can decarbonize and meet environmental goals. The project at the Kujawy Cement Plant will enable Holcim not only to achieve the level of full decarbonization of cement production at the Kujawy Cement Plant, but also of concrete, and thus contribute to the decarbonization of the entire construction sector.

How does CCS work and how is it different from CCU? Why did Holcim choose CCS?

Both CCS and CCU share CO2 capture, with CCS carbon capture and storage and CCU carbon capture and reuse. It is worth remembering that CO2 is a raw material necessary in many processes, e.g. in the food industry or medicine. Currently, the demand for CO2 is much lower than the possibility of catching, so the market is secured, the current production of CO2 in Poland fully covers the current demand. In the future, further use of CO2 is certainly seen in the production of synthetic fuels. In this respect, it will also be possible to consider CCU for other investments. The project at the Kujawy Cement Plant assumes the storage of CO2.

For now, CCS is the better solution in terms of time pressure and economic pressure.

Yes. CCS technology in Poland is just being implemented. Together, we must work out solutions - the regulator, and the business - both on the side of CO2 suppliers and recipients. Infrastructure is necessary for this. This is a new area in Poland, although it is already being implemented around the world. We are moving within the boundaries that allow you to start investing in CO2 capture. The country currently lacks the demand for CO2 for the production of synthetic fuels, hence the only solution to avoid CO2 emissions is to store it.

What do you see as possible technical and financial obstacles related to the introduction of CCS technology in Poland? We mentioned that this is the first emission-free cement plant in Europe, but the issues of funding and construction always remain a challenge.

Today in Poland, the main challenge is the transmission infrastructure, which unfortunately does not exist at the moment. As an industry, we are conducting talks aimed at introducing legislative changes that will make the construction of appropriate infrastructure possible. Captured CO2 storage options on land are also being developed. As part of our project, carbon dioxide captured from exhaust gasses in the cement plant in Kujawy will be transported to the North Sea. Technically, the Holcim cement plant is located relatively close to Gdańsk, so we plan to transport the captured gas by train to the Baltic Sea and then by ship to the North Sea. We assume that the hub in Gdańsk will receive 3 million tons of CO2 per year in the first phase of the terminal construction project. These are the real quantities that can be transported by trains.

On the other hand, practically the entire industry, which today requires the use of CCS technology, is located in the southern part of Poland. We are talking here, for example, about other cement plants, the lime industry, or metallurgy. Transporting carbon dioxide by train from the south of Poland to Gdańsk is pointless because unloading such an amount of raw material at the port is logistically impossible. For this reason, the industry is forced to undertake intensive actions to adapt the existing legislation to the needs resulting from the development of innovative technologies and to allow CO2 to be left in Poland, so that it can be used later, for example, to create synthetic fuels.

What will the supply and transport chain of the captured CO2 look like and where will it be transported and stored? It is said that it is to be stored on the Norwegian shelf, have you already signed agreements on this matter?

Agreements with any owner operating sequestration sites have not yet been signed. We are in talks with three companies about cooperation on CO2 storage from 2027. We are talking about the North Sea areas here. In our case, the supply chain consists of rail transport - from the place of CO2 capture, loading onto specially designed wagons, which also have to be ordered and purchased, because at the moment they are not available in such quantity - both in Poland and Europe - so that you can use them. The reloading hub in Gdańsk is an element of the second project, which is in the conceptual phase - it is a reloading hub designed to enable the transfer of CO2 to specially adapted ships that will transport it to the storage site.

Could you elaborate on the storage of captured CO2 in Poland? What are the geological possibilities and at what stage are the related legislative issues?

Poland has one of the largest CO2 storage potentials in Europe and well-researched geological structures. Poland has one of the best geological structures in Europe, suitable for storing carbon dioxide on land. From research conducted by the AGH University of Science and Technology and prof. Stanisław Nagy shows that there are special Triassic and Jurassic anticlines in the country, at a depth of up to 3,000 m. meters. The research covered three areas, including the Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Opolskie, and Świętokrzyskie voivodships.

