Graph of world cement usage


Davis Tucker says:

Cement is mainly used to make concrete, and is sort of the "active ingredient" in concrete - it is combined with sand and gravel in roughly fixed proportions. So cement production can be considered a rough proxy for the total amount of construction going on in a country.

The growth in China, from 1 Gigatons to 1.3 Gigatons in two years is mindboggling, even India and Russia are interesting... and there's more to the story than that too.



  1. hmm, I wonder what the stats would be like if it included from year 1950-present? Or even 1900-present? I think we would see U.S. having a similar boom or at least sustained growth. I wonder how much of China is the Three Gorges Dam?


    The titles of these graphs is way off. If you click through to the report used to generate these graphs, it clearly states that these numbers are cement PRODUCTION, not USE. There is obviously a huge difference.

    In fact, the same report shows that the US imports 9% of the cement it uses from China. The report also talks about how US production is being throttled (rightfully so) by environmental regulations. So, it is possible that it is getting cheaper to import cement (possibly from a country with fewer restrictions on emissions) than to buy locally.

    Undoubtedly, China is building at a furious pace right now. But these stats in no way show how much concrete is being used in that country.

    Let’s not forget, either, that they have about 20% of the world’s population.

  3. Might also be instructive to graph the usage vs. population, or land mass.

    Japan’s (and other smaller countries) usage looks moderate, but compare to U.S. usage, and factor in land mass and it is quite disproportionate.

    I read that cement is used in Japan as a kind of government regional economic stimulus mechanism. The government hands out “use it or lose it” grants for regional construction, and so the localities build dubious projects usually consisting of cement, which are arguably ruining the natural beauty of rural Japan. For example: most rivers are now concrete slides, and the coast line is lined with those giant “game of jacks” shaped concrete stars to “prevent erosion”

  4. How much are they selling to Dubai?

    Not sure if it’s true, but a friend who was in Dubai was told that HALF of all construction cranes in the world are being used in Dubai right now. Anyone know where to find that out?

  5. I was told that about the cranes, too, when I was there. Gut reaction is that it’s false.

    I can see…eight from my office right now. I think there are four or more being used right now on the new Cowboys stadium over in Arlington. And I know I saw a couple the other day when I was in Dallas. How many could there even be in Dubai? Could they physically hold half the world’s cranes?

    Now, maybe a certain kind of crane, yes, but just all construction cranes? Nah. No way.

  6. Nuclear fallout shelters?

    #2: Something is really screwed up when it costs less to import cement from a far away land than to buy/produce it locally. Little plastic doodads I can see, but cement?

  7. What this graph shows is that The Others are up to something. Everyone goes “oooh China” while The Others build a giant concrete … something. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  8. other point worth mentioning is construction techniques. in india everything not made of mud is made on concrete. Concrete takes labour and in places like Germany, and the UK the tend to use a lot more ‘dry’ construction systems that can be rapidly erected.

    but yes production not consumption.

  9. A little off topic…

    I just got back Eastern Europe and wow do they like using concrete. They town I was in had 12 km of the surrounding Mediterranean beach replaced with nothing but concrete, with not an inch of sand left. The apartments were little concrete cubes, completely unadorned on the outside. It may be that other nations use just as much concrete, and cover it with prettier facades, but it was surprisingly soul-burdening to see all the time.

  10. If you live in a country which is prone to earthquakes, reinforced concrete is a Good Thing. Witness that the only buildings left standing in the recent China quake zone were steel reinforced concrete. Everything built from brick or non-reinforced concrete was reduced to rubble.

  11. Production vs. consumption aside…this may be apples to oranges

    Almost all rsidential cnstruction in the US is wood frame, up to and including the standard 3-4 floor spec apartment buildings that you see all over the suburbs. You do not see concrete used until the buildings get bigger than that or are commercial structures.

    Traveling through Europe, Japan and the middle east, they appear to use concrete for EVERYTHING. It makes sense for various reasons (earthquakes, lack of trees)

    Still, china is either supplying most of the concrete in the world or I need to look for a construction job over there.

  12. Three points:
    First, cement is VERY heavy (a 50 lb bag is about as big a two big loaves of bread) so it’s probably not shipped long distances in large quantities. just as nearly every town has a gravel source nearby, every state or region probably has a cement plant.
    Second, cement production releases huge amounts of CO2 because as part of the production process they heat large quantities of limestone releasing carbon from the ancient shells of plankton. This is probably one of the big reasons that China has surpassed the US in GHG emissions.
    Third, building is a dilemma in terms of global warming because cement emits fossil carbon and loggging native forests releases long-stored carbon as well.

