Taking on embodied carbon


By reducing its own emissions, Aggregate Industries is helping customers to hit their goals too

Construction is under pressure from government, regulators and clients to improve its carbon performance, and Aggregate Industries hopes that pursuing its own decarbonisation will also help customers reach their goals.

As far as possible, it aims to use low or zero-carbon processes and products and reduce its vehicle journeys. It is also electrifying its fleet where possible, and exploring alternative fuel sources. Quarries are turned over to nature when exhausted.

Director of sustainability Kirstin McCarthy is responsible for a strategy built around five pillars: climate, communities, nature, the circular economy and delivery of sustainable solutions to the market. These apply across each of its divisions: Aggregates, Readymix, Cement, Concrete Products and Surfacing Solutions.

“First and foremost, we’re seeking to address our carbon impact,” says McCarthy. “We acknowledge that what we do has a big impact… Our carbon footprint is significant, particularly from our cement division, so we need to work with the whole of the industry to decarbonise. We also have a huge opportunity to support our customers in their decarbonisation journey, because everything we do ultimately reduces our products’ embodied carbon.”

A laudable objective, but how does the firm hope to get there?

McCarthy says: “Take quarrying. A large majority of the carbon comes from transportation of the aggregates. So we plan to electrify as much as possible. We have huge dumper trucks, which consume a lot of diesel, but we have installed an electrical conveyor system that moves material around.“

Another opportunity within quarrying is biofuels – “a quick win we can do straightaway without having to make the investment in changes to move to lower-carbon fuel; we can just change the fuel in systems that we operate now”.

The firm is currently trialling electrification at its Bardon Hill quarry in the Midlands and intends to build its own renewable energy supply to power vehicles there.

It has also recently announced the launch of London’s very first electric-powered concrete cement mixer and is partnering with its supply chain to use biofuels for transportation. In both cases, McCarthy says, “we need to make sure… service isn’t compromised, so we’re doing it in small steps, but we’re doing it in the right way to ensure it fits with our business.”

In the Surfacing Solutions division, efforts have been made to promote the more carbon-friendly warm mix road surfacing rather than conventional hot mix.

“It was an easy thing to do physically… we just lower the temperature at our asphalt plants,” McCarthy says. “Selling that to customers was a bit more challenging, because there was a misconception that warm is less workable and lower-quality. We’ve been on a journey with our customers to do trials and assure them the quality is the same, and now that National Highways – a big customer of ours – has moved in that direction, a lot of other companies are accepting it.”

Aggregate Industries is also working with competitors Breedon, Lhoist, Tarmac and the Lostock Sustainable Energy Plant on a novel method of capturing carbon in the Peak District ‘s Peak Cluster.

The aim is to capture and transport carbon dioxide emissions from plants to be locked beneath the eastern Irish Sea. The area was chosen as 40 per cent of UK cement and lime is manufactured in or near the Peak District.

All this means customers concerned about their own carbon performance can look to the company for innovations to help.

 For more information, visit aggregate.com

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