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Steel and cement industry collaboration scales up zero-emissions trials

Steel and cement industry collaboration scales up zero-emissions trials


The first trial melt has been completed as part of the innovative Cement 2 Zero project, which aims to develop the world’s first zero-emissions cement on an industrial scale.

The collaborative project is seeking to advance the decarbonisation of the construction, cement and steel sectors by ensuring the process can be scaled up from laboratory to pilot plant.

Partner organisations span the supply chain, with the Materials Processing Institute, University of Cambridge, CELSA Steel UK, Atkins, Balfour Beatty, Day Aggregates and Tarmac each taking on a vital role in research, development, scaling and testing.

The trial melt was carried out using the Materials Processing Institute’s seven tonne Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) on its Teesside campus, which allowed team members to observe the process at a large scale.

Three further melts will be carried out using the Institute’s EAF and once substantially trialled, developed and de-risked, a series of further industrial-scale trial melts will be held at CELSA’s EAF in Cardiff.

The process was invented by Dr Cyrille Dunant at the University of Cambridge, who discovered that the chemical composition of used cement is virtually identical to that of the lime-flux used in conventional EAFs.

Cement 2 Zero uses recycled cement as the flux in the electric steel recycling process, the by-product of which when cooled and ground produces Portland cement clinker that can be blended to make ‘zero-emissions’ cement.

The pilot-scale EAF experiments use the flux material containing end of life recycled cement processed by Day Aggregates and international mining and minerals group LKAB, using a variety of scrap steel inputs provided by CELSA.

The EAF melts are being undertaken by the Institute in its Normanton Plant, with the support of Phillip Cartlidge from CELSA. This allows the team to embed large-scale steel recycling expertise into the pilot-scale experiments.

The testing of melt procedures and slag cooling offers a greater understanding of creating an end-product that could be produced on an industrial scale, with Tarmac beginning the process of testing the new clinker to understand the grinding properties and assess key performance criteria of the new material.

Balfour Beatty and Atkins are defining testing protocols and detailing projects which will use the CEC material produced from these pilot-scale EAF trials once completed.

The Cement 2 Zero project secured £6.5m of Government funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) as part of the Transforming Foundation Industries challenge.

Chris McDonald, Chief Executive Officer at the Materials Processing Institute, said: "Until now the research has been at a laboratory scale. The Institute having a seven-tonne EAF has enabled this next scale up phase of development and testing to take place.

“The preliminary findings are encouraging in terms of providing the project team with a much greater understanding of the process and how it can be improved and scaled.

“The initial trial melt is a critical part of the project and a huge step towards creating a more efficient, environmentally friendly, and resource conscious manufacturing process contributing to the decarbonisation of the construction, cement and steel sectors.”

Carles Rovira, CEO at CELSA UK, added: “CELSA UK is pleased to be working with the Materials Processing Institute and the University of Cambridge on the Cement 2 Zero project.

“This phase of the project, with trials on the seven tonne Electric Arc Furnace at the Institute, has started to provide CELSA with relevant insight as to whether the lime replacement material will function for steel making at an industrial scale.

“We are committed to a Net Zero Pathway and embracing the principles of a circular economy through our CELSA Circular Steel Programme therefore, investing resources in this ground-breaking collaborative project is a great opportunity for all involved.”


Link to Video on Materials Processing Institute You Tube Channel -

In the news....


Cement 2 Zero: Led by national research, innovation and development centre, the Materials Processing Institute, the two-year UKRI funded project, is a partnership with University of Cambridge, Atkins, Balfour Beatty, CELSA, Day Aggregates and Tarmac.

Materials Processing Institute: The Materials Processing Institute is a research, development and innovation (R,D&I) centre working in advanced materials, industrial decarbonisation, the circular economy, and digital technologies. The Institute provides technology and R,D&I services and consultancy. It also has pilot and demonstration facilities to support businesses and collaboration partners with the development of new technologies, materials and processes. The Materials Processing Institute is leading the two-year trial. 

Link - Materials Processing Institute

University of Cambridge: Based in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge, The Use Less Group is led by Julian Allwood, Professor of Engineering and the Environment and Fellow of the Royal Society of Engineering. The group pursues world-leading research into the sustainable use of materials, energy and resources and is funded by EPSRC, UKRI and industry partners. The Cambridge team will identify the optimum recovered cement composition for symbiotic cement and steel recycling. 


Cambridge Electric Cement: Invention of the cement has been rewarded with a new research grant of £1.7m from EPSRC, to allow the Dr Cyrille Dunant, University of Cambridge, to collaborate with Dr Zushu Li at Warwick University and Dr Rupert Myers at Imperial College, to reveal the underlying science behind the new process. The new grant will fund an additional team of researchers, to probe the range of concrete wastes that can be processed into Cambridge Electric Cement, evaluate how the process interacts with steel making, and confirm the performance of the resulting material. 


Atkins: Atkins is a world-leading design, engineering and project-management consultancy. Atkins will design the new infrastructure to test the new CEC in a UK construction demonstrator project. Atkins is one of the world’s most respected design, engineering and project management consultancies, employing over 18,300 people across the UK, North America, Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific and Europe. We build long-term trusted partnerships to create a world where lives are enriched through the implementation of our ideas. 

Link - Atkins

Balfour Beatty: Balfour Beatty is a leading international infrastructure group with 24,500 employees driving the delivery of powerful new solutions, shaping thinking, creating skylines and inspiring a new generation of talent to be the change-makers of tomorrow. We finance, develop, build, maintain and operate the increasingly complex and critical infrastructure that supports national economies and deliver projects at the heart of local communities. Balfour Beatty will work with designers Atkins to construct the infrastructure using the new CEC in a UK construction demonstrator project. 

Link - Balfour Beatty plc

CELSA Manufacturing UK: CELSA is the largest producer of long steel products in the UK. Their state-of-the-art Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) facility in Cardiff produces and delivers approximately 1 million tonnes of finished product to the UK market each year. By only processing steel through the EAF method and utilising 100% scrap feedstock CELSA is the largest material recycler in the UK, with a process that is 86% more efficient and produces around 1/6 of CO2 emissions of more traditional steel making processes. CELSA UK is also well positioned to supply fabricated reinforcement products and assemblies to the construction sector, with 20 fabrication sites located across the UK & Ireland. For CELSA UK, the pathway to Net Zero and true circularity are intrinsically linked and critical to their strategic vision. Their Net Zero commitment was published in 2021 and they recently launched the CELSA Circular Steel Programme, for strategic initiatives. Because of a focus on supply chain resilience and circularity, CELSA are pleased to support the C2Z project by trialling a zero emission EAF flux material and slag cooling system to transform steel slag into cement clinker.

Link - Celsa Steel UK

Day Group: Day Group is a leading manufacturer and supplier of construction materials and contract services based in Middlesex. Day Aggregates will build the first UK prototype crusher for recovering cement paste from end-of-life concrete, creating a new market for high value recycled aggregate and recovered cement paste.

Link - Day Group Ltd

Tarmac: A CRH company and the UK’s leading sustainable construction materials and solutions business, Tarmac, is advising on the cement elements including the certification and specification of the CEC as usable cement product. Tarmac is also advising on the concrete mix designs and optimisation of the final product. 

Link - Tarmac

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI): The challenge fund brings together the UK’s world-leading research with business to meet the major industrial and societal challenges of our time. It provides funding and support to UK businesses and researchers, part of the greatest single increase in UK science and innovation funding for over 40 years. The fund is backed by £2.6 billion of public money, with £3 billion in matched funding from the private sector. It is run by UK Research and Innovation, which comprises the Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England. 

Link - UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)

2 October 2023