Musings, politics and environmental issues

Archive for January, 2018

Sweden aims at carbon-neutral concrete

Sweden’s concrete industry is developing a road map for climate neutralisation in conjunction with Fossil Free Sweden (FFS), a government body set up prior to COP21 in Paris. It will be submitted to the Swedish Prime Minister in March 2018. The process will be led by the Concrete Initiative, an alliance of concrete companies, municipalities, organisations and builders.

Cement production accounts for more than 90 percent of the climate impact of concrete and represents the largest source of emissions to the concrete industry. In 2016, greenhouse gas emissions from Sweden’s concrete industry amounted to about 5 percent of total emissions in Sweden.

Climate-neutral cement production is technically possible today through the use of carbon capture and storage but is 70 percent more expensive than conventional cement, so the technology has to be further developed if it is to become competitive. About 30 percent of cement’s climate impact can be reduced with a transition to non-fossil fuels, but other measures, such as carbon dioxide separation, are required for the remaining 60-70 percent. Climate neutrality also involves dealing with the residual carbon dioxide arising in the cement production itself.

Despite the high additional cost of climate-friendly concrete, it only adds 0.5 percent to the cost of a completed building.

According to FSS, in Germany and Poland the company Thomas Betong is looking into reducing the amount of cement clinker (which represents the majority of the CO2 emissions) by using different kinds of binding material, while one of the Swedish cement companies is collaborating with Norway on carbon capture and storage. However, the Swedish initiative is probably the most ambitious in terms of environment-friendly concrete.

Climate-enhanced concrete is currently available for concrete for building construction and the development of cement and concrete for infrastructure. This includes work with alternative binders, climate-smart recipes, optimization of design and construction, transport and energy supply.

Svante Axelsson, national coordinator for FFS, points out that “if we are to build the volumes of housing and infrastructure required in the coming years while living up to the climate targets, climate-neutral concrete production is a prerequisite.”

Note: This article was originally written for ENDS Europe but deemed not newsworthy enough. But I think it’s fascinating so decided to use the material as a blog instead.

End of United Silicon

The end has come for United Silicon. They have requested bankruptcy. The moratorium they were given ends today, and last night the Icelandic press reported on latest developments.

This is what has happened over the last few days. United Silicon had written a letter to the Environment Agency (EA) dated 16 January, detailing what they were planning to do, and said they hoped that some of the required rectifications could be carried out after the plant was in operation. Three days later, the EA replied (Norconsult’s report in English follows on from the EA’s Icelandic text). They had enlisted the help of Norwegian consultants Norconsult (United Silicon had been using the Norwegian engineering firm Multiconsult) and said that virtually all of the items in the company’s improvement plan must be carried out before another start-up could be considered, including erection of a smoke stack/ chimney to reduce the odour problems experienced by local residents (the company had hoped to do this once the plant was in operation).

Erection of the chimney, not to mention the other modifications needed, could take up to two years and would be expensive, plus a new operating licence and environmental impact assessment would be needed. After receiving the letter from the EA on Friday, the company realised that future operation would not be feasible, and that the probability of a company buying the plant was almost non-existent, and requested bankruptcy.

This morning, Iceland’s National Audit office announced that they are following up on a request by parliamentarian Hanna Katrin Fridriksson into how the Icelandic State has been involved in the United Silicon affair, from investments, environmental impact assessment, issuing of the operating licence and assessment of the plant on the health of local residents. They intend to produce the report by the end of March.

Since the plant’s operation was stopped on September 1, Arion Bank has been paying salary costs of 55 employees and also for the cost of necessary research.


NATO demands cause consternation in Iceland

My latest article has just been published, this time on disarmament issues and the military, and whether growing NATO demands indicate that the U.S. military might be considering a return to Iceland. Basically, the U.S. want a hangar on the old military base to be upgraded so it can accommodate more P-8A submarine reconnaissance planes to track Russian nuclear and conventional submarines in the areas around Iceland, commonly known as the GIUK Gap (Greenland, Iceland and the UK Gap).

The article, entitled NATO demands create headaches in Iceland, also touches on the role of Iceland in disarmament and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and whether having a PM (Katrin Jakobsdottir) who is from a party opposed to NATO’s presence in Iceland might make a difference. In point of fact, as the article points out, the other two parties in the government have completely different viewpoints on the matter, but you never know.

One point that I could not mention in the article came from a friend in the States, who said that Iceland would have to be careful that the U.S. did not start using the situation for “quiet back-room deals”. Given that the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published a report in July 2016 in which it openly suggested: “NATO can optimize its ASW [anti-submarine warfare] posture to ensure that the right capabilities are in the right places at the right time by reopening Keflavik Naval Air Station in Iceland”, his comment should not be dismissed too quickly.