Hydraulic (chiefly portland) cement is the binding agent in concrete and mortar and thus a key component of a country's construction sector. Concrete is arguably the most abundant of all manufactured solid materials. Portland cement is made primarily from finely ground clinker, which itself is composed dominantly of hydraulically active calcium silicate minerals formed through high-temperature burning of limestone and other materials in a kiln. This process requires approximately 1.7 tons of raw materials perton of clinker produced and yields about 1 ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, of which calcination of limestone and the combustion of fuels each contribute about half. The overall level of CO2 output makes the cement industry one of the top two manufacturing industry sources of greenhouse gases; however, in many countries, the cement industry's contribution is a small fraction of that from fossil fuel combustion by power plants and motor vehicles. The nature of clinker and the enormous heat requirements of its manufacture allow the cement industry to consume a wide variety of waste raw materials and fuels, thus providing the opportunity to apply key concepts of industrial ecology, most notably the closing of loops through the use of by-products of other industries (industrial symbiosis). In this article, the chemistry and technology of cement manufacture are summarized. In a forthcoming companion article (part II), some of the environmental challenges and opportunities facing the cement industry are described. Because of the size and scope of the U.S. cement industry, the analysis relies primarily on data and practices from the United States.
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Cement manufacture and the environment - Part I: Chemistry and technology