Author : Nuushuun Archie Gboe
Site of publication : Technium sustainability
Type of publication : Article
Date of publication : September 2023
Following a 14-year civil war in Liberia that caused extensive damage to the nation’s infrastructure, the construction sector experienced significant growth. This growth was fueled by the construction of various infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, and multi-story residential buildings. Consequently, there was a substantial increase in the demand for cement. However, due to the unavailability of the essential raw materials required for cement production within Liberia, manufacturing companies resorted to importing these materials into the country in order to process them and create the final product.
Due to the pressing need for continuous reconstruction in the country, there is a significant demand for cement. However, it has become imperative to address the environmental risks associated with cement production. To achieve this, implementing environmental laws and regulations is crucial. These measures would encourage investments in the sector while safeguarding the environment and the well-being of citizens residing near production areas.
The absence of modern technology and effective pollution control mechanisms at the Cemenco cement manufacturing plant has resulted in a significant increase in air pollution. This has had several adverse effects on the environment and surrounding communities:
- Emission of Pollutants: The plant’s reliance on outdated equipment and processes without advanced kiln design, dust collection systems, and pollution control equipment has led to high emissions of various pollutants during cement manufacturing. These emissions include particulate matter, sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and other harmful substances. The lack of measures to mitigate these emissions has a direct impact on air quality in the plant’s vicinity.
- Inefficient Fuel Combustion: The cement plant’s power generation relies solely on fossil fuels, which results in inefficient combustion and higher emissions of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2). This contributes to the plant’s overall carbon footprint and exacerbates climate change concerns.
- Dust Generation: Cement manufacturing involves the handling and processing of raw materials, which can generate significant amounts of dust. Due to ineffective dust control mechanisms at Cemenco, the cement plant releases large quantities of particulate matter into the air, further deteriorating air quality.
- Lack of Monitoring and Compliance: The absence of a monitoring and compliance system at the plant, as well as inadequate oversight from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Liberia, poses challenges in accurately measuring and controlling emissions. Real-time monitoring and control systems are crucial for ensuring compliance with environmental regulations. Without such systems in place, it becomes difficult to address and mitigate air pollution effectively.
HEALTH EFFECTS OF AIR POLLUTION FROM THE CEMENT MANUFACTURING PLANT
Cement factories and limestone-induced air pollution have significant health risks for workers and nearby communities, as well as negative effects on buildings and agriculture. Concrete production, which heavily relies on coal and involves various stages from mining to transportation, emits harmful substances such as PM, NOx, CO2, SO2, VOCs, O3, H2S, PCDDS, PCBs, and other pollutants.
Air pollution worsens respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, making breathing difficult and leading to increased emergency room visits, medication usage, and even sudden death. It primarily affects the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, with the specific pollutants, exposure level, individual health, and genetics playing a role in the response. The respiratory system, including the mucosal epithelium, bronchi, and airway, is the most affected organ system, along with alveolar macrophages in the lungs and alveoli responsible for converting carbon dioxide to oxygen.
INDUSTRIAL CO2 EMISSIONS CONTROL DIRECTIVE WITHIN THE EUROPEAN UNION
The EU has updated its legislation on industry’s environmental impact to align with its zero-pollution vision, energy and climate goals, and circular economy policies. The Industrial Emission Directive is the main tool for regulating pollutant emissions from industries. Large agro-industrial establishments engaged in covered operations must obtain permits from the appropriate authorities. The directive applies to various manufacturing facilities, waste treatment, incinerators, and intensive poultry or pig farming. To reduce emissions from the industry, the European Parliament’s Green Deal Plan proposes specific actions.
INNOVATIVE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION METHODS AND TECHNOLOGIES TO REDUCE POLLUTION
Due to technological advancement, cement manufacturers can now produce more than plants could in the past. However, the increase in production levels has also been identified as the main source of air pollution. This emanates from the increased activities of excavation, dumps, tips, conveyer belts, crushing, mills, and kiln emissions in the cement manufacturing industry. On-site waste and pollution can be significantly reduced by using suitable technologies in the manufacturing process.
Hence, utilizing the right technological equipment will increase industrial competitiveness as it will lower total production costs and minimize the manufacturing process’s negative effects on the environment and human life. Therefore, the following, although not only, should be considered for the advancement of Liberia’s cement manufacturing sector.
Co-Processing in the Cement Industry
It is a fact that the cement sector is responsible for 5% of all human-generated CO2 emissions. Within this sector, 50% of these emissions come from the chemical conversion of limestone into clinker, 40% from fuel combustion, and the remaining 10% from power usage and transportation. However, by adopting the practice of co-processing, where waste materials are used alongside fossil and natural resources, the cement industry can transform the waste issue into an opportunity for creating value.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The increasing demand for cement in Liberia, driven by development needs, will likely result in a rise in proposed cement plant constructions. While the cement production industry brings advantages such as job creation and economic growth, it can have negative impacts on both people and the environment if not managed effectively. The mitigation of air pollution caused by the Cemenco cement manufacturing plant, which affects nearby communities, necessitates not only legislation and environmental laws but also the commitment and engagement of the company to improve its technological processes and environmental management strategies.
The air pollution reduction technologies and methods mentioned in this paper represent just a few of the many approaches developed to mitigate emissions from cement manufacturing. Enhancing the technological process of cement manufacturing in Liberia would not only decrease production costs but also minimize the adverse effects on the environment and human health throughout the manufacturing stages.
This would enhance industrial competitiveness and ensure compliance with international best practices. To align with the climate monitoring measures outlined in the Paris Agreement, it is crucial for all countries, including Liberia, to establish an emission monitoring, control, and reporting system. Currently, Liberia lacks a comprehensive climate monitoring program. Therefore, I strongly urge the Liberian government, in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency, to develop a climate monitoring program that encompasses all industrial sectors. This will enable accurate data gathering for yearly emission reports, which can inform policy formation, climate financing, and adaptation strategies while providing the means to forecast future emissions from each sector.