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Road construction emissions could be halved using current technology


An 8km stretch of road in Sweden has been closely analysed by researchers from Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg to calculate how different factors in its construction impact carbon dioxide emissions.

The study identified how road materials, production technology, supply chains and transport can impact emissions, which researchers used to calculate the level of emissions reduction that is possible between now and 2045.

The stretch of road, located on Swedish Highway 44 between Lidköping and Kälby, was given a complete climate calculation to identify what materials and activities cause the emissions.

“We identified several low hanging fruits, and if we address those first, it will become easier and cheaper to make bigger emission reductions in the future,” Chalmers University of Technology PhD student Ida Karlsson said.

“We used the contractor Skanska’s climate calculation as an input for breaking down emissions by materials and activities and then analysed how much they could be reduced.”

The climate calculation found that the road’s contractor could reduce emissions by 20 per cent compared to the Swedish Transport Agency’s reference values.

More importantly, the researchers found that emissions could be halved using available technology and eradicated by 2045.

Karlsson highlighted that transport optimisation, recycling asphalt and steel, material efficiency, and replacement of cement clinker in concrete are the four major areas of road construction that can be replaced today.

The research is part of the Mistra Carbon Exit project, which focuses on “transformative solutions” in several industries to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

“The transformative solutions — electrification, carbon capture, carbon-free steel and concrete — require time and significant investment,” Karlsson said.

“But if we have already picked the low hanging fruits, the cost increase for the transformative solutions need not be so great. That is why the low hanging fruits are so important to get started with, because they make it easier to cut emissions further in the future, at a lower cost.”

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