At what stage are the legislative works?

On the initiative of the Minister of Climate, three teams dedicated to work on changing the legislation were established. A team representing the cement and lime industry, consisting of the Cement Producers Association, whose members are representatives of all cement plants, and the Parliamentary Group for the Development of the Cement Industry, whose members are 10 Members of Parliament belonging to various political groups. It is assumed that the work on the act is to take place above political divisions and take into account all stakeholders. The aim is to develop solutions enabling the implementation and development of CCS technology - not only for the cement sector. The main message of our activities focuses on initiating legislative changes that will allow us to decarbonize the entire industry. Without proper legislation, we will not go further in terms of implementing works in other plants that could benefit from carbon sequestration. The acts should speed up environmental procedures and are to streamline the implementation of key investments for the Polish economy, infrastructure, and energy sector. And above all, to give a real tool enabling the decarbonization of industry, especially those industries where CO2 is produced as a result of processes that currently do not have alternative technologies.

Do you point out that the CCS technology is a solution not only for cement plants but also for other industries?

Certainly, the Minister of Climate himself suggested that the work should be carried out in three working groups in three sectors working on legislative changes. One of these areas is the cement and lime industry, the other is the energy industry, the third is the metallurgy and steel industry. The division was made to increase work efficiency and bring recommended solutions to the Minister of Climate.

How much time do you estimate is necessary to create the infrastructure that will allow you to use the huge potential of salt caverns in Poland?

In my opinion, this will not happen sooner than in the next 10 years. Unfortunately, the time we need is at least a decade. First, pilot installations and test injections are carried out to check the tightness of the caverns and move on to the next stage.

How much - more or less - is the cost of one CCS technology at a specific cement plant? Where is it possible to get financing for such investments? I mean both support from Poland and the European Union - do such programs exist and what are they?

It is difficult for me to comment on the costs of building CCS in various technologies. In our case, we are talking about the Cryocap™ FG technology, which is a low-temperature technology based on cryogenic separation (freezing) of CO2 from furnace flue gases. The cost of installing and building such a plant exceeds EUR 260 million - it is undoubtedly a huge amount and without the support of EU funds, the financial model is not, colloquially speaking, positive. No private entrepreneur or business will decide to build such facilities without EU or government support, at least soon.

Has support for CCS projects in the EU appeared recently, or was it mentioned much earlier? Is this support for CCS limited to its use in energy-intensive sectors, excluding the energy sector?

In terms of funding opportunities and programs that offer such support, the EU launched it in 2021 with a series of annual support programs and an annual opening for applications for the next 10 years. The assumption is that over the next decade, the European Commission will support innovative projects aimed at green transformation. This does not only apply to CCS - the presented innovation programs include, for example, the production of hydrogen or technologies that allow the conversion of fossil fuels into synthetic fuels. This year was the third call for proposals. We, as Holcim, joined the second recruitment. During the evaluation, our application and project were assessed as innovative and significant in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide captured.

How big CO2 capture can we talk about?

We have declared that over the next decade, we will avoid the emission of over 10 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which gives an average of over 1 million tons per year. That's quite a lot if you look at the cement industry, as it accounts for 10 percent of the sector's emissions.

Can you count on financial support from the Polish government in terms of CCS projects, or is it only done at the EU level?

Unfortunately, there are no programs in Poland that would support the decarbonization of industry through CCS.

We have mentioned several times that your project will create the first zero-emission cement plant in Europe. How is CCS progress in other EU countries? Are they investing in this direction?

CCS projects in Europe are gaining momentum. We attend all kinds of meetings and we see that the EU has a lot to offer in terms of this technology. It is worth mentioning that in other Member States, additional support is often available in the form of national funds, which are a financial injection driving the construction of CCS or CCU. In our case, when it comes to Cementownia Kujawy, we will be the first plant to capture carbon dioxide on such a scale. There is one CO2 capture facility on a similar scale, however, it is related to the production of hydrogen. Thanks to such projects, developing CCS in Europe, and the resulting experience, we are sure that the technology we use is safe.


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