Benchmarking Greenhouse Gas Emissions from California Concrete Production and Readily Implementable Mitigation Methods

Benchmarking Greenhouse Gas Emissions from California Concrete Production and Readily Implementable Mitigation Methods

In 2015, California produced 9 million metric tons of cement, making it the second largest producer of cement in the United States. This cement production is resulting in approximately 8 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually in California; these emissions are equivalent to 1.7 million passenger vehicles driven for a full year. In the United States, over 30% of the current demand for cement in concrete is for streets and highways. Given urbanization and aging infrastructure, the demand for concrete is expected to increase in California.

The industrial practice of cement production remains among the most difficult to decarbonize and availability of material resources, especially those that are commonly used to reduce the amount of cement needed in concrete, are increasingly scarce. Recent efforts to benchmark the GHG emissions from producing cement in California and around the world, while necessary to begin to address GHG emissions, do not account for differences in alternative formulations and methods of production of concrete. This narrow scope of assessment leaves a critical gap in understanding current impacts and potential mitigation methods. 

With an improved understanding of environmental impacts from the multiple attributes of concrete production in California and how they could be mitigated through a variety of means, policies that benefit society and stakeholders can be developed. This work will improve decision‐making tools for policies to achieve better GHG emissions mitigation. Life cycle environmental impact models will be developed to assess concrete production in California, incorporating specific location of production, transportation, as well as materials used, energy, waste, and emission flows. Environmental impact benchmarks will be developed for multiple mixtures and procedures for concrete production, which will provide a foundation to inform the likelihood of efficacy of alternate GHG emission mitigation strategies and to assess the potential for unintended consequences. Additionally, a series of case studies quantifying the effects of relevant mitigation strategies will be conducted. The results of this work will provide policy-makers and stakeholders with improved means to address the environmental impacts from cement and concrete production.

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