Dangote Cement positioned to tackle Africa’s waste, climate change issues – Pathak

…as Africa Cement Trade Summit opens in Abidjan

Photo shows R-L: Head, Sustainability, Dangote Cement Plc, Dr. Igazeuma Okoroba; Area Sales Manager, Fives FCB, Loic Pottier, and Chief Economist, Bloomfield Investment Corporation, Dr. Marius Achi at the Summit in Abidjan

The 12th Africa Cement Trade Summit has kicked off in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, with the Group Managing Director of Dangote Cement Plc, Mr. Arvind Pathak, enlightening industry players on how the cement giant is leading the campaign for ‘save the environment’ through sustainable production of cement with the utilisation of Alternative Fuels (AF). 

Mr. Pathak said cement production is an energy-intensive process, which consumes thermal energy of about 3.3GJ/tonne of clinker produced, and its electrical energy consumption is in the region of about 90 – 120kWh /tonne of cement.

He noted that decarbonisation is no longer an option but a necessity, with the use of alternative fuels, such as municipal, agricultural, and industrial wastes, in the place of fossil fuels, which have been effective in emissions reduction.

Mr. Pathak was delivering a paper titled “Utilisation of Alternative Fuels as a Strategy for Sustainable Cement production in Africa” at the Summit organised by the Singapore-based Center for Management. The summit has in attendance cement companies' chief executives, cement industry service providers and other critical sector stakeholders from across the world.

According to the Dangote Cement Chief Executive, who was represented by the Group’s Head of Sustainability, Dr. Igazeuma Okoroba, alternative fuel as opposed to fossil fuels emit less CO2 when combusted and that agricultural biomass are known to be carbon neutral. 

He noted in a press statement by the company that with the level of cement consumption, worldwide, reaching 4.2 billion tonnes in 2020, and as population is projected to grow by 12‑23% in 2050 due to rapid urbanisation, the demand for cement will also grow. Therefore the need to prioritise the inclusion of alternative fuels in fuel mix is crucial to address climate change concerns.

He said the cement industry, which provides a vital material to meet Africa’s infrastructure deficit, generates 7% of the world’s CO2 emissions as the cement value chain involves the intensive use of energy for raw materials' mining, crushing, mixing, drying, firing, clinker grinding, packaging and dispatch to customers.

This, he posited, places a critical demand on fuel sourcing and controlled energy usage, as almost every stage of the cement value chain produces CO2 emissions, with the bulk of emissions emanating from the firing process during clinker production in the kiln.

“From being the world's largest bulk cement importers to self-sufficiency and now net exporters of cement to other countries, it is therefore not unexpected that Dangote Cement is one of the pioneer African companies in decreasing CO2 emissions through a fuel substitution strategy. Through reporting, Dangote Cement responds to the evolving environmental, and social challenges by disclosing investment priorities and progress on projects that address the issues.

“We also leverage sustainability reporting to ignite market growth. As part of this commitment, we began reporting in 2020 and received an initial rating of C on climate change. As the company’s actions improved, we rose to a B- and then achieved a B+ rating in 2022,” Pathak added.

According to him, “As a multinational present in many African countries, Dangote Group aims to become a regional leader in sustainability. Dangote Cement is dedicated to environmental sustainability and combating climate change. We have implemented a robust Climate Change Policy that aligns our operations with global climate goals. The environmental pillars of the company define the ways of entrenching sustainability by identifying, measuring and mitigating actual and potential environmental impacts of operations.” 

Pathak revealed that the company's goal is to continuously improve performance on energy efficiency, waste management, water consumption, and monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions. 

“As an African business, we believe that utilising alternative fuel is a critical decarbonisation lever for industries to address the continent's climate change mitigation. Dangote Cement’s Alternative Fuel (AF) Project is an example of this mindset,” he said.

The Dangote Cement boss told his audience that in the wake of global climate shocks, decarbonisation is no longer an option but a necessary component to future-proof businesses in a rapidly changing world. He added that businesses must set clear and detailed short, medium, and long-term targets and decarbonisation strategies for each transition target.

“Indications are that companies that are likely to thrive in this new wave of climate consciousness are not only decarbonising but also thinking about how to shift the business into faster-growing areas.

“Our Board maintains oversight over sustainability reporting, which is essential for corporate success. Through this reporting, Dangote Cement responds to evolving environmental and social challenges by disclosing sustainability commitments and actions. As part of this commitment, we began reporting to the CDP in 2020 and received an initial rating of C on climate change. As the company’s actions improved, we rose to a B- and then achieved a B+ rating in 2022.

“We are one of the pioneer African companies in decreasing CO2 emissions through a fuel substitution strategy. This initiative focuses on substituting fossil fuels by using alternative fuels. The consequences of this strategy are already visible. Biomass and alternative fuels are said to have a lower environmental impact compared to conventional fuels but may produce some emissions.

“Dangote Cement’s efforts in providing access to adequate, safe, and affordable housing are consolidated in the Dangote seven sustainability pillars, themed “The Dangote Way”. Through the drive of the leadership on sustainability, we have a compelling challenge for deliberate programmes for the substitution of fossil fuels, with AF. This also contributes to Nigeria’s CO2 reduction commitments by 2060", he added.

While admitting that the emissions challenge will tarry in the industry for a while, Pathak expressed optimism that the cement industry will continue to contribute to tackling climate change, besides the consequential benefit of CO2 emission abatement.

He noted that as urbanisation contributes to increase waste generated, Sub-Saharan Africa is predicted to become the prevalent region, globally, in terms of total waste generation, if the current trend persists. Low-income countries have also been at the receiving end of hazardous wastes from waste trades, which further compounded the waste situation.

“The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), which is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from highly dangerous chemicals, describes the firing hazardous waste in cement kilns as the best available technique for treating dangerous waste because most cement kilns possess the conditions and equipment to treat hazardous waste. This is where Dangote Cement provides the solution to Africa’s waste problem”, he asserted.

He said further: “Beyond the management of Africa’s waste, AF is a lever to decarbonise cement manufacturing process. Regarding cost and policies in Africa, other options are improving the energy mix with increased use of transitional fuels, efficiency in cement production, design optimisation, and decarbonisation via CO2 sinks, such as reforestation and renewable energy for power generation,” he concluded.
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