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It's a major step towards decarbonisation in Europe, and it's happening in Wallonia. Swiss cement manufacturer Holcim has laid the foundation stone for its new ultra-modern plant in Obourg (Mons). Supported by the European Union as part of the European Green Deal, the GO4ZERO project aims to produce more than 2 million tonnes of carbon-neutral cement a year by 2029 and capture 1.2 million tonnes of CO2. 

GO4ZERO revolutionises the cement manufacturing process at every stage. With more than 95% of thermal requirements covered by alternative fuels and more than 30% of raw materials coming from partially decarbonised industrial residues or co-products, the project is an example of circularity. Combined with the unprecedented energy performance of the new kiln, the plant will reduce its CO2 emissions by 30% by 2027. 

Holcim is partnering France's Air Liquide on the project, which also includes an oxycombustion component to release more concentrated CO2 in the plant's fumes, which should facilitate carbon capture and purification on site. 

"New facilities will be created to process limestone, the basic raw material, and to transport it by train to the Obourg site. From 2027, we will be producing dry clinker and, from 2029, completely carbon-free clinker,’ explains Vincent Michel, Project Director Go4Zero at Holcim Belgium.

The production of clinker, the basic ingredient for cement and concrete, is highly polluting, since it requires limestone to be heated to over 1,400 degrees, which causes a chemical reaction that releases CO2. Before the end of the decade, all the CO2 from clinker production at the Obourg site will be captured for geological sequestration in the North Sea.
This is a world first in Wallonia, requiring an investment of more than €530 million. However, Holcim will be able to benefit from subsidies from the Just Transition Fund (EU-Wallonie) and €230 million from the European Innovation Fund, financed by revenues from the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

The ceremony to lay the foundation stone for the plant took place in the presence of Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo: ‘Belgium can be very proud to welcome Holcim's new-generation cement plant to its territory. This investment is perfectly in line with the vision that our country has been pursuing for the past four years: to build a future for industry in Europe while respecting the highest standards in terms of innovation and targets for reducing CO2 emissions, in this case in a sector as crucial as construction.’