JSE-listed building materials group PPC has outlined a new decarbonisation strategy that includes firm targets for implementation by 2025 and 2030 and also outlines a long-term aspirational goal of transitioning its operations to net-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2050.
The strategy is contained in the group’s inaugural Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) report and the targets have been set using the 2020 financial year as the base.
During its 2020 financial year, PPC emitted 756 kg of CO2 (kgCO2) to produce a ton of cementitious product, excluding Scope 3 supply-chain-related emissions.
By 2025, the company aims to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 10% to 680 kgCO2/t and, by 2030, it is targeting a 27% cumulative reduction to 550 kgCO2/t.
Scope 1 emissions are direct process-related emissions, while Scope 2 are indirectly generated through the purchase of energy from a utility.
CEO Roland van Wijnen tells Engineering News that the focus on Scope 1 and 2 emissions is based on a PPC decision to commit only “to what we can control”.
He says PPC will invest R664-million to achieve the 2025 target, but says it is premature to attribute a value to the investments required to meet the 2030 goal, even though work is already under way on a decarbonisation project pipeline.
The bulk of the capital expenditure will be directed towards the introduction of calcined clay from its Riebeeck mine, in the Western Cape, as a substitute for clinker, to lower the energy intensity of cement production.
Over the period to 2025, the company will also enter into power purchase agreements (PPAs) with independent power producers for 30 MW of renewable-energy production across three facilities in South Africa and Zimbabwe, while also rolling out rooftop solar across its facilities.
The PPAs are expected to lower PPC’s electricity tariffs by up to 25%, even with the inclusion of battery energy storage back-up at its Zimbabwe operation.
“Our short-term focus is on reducing our carbon intensity using proven and ready technical solutions.
“The projects that we have embarked on will reduce our carbon impact but are also value accretive,” Van Wijnen explains, adding that efforts are also being made to replace coal with biomass and waste and using maintenance periods to introduce energy efficient solutions.
In the longer-term, PPC will also assess carbon capture, utilisation and storage opportunities, including the injection of CO2 into concrete, and the possible displacement of coal by green hydrogen.
However, PPC stresses that cement is a recognised hard-to-abate industry and that reaching net-zero will require collaboration across the value-chain and a supportive policy environment, including the possible introduction by South Africa of border tax adjustments on high-carbon cement imports.
“This report represents the first steps of PPC’s net-zero journey.
“It does not provide all of the solutions to the climate change challenges we face, rather, it sets out what we have learned about the impact of climate change on our business and our carbon reduction ambitions in the short, medium and long term.”
The TCFD also lists several opportunities for the group should South Africa and the region pursue greater climate resiliency.
Under a scenario aligned with a pathway that caps the average global temperature increase this century to below 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels, PPC assess the risks to cement demand largely being outweighed by opportunities to increase demand.
“Few alternatives to cement mean that the demand for cement continues despite growing circular economy drivers, energy alternatives, building and design process efficiencies, and aggregate recycling.
“A significant increase in demand is linked to an increase in cement-using renewable energy infrastructure that is needed to produce green hydrogen (a key technology for decarbonisation), and to increase electrification across sectors (transport and industry in particular),” the report states.