  13. Dougo, it’s true that building out of wood and building out of concrete are both harmful from a global warming standpoint.

    However, I’d probably go with concrete because of durability.

  14. International shipping of concrete, as most international bulk commondities is based on volume, not so much on weight, so comment 17 is a bit off base.
    Might also want to take note from someone who, despite their personal research regarding human impacts on the Earth’s ecology, feels that the Kyoto protocols are rather bogus since they don’t address the production of CO2 (and other byproducts of comustion found in their dirty old smoke) from India and China which as you can see are major producers of concrete, the post production gasses from which are a significant contributor to the mercury and other heavy metals being spewed out as combusion gases which are right now bio-accumulating in polar bears (Usrus maritimus, not Ursus polaris…the Polar bears don’t need ice to survive they need food) and other apex marine feeders and probably contributing the fact that 1 in 5 female polar bears (that we know of) is likely to be a hermaphrodite, and of course soot which lies on the ice and accelerates its melting, and in case no body noticed (and I’m sure China and Inda are hoping nobody does)that so called greenhouse gas (though it only blocks a few narrow bands of Infrared) and universal ingredient needed by all plants (the more the better actually):CO2.
    Oh, how I wish the leaders in the movement to protect the Earth would focus more attention on the actual impacts which are destroying ecosystems (ahve another shrimp cocktail? It’s farm raised you know and so it must be OK!) and wiping out species right here and now instead squandering consderable though limited resources and motivation on the imagined future ones which in all likelihood are so imperfectly understood and so complex that to propose we can jigger them to our safisfaction smacks of hubris.

  15. @#10 Let me guess, you’re from the US? I didn’t suggest that cement produced in China was being consumed in “far away lands”. There is a large number of countries to which cement produced in China could be shipped by truck.

    @#17 “every state or region probably has a cement plant”

    Not so. I come from Manitoba, where one of the major players in the concrete industry shut down the local cement plant and now ships it in from Edmonton (~1350 km, or 800 mi). I guess it’s just cheaper to produce it centrally and ship it out.

    The thing to keep in mind is that cement makes up a small percentage of the concrete proper. The aggregates make up the bulk and, yes, they are generally sourced fairly locally.

    @#15 Reinforced concrete is good, but as far as I understand there is a trend in seimic structural design to get away from massive structues and into ones that will react a little more elastically. For instance, steel structures are being built with bracing that has a similar principal to the fuse in a breaker panel at your house. These elements are designed to fail when overloaded, relieving the components that support vertical loads.

  16. @#17

    And another thing. Logging does not release carbon. It in fact does the opposite. WHen you cut a tree and put it into a building, the carbon is sequestered and a new tree can grow, thereby absorbing more carbon. Sure, old growth logging is bad and needs to be kept in check, but managed logging can be done well.

    In the end, structural materials should be chosen based on locally available materials. If you build in a forest, use wood, if you build in the prairies, use straw, if you live in the desert, build a sandcastle.

  17. @#9 That’s a helpful link; it certainly paints more of the picture. It doesn’t comment on overproduction, unintentional or planned. And it doesn’t comment on imports, but it gives a better idea of actual use.

  18. Back in the 1950s & 1960s, the big construction component was steel. Now, everything is made from concrete. Apparently, the Cubans did a lot of the fundamental work on modern reinforced concrete since they couldn’t get a lot of steel. Modern skyscrapers use concrete instead of steel beams, even in earthquake prone areas. The rebar in the concrete has high tensile strength while the concrete itself has huge compressive strength. The rebar also stops crack propagation, so concrete towers are pretty tough.

    Another good industrial metric is sulphuric acid production. That hasn’t changed. I imagine that China is cranking it out big time.

  19. Malaysia is a tiny third world country on the equator.

    #16 Anonymous
    Traveling through Europe, Japan and the middle east, they appear to use concrete for EVERYTHING. It makes sense for various reasons (earthquakes, lack of trees)

    Not just in rich countries. I can tell you that it’s like this too in Malaysia, a third world country on the equator. People are always surprised that in a rich country like the US, people live in wooden houses. Over here, no new house (<30 years) are made of wood. Everything is concrete. Even tiny, low-cost, single story houses.

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