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Low carbon multi-component cements for UK concrete applications

Main applicant: Mineral Products Association (MPA)

Technology developer: N/A

Industry partners: Hanson Cement, Forterra Building Products Ltd., Building Research Establishment Ltd. (BRE)

Demonstration capital cost: £485,000

Funding awarded: £327,000

Project timeline: July 2018 – March 2021


In today’s cement industry, the carbon impact of cement is commonly reduced by substituting Portland cement clinker – the primary powder component – with lower carbon secondary components such as fly ash (a waste from coal-fired power stations), blast furnace slag (a by-product from iron and steel manufacture) and ground limestone. These secondary components serve not only to substitute for the original clinker chemistry, but also to replicate the original physical properties such as particle shape and size.

The MPA has recently identified that ground limestone remains underutilised as a cement secondary component and could be optimised in new low carbon ‘multi-component’ cements i.e. cements with more than one secondary component. Unlike traditional two-component cements, the unique chemical and physical synergy that occurs in multi-component powder combinations can lead to higher material efficiency and therefore higher rates of clinker substitution.

The MPA aims to develop new low carbon multi-component cements by demonstrating that they are fit for purpose in a wide range of UK concrete applications. This would be achieved mainly by (1) designing and optimising multi-component cements; (2) validation testing of the new cements in a range of concrete applications; (3) engaging with BSI so that revisions to the UK concrete Application Standard are considered; (4) demonstrating that the cements are suitable for full-scale production through the successful design and manufacture of precast retaining wall structures.

UK cement production is approximately 10.2Mt per year

Barriers to market: The UK construction industry relies on tried and tested materials with a long history of good performance. This is important for maintaining standards and producing structures that are fit for purpose. However, this cautious approach presents a barrier for new and innovative materials, which means that their uptake can be hindered. In order to increase confidence in the use of non-traditional materials, rigorous validation testing (medium-term) or field data (long-term) needs to be produced to influence the relevant standards and guidance.


Size of target market: UK cement production is approximately 10.2Mt per year. The new multi-component cements should quickly replace Portland-fly ash cement, which currently represents around 14 per cent of the market. Over time, it is conceivable that low carbon multi-component cements could represent 30-40 per cent of sales. Recognition of multi-component cements by the National Application standards (e.g. BS 8500 for concrete) would immediately allow manufacturers to produce, market and sell these cements.


Initial TRL: The project will cover multiple TRL’s between 5-8


Targeted final TRL: TRL 9

Some new cements have carbon emission profiles 40 per cent lower than conventional alternatives

Energy and carbon savings: It is estimated that there could be potential carbon emission savings of eight per cent across the UK’s cement sector, which currently emits around 7.8MtCO2 annually. Additionally, some of these new cements have carbon emission profiles 40 per cent lower than conventional alternatives.  


Why IEEA funding was important to this project:

“The Industrial Energy Efficiency Accelerator is doing exactly what is intended in this project. It has led to early engagement with industry and BSI and will accelerate the route to market of low carbon multi-component cements that are new to the UK. The research, testing and demonstration will provide crucial evidence and assurance for architects, specifiers and engineers to confidently use these new low carbon cements to deliver the Government’s plans for low carbon schools, housing and infrastructure” - Dr Richard Leese, Director, MPA Cement

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