06 Oct 2020

06 Oct 2020

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

Global CO2 uptake of cement in 1930–2019

Rui Guo1,, Jiaoyue Wang2,3,, Longfei Bing2,3, Dan Tong4, Philippe Ciais5, Steven J. Davis4, Robbie M. Andrew6, Fengming Xi2,3, and Zhu Liu1 Rui Guo et al.
  • 1Department of Earth System Science, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
  • 2Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenyang 110016, China
  • 3Key Laboratory of Pollution Ecology and Environmental Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenyang 110016, China
  • 4Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California 92697, USA
  • 5Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, CE Orme des 14 Merisiers, 91191 Gif sur Yvette Cedex, France
  • 6CICERO Center for International Climate Research, Oslo 0349, Norway
  • These authors contributed equally to this work.

Abstract. Because of the alkaline nature and high calcium content of cements in general, they serve as a CO2 absorbing agent through carbonation processes, resembling silicate weathering in nature. This carbon uptake capacity of cements could abate some of the CO2 emitted during their production. Given the scale of cement production worldwide (4.10 Gt in 2019), a life-cycle assessment is necessary in determining the actual net carbon impacts of this industry. We adopted a comprehensive analytical model to estimate the amount of CO2 that had been absorbed from 1930 to 2019 in four types of cement materials including concrete, mortar, construction waste and cement kiln dust (CKD). Besides, the process CO2 emission during the same period based on the same datasets was also estimated. The results show that 21.12 Gt CO2 (18.12–24.54 Gt CO2, 95 % CI) had been absorbed in the cements produced from 1930 to 2019, with the 2019 annual figure mounting up to 0.90 Gt CO2 yr−1 (0.76–1.07 Gt CO2, 95 % CI). The cumulative uptake is equivalent to approx. 52 % of the process emission, based on our estimation. In particular, China's dominant position in cement production/consumption in recent decades also gives rise to its uptake being the greatest with a cumulative sink of 6.21 Gt CO2 (4.59–8.32 Gt CO2, 95 % CI) since 1930. Among the four types of cement materials, mortar is estimated to be the greatest contributor (approx. 58 %) to the total uptake. Potentially, our cement emission and uptake estimation system can be updated annually and modified when necessary for future low-carbon transitions in the cement industry. All the data described in this study, including the Monte Carlo uncertainty analysis results, are accessible at

Rui Guo et al.

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Rui Guo et al.

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Global CO2 uptake of cement in 1930-2019 Jiaoyue Wang, Longfei Bing, Dan Tong, Rui Guo, and Fengming Xi

Rui Guo et al.


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Short summary
Using a life-cycle approach, we estimated the CO2 process emission as well as uptake of cement materials produced/consumed in 1930–2019. 21 Gt of CO2, about 52 % of the total process emission, had been abated through cement carbonation. China contributed the greatest to the cumulative uptake of more than 6 Gt (~30 % of the world total) while ~65 % of the total uptake was attributed to mortar of more than 12 Gt. Cement CO2 uptake makes up a considerable part of human carbon budget.