Cement is one of the worst materials to work with, from an ecological standpoint. It's massively expensive and the manufacturing plants that produce it are some of the world's worst carbon dioxide producers. The manufacturing process also releases large amounts of mercury, which is hazardous to the people who work in the industry. According to an article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, a Georgia-based company has developed a technology to produce the material at a fraction of the cost, with about half the energy, in a way that contains the mercury particles.

The article references Sriya Green Materials Inc. and its plans to construct a $200 million factory to manufacture their "green cement." According to the story, their efficient processes can reduce equipment costs and slash the production time from 40 minutes to 40 seconds. Sriya CEO Srinivas Kilambi told the Chronicle that the company's process uses the same raw materials as standard cement, just with a revolutionized process.

Kilambi says the production of building materials is a main culprit in climate change, and the Chronicle reports that currently, "each ton of cement emits about 1,763 pounds of CO2 during manufacture." This is a nearly 1:1 ratio, which takes into consideration the carbon released from the limestone dug up to create the cement, as well as the heating process of manufacturing it.

Kilambi says Sriya's process works at much lower temperatures and produces cement in smaller batches. Thus far, the company's cement process has been proven in small batches in laboratories and the Chronicle article mentions there are some concerns about production on a big scale. Sriya plans to build a "pilot plant" next year to test the technology on a commercial scale.

The article outlines how demand for cement is "skyrocketing" worldwide, particularly in Asia as China and India ramp up their infrastructure, building roads and bridges and buildings. Consumption of cement is predicted to reach 5 billion metric tons by 2030, a 43 percent increase from current consumption.

To that end, Sriya hopes to establish its plants in the limestone-rich southern U.S. by 2013, just as the EPA enforces new regulations controlling the "harmful pollutants from the manufacture of Portland cement," which is the standard cement on the market today. The article mentions that other U.S. cement plants will need to invest between $6 and $10 billion to meet the pending regulations.

Is it possible to create green cement?
New cement company promises less energy use, reduced CO2 emissions, and mercury containment.