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Life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of blended cement concrete including carbonation and durability

Abstract

Purpose

Blended cements use waste products to replace Portland cement, the main contributor to CO2 emissions in concrete manufacture. Using blended cements reduces the embodied greenhouse gas emissions; however, little attention has been paid to the reduction in CO2 capture (carbonation) and durability. The aim of this study is to determine if the reduction in production emissions of blended cements compensates for the reduced durability and CO2 capture.

Methods

This study evaluates CO2 emissions and CO2 capture for a reinforced concrete column during its service life and after demolition and reuse as gravel filling material. Concrete depletion, due to carbonation and the unavoidable steel embedded corrosion, is studied, as this process consequently ends the concrete service life. Carbonation deepens progressively during service life and captures CO2 even after demolition due to the greater exposed surface area. In this study, results are presented as a function of cement replaced by fly ash (FA) and blast furnace slag (BFS).

Results and discussion

Concrete made with Portland cement, FA (35 % FA), and BFS blended cements (80 % BFS) captures 47, 41, and 20 % of CO2 emissions, respectively. The service life of blended cements with high amounts of cement replacement, like CEM III/A (50 % BFS), CEM III/B (80 % BFS), and CEM II/B-V (35 % FA), was about 10 % shorter, given the higher carbonation rate coefficient. Compared to Portland cement and despite the reduced CO2 capture and service life, CEM III/B emitted 20 % less CO2 per year.

Conclusions

To obtain reliable results in a life cycle assessment, it is crucial to consider carbonation during use and after demolition. Replacing Portland cement with FA, instead of BFS, leads to a lower material emission factor, since FA needs less processing after being collected, and transport distances are usually shorter. However, greater reductions were achieved using BFS, since a larger amount of cement can be replaced. Blended cements emit less CO2 per year during the life cycle of a structure, although a high cement replacement reduces the service life notably. If the demolished concrete is crushed and recycled as gravel filling material, carbonation can cut CO2 emissions by half. A case study is presented in this paper demonstrating how the results may be utilized.

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Acknowledgments

This research was financially supported by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (research project BIA2011-23602). The authors thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and useful suggestions. The authors are also grateful for the thorough revision of the manuscript by Dr. Debra Westall.

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Correspondence to Víctor Yepes.

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Responsible editor: Matthias Finkbeiner

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García-Segura, T., Yepes, V. & Alcalá, J. Life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of blended cement concrete including carbonation and durability. Int J Life Cycle Assess 19, 3–12 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-013-0614-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-013-0614-0

Keywords

  • Blended cement
  • Carbonation
  • CO2 emission
  • Durability
  • Life cycle
  • Recycled concrete