Towards greater efficiency

Published 02 December 2013

The magnificent city of Prague, Czech Republic, played host to Cemtech Europe 2013 over 28 September-2 October 2013, as senior cement specialists gathered to discuss industry trends and share recent success stories as the region adapts to new market realities. Supported by the Czech Cement Association, this year’s timely meeting included a two-day expert programme, exhibition and tours to Lafarge and HeidelbergCement facilities all geared towards inspiring an even more efficient, sustainable and competitive industry.

Cemtech Europe 2013 attracted a global turnout with delegates attending from Europe and beyond

Cemtech Conferences has enjoyed a long association with Prague as it played host to the first-ever Cemtech Conference in 1991, followed by a second event in 2007. The decision to return to this charming city for Cemtech Europe 2013 once again proved highly popular as the meeting drew an audience of over 200 industry specialists from Europe and beyond, including cement producers from Morocco, Iran, Libya, Guatemala, Israel and Libya – representing a wide cross-section of the global cement industry.

Responding to new realities

With the eurozone emerging from recession and cement demand in the region showing signs of stabilisation, Thomas Armstrong, managing editor of International Cement Review and Cemtech organiser, stressed during his opening address why it is now more important than ever for producers to ensure they are operating by the most efficient and effective means possible. “More than simply maintaining business-as-usual performance levels, producers must go further to develop strategies and adopt manufacturing technologies – particularly in relation to energy consumption – that respond to the prevailing economic realities.”

His words paved the way for a comprehensive two-day speaker programme focussed on innovations and opportunities for those seeking to raise the bar in terms of operating efficiency and sustainable practices.
The host market of the Czech Republic is a prime example of where the domestic cement industry has continued to press ahead with a foward-thinking approach despite a challenging trade environment.

Providing an overview of latest market trends and industry milestones, Jan Gemrich, chief executive of the Czech Cement Association (SVC), explained how local producers have been actively implementing measures to enhance operations. Key achievements include optimising the cement production process – for example, by changing the cement product mix and offering cements with optimised clinker ratios. The Czech industry has also succeeded in attaining high alternative fuel utilisation rates, including a significant proportion of biomass, which in 2012 accounted for 20.6 per cent of the share in fuel mix. Further achievements include an impressive 98 and 65 per cent reduction in NOx and  SO2 emissions, respectively.

European and global market trends

Casting a look at the wider region, Jean-Christophe Lefèvre-Moulenq of CM-CIC Securities looked at how cement producers in Europe are adapting to the new construction and building materials markets landscape. In his imaginatively titled paper: ‘Cement industry: the dams in Europe have finally burst!’, he began by noting that things are beginning to look up in the region but at a very slow pace, and that a strong recovery should not be expected at this stage. He then went on to discuss how the downturn has rocked the balance in term of supply and demand, with excess capacities particularly in Spain, Italy, Germany and Benelux. This has led to the closure of under-used capacities and changes to import flows. Another key emerging trend has been the reshaping of major European markets by large players – either through direct disposal of underperforming units, or asset swaps such as the recent CRH/Valderrivas deal and the proposed Cemex and Holcim tie-up in three countries.

Yuri Serov of Morgan Stanley presented the latest global trends where a weakening economic outlook, particularly in emerging countries, is expected to drag down cement demand growth this year. While the research house still expects emerging markets (EMs) to perform better than developed regions, current slowdowns in cement powerhouses such as India and Indonesia will mean the growth path for EMs going forward “will be more moderate and therefore presumably more sustainable,” Mr Serov said.

Worldwide cement and clinker trade distribution were further explored in a presentation by Ad Ligthart of Cement Distribution Consultants and author of the forthcoming ICR Handbook on Global Cement Trade and Distribution. While Asia is by far the world’s largest supplier to the flow of global cement and clinker trade, Mr Ligthart noted that Europe’s net exports are sizeable. Last year, seaborne deliveries of cement and clinker in the region reached almost 42Mt, a figure that is expected to remain stable this year. Of that amount, 12.3Mt represented international trade within Europe itself, while 11.4Mt was exported to other continents, with Africa consuming the vast majority. The presentation again brought to the forefront the importance of trading networks for large players as they look to keep plants operating at the highest possible production rate in times of surplus capacity.

