Cement manufacturing is a large-scale, energy intensive activity that transforms natural raw materials into cement powder which is essential for virtually every construction project. Our members are continuously investing in upgrades and improvements and today Ireland has modern energy efficient cement factories operating to European Best Available Technology (BAT) standards producing more sustainable local cement products for Ireland’s construction sector.
The cement manufacturing process involves crushing, blending and melting, at extreme temperatures, local limestones, clays and shales. These rocks, which are quarried close to the cement factories, provide us with the four basic ingredients that are essential for cement, Calcium, Silicon, Aluminium and Iron. In simple terms these essential ingredients are extracted from the rocks and rearranged into clinker inside the high temperature cement kiln. The clinker is cooled as it exits the kiln and stored on site. It is later ground in energy efficient mills with other materials to make our final cement product.
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Our members manufacture two main cement types; CEM II which is an eco-efficient lower carbon cement is the most common cement type in Ireland. CEM I cement is primarily made for the export market and for some specialist precast customers. Cement products produced in Ireland are certified to the national/European standard I.S. EN 197-1 and carry CE marking following independent certification.
CMI recently published Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for the two main cement products used in Ireland; CEM I and CEM II. These provide accurate data for calculating full-lifecycle assessments.
At all stages of the cement manufacturing process from raw material preparation to final product quality control is a key aspect of our operations. Our members have independently certified quality control management systems in place to ensure a high-quality consistent cement product is manufactured for the construction market.
Many architects already incorporate exposed concrete elements, such as wall or floor slabs, into the design of energy efficient buildings. Concrete’s ability to regulate thermal energy means that architects get multiple functionality from the concrete; aesthetic, structural and thermal performance all from a material that requires minimal surface treatment. The passive absorption of heat and its release later in the day/night cycle reduces the need for heating or cooling equipment in buildings, reduces energy demand and improves thermal comfort for the occupants. ‘Activated thermal mass’ where water pipes are embedded in the concrete elements can deliver more significant benefits and allows the building to be more responsive to local energy storage or supply demands.
As civil engineers will know, and indeed have worked diligently to overcome, concrete naturally reabsorbs CO2 from the air throughout its life. This process has been managed in the construction sector by specifying appropriately and ensuring any steel reinforcement inside the concrete has adequate cover. Today the scale of this uptake of atmospheric CO2 is recognised as making a significant contribution, with the removal of approximately 25% of the cement process emissions. This mineral carbonation means the CO2 remains ‘locked-up’ permanently within the concrete.