Cement company moves to renewables for power.
The world's first cement plant to be powered by wind energy has been built by Lafarge in Morocco.
The plant at Tetouan, costing about €10m ($12.2m) to build, has 12 wind turbines delivering more than 10MW of electricity, about half of the cement plant's requirements.
Bertrand Collomb, chairman of Lafarge, said: "It's important to figure out how to go about using existing technologies, to use some renewable energy where possible, to reduce our energy use and reduce our [greenhouse gas] emissions."
Cement-making is highly energy-intensive, and the industry has come under pressure to reduce its energy usage as a result of the high oil price, and action by various governments to tackle climate change. The environmental problems of cement-making are compounded by the fact that the chemical process of making cement, which requires limestone, emits carbon dioxide as a by-product.
The industry is one of the handful of sectors covered by the European Union's mandatory greenhouse gas trading scheme, which started on January 1. Under the scheme, companies are issued with permits to produce a certain amount of carbon dioxide, and businesses needing to emit more must purchase extra credits from other companies or face fines of €40 a tonne. This gives companies an incentive to save energy and reduce greenhouse gases, as they can benefit both from reduced fuel costs and by selling their excess credits on the market. Permits to produce carbon dioxide are currently changing hands for just under €22 per tonne, according to carbon analysts Point Carbon.
Mr Collomb said Lafarge was on track to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent between 1990 and 2010, largely through the more efficient use of energy.
Lafarge's Moroccan plant also qualifies for special credits under the United Nations-brokered Kyoto protocol on climate change, which requires developed countries to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. One of the provisions of the treaty specifies a "clean development mechanism" by which companies and governments in developed countries can set up projects to bring renewable energy to poorer nations, and the greenhouse gas emissions thus avoided count towards the reductions the richer country must make under the treaty.
This means Lafarge should be able to offset the emissions of 30,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases that it saves in Morocco against its emissions in EU states.
To date very few such projects have been approved by the UN's clean development board. Lafarge has other projects in the pipeline which it hopes will also be accepted under the clean development mechanism rules.
Mr Collomb said Lafarge was also working on new ways of making cement and concrete that would emit less carbon dioxide.
Copyright 2005 Financial Times