Regional developments

A detailed presentation by Bartlomiej Sosna of PMR (Poland) charted the latest construction and cement industry trends in central Europe, where prospects are starting to become more promising. Since the middle of this year, the region’s key markets of Poland, Czech Republic and Romania (which account for 80 per cent of cement consumption) have seen some positive construction indicators. In terms of cement demand forecasts, Romania is expected to see advanced growth of six per cent in 2014 compared to the low single-digit increases recorded since 2011. Meanwhile, Poland and the Czech Republic are set to see minor declines next year before a return to growth in 2015.

Consumption trends at regional level were supplemented by individual country focuses on long-term growth markets such as Russia. Stanislav Aksenov of CMPro presented an informative report on prospects for this market, which has witnessed continued cement demand growth since 2010. The domestic cement industry is continuing to revamp existing facilities as well as construct new plants in an effort to reduce the share of wet-process production facilities in operation. In 2012, production reached 61.5Mt of which, wet-process technology accounted for 73 per cent compared to 83 per cent in 2010 (with production at 50Mt). This figure is expected to be scaled back even further to 70 per cent in 2013, Mr Aksenov highlighted, against a forecast output of 66.5Mt.

Rainer Nobis explains the concept and commissioning

of HeidelbergCement's new 2Mta Tula plant

HeidelbergCement is one such company that is bringing best-available technology to the Russian cement industry, most recently through the commissioning of its state-of-the-art 2Mta Tula Cement plant. A presentation by Rainer Nobis of HeidelbergCement talked delegates through the concept and commissioning of this greenfield works where special attention had to be given to raw material handling properties and winter conditions due to the plant’s location in central Russia.

The design and operation of dry-process plants in Russia with its cold climate and sticky materials was also the focus of a presentation by Palle Grydgaard, senior process manager of FLSmidth A/S (Denmark). He discussed how experiences gained over several projects in the Russian market led the company to develop new raw material test methods to ensure selection of the most suitable equipment.

Sustainable successes

Measures to promote sustainability were explored by Jim O’Brien of Jim O’Brien CSR Consulting who championed the benefits of benchmarking with the World Business Council’s Cement Sustainable Initiative (CSI). Here he noted the significant progress made such as YoY increases in alternative fuels usage with Cemex now at >25 per cent and the majors increasing their rate by 1-3 per cent per annum. Important advances have also been made in terms of reducing the clinker factor as well as improving thermal efficiency. Meanwhile, “remarkable” progress has also been made in terms of YoY reductions in net CO2/t with the best now <600kg CO2/t. In terms of CO2 reduction commitments, most companies are on track to achieving, or have achieved 2015 targets. Overall, Mr O’Brien stressed that the CSI has been a “very positive driver in the industry, hugely improving sustainability and competitiveness,” and will “continue to do so in future years.”

Also under this umbrella, PK Mittal of Holtec Consulting outlined the important role of asset management can play in sustainable development.


As always, the Cemtech speaker programme included a strong line-up of technical content across the entire production chain.

With the management of energy efficiency a critical area of industrial competitiveness, technical proceedings provided a special focus on energy reduction opportunities and power generation. A highly-engaging presentation by Lawrie Evans, group performance manager of Italcementi, gave an overview of the company’s energy reduction strategies, offering plenty of ideas and areas where producers can potentially lower net electrical energy power consumption. Mr Evans stressed the importance of energy audits to identify potential savings and highlighted case studies undertaken at Italcementi plants in Morocco, USA and Thailand where simple, easy reductions have been achieved, particularly in the areas of power savings in milling and grinding. However, it is waste heat recovery (WHR) that Mr Evans stressed “will be the future” for cement plants seeking to reduce net energy consumption and remain competitive. To this end, Italcementi has installed a steam Rankine cycle in Thailand, an organic Rankine cycle in Morocco and its biggest and most recent WHR project is at Pukrang (Thailand).

Following closely on, Hakan Gurdal of Akçansa Cimento drew delegates’ attention to the company’s new WHR project which has helped improve overall energy production efficiency at the Çanakkale works while simultaneously reducing the Turkish cement producer’s carbon footprint. This US$24m facility – the largest in Europe – became operational in September 2011, and recovers 105mkWh of energy per annum. This covers 30 per cent of the plant’s electricity requirements and saves 60,000t of CO2 emissions.

Continuing with this theme throughout proceedings, Bernhard Dellekart (A TEC) delivered a paper on power and thermal energy saving with low-cost investments. Furthermore, an informative presentation by Dan Nadav of Echogen Power Systems explained how the US-based company is offering an innovative supercritical CO2-based Ranking heat recovery cycle with 8MW capacity suitable for the cement industry.

In terms of alternative fuels usage and handling, Luc Rieffel, Walter Materials Handling (France) shared successes with the company’s alternative solid fuel systems using in-situ examples of projects for Çimsa in Turkey and Holcim Mexico’s Hermosillo plant.

An international exhibition gave delegates the opportunity to

network and develop relationships with industry partners

Edward L Morton of Evolution Environmental Group LLC (E2) shared the company’s experience on collaborative effort with FLSmidth and Titan Cement to implement an alternative solid fuel (ASF) programme at the latter’s Pennsuco plant in Florida, USA, in a shortened period of time. Titan took the lead in obtaining a permit to use alternative fuels while E2 focussed on identifying and securing supply of proper feedstock materials to be used as components in an engineered ASF mix that would allow maximum thermal substitution in the kiln. FLSmidth contributed by providing equipment and technical pyroprocessing knowledge.  

Other highlights of the technical programme include a return to the main Cemtech stage by Dr Michael Clark of Whitehopleman with a review of the topic of kiln optimisation. Here he discussed pointers of how this technology might go in the future in light of the challenges remaining for such systems (see ICR November 2013).

Developments in vertical conveying were discussed by Heinrich Höse of Aumund as he talked delegates through design improvements to the company’s bucket elevators for high performance and reliable operations.

The art of handling moist and sticky materials in cold countries from a materials handling perspective formed the basis of a presentation by Marco Bertorelle of Bedeschi (Italy), who used references of plants being built and operating in extreme conditions in former USSR countries and eastern Europe.

Moises Rodriguez of Cemengal (Spain) shared the technical concepts behind the company’s Plug & Grind system which has recently become a reality with the first installation now on site, commissioned and grinding cement.

Presentations also included a paper by Christian Helmreich of A TEC Greco Combustion Services on ways to improve kiln operation with high-momentum kiln burners. A paper by independent consultant Kevin Rudd looked at the importance of factory acceptance testing to ensure that new major equipment items are fit for purpose. Jeff Shelton of Martin Engineering explained ways in which the right air cannon nozzle reduces build up and cost. Finally, Jorg M Schrabback of Sika Services AG, concluded proceedings by demonstrating how to be powerful and profitable with chemical additives.

A tale of two plant tours

This year’s technical programme included visits to two local cement plants, giving delegates the opportunity to witness first-hand advances being made by two of Europe’s leading cement majors.
Cementarna Radotin is one of two plants currently in operation by the Czech market leader, Ceskomoravský Cement, part of the HeidelbergCement Group. Radotin has the strong advantage of being strategically located in the central consumption hub of the Prague market and it operates at near maximum milling capacity during the peak season of March-October. This compact plant has two dry-process kilns (f4m x 58m) with a capacity of 930tpd each. Four types of cement are produced, with plant dispatches exclusively in bulk form.

Due to its central location, the Radotin plant has a number of environmental responsibilities, particularly with local villages being located just 50-100m from its two quarries. Over its 50 years of operations the factory has undergone complex technical development to turn it into an environmentally-friendly works, with more recent projects including the connection of a bypass filter with the clinker cooler. Since 2000, the plant has seen a steady increase in solid alternative fuels (SRF) usage and today only black coal and SRF are used. Radotin has so far achieved an SRF substitution rate of 50 per cent, a figure which it hopes to increase to 60 per cent over the next year. A particularly-interesting aspect of the plant is its strategic use of oxygen which provides an effective means to combine high alternative fuel use targets with excellent operational results.

A second tour was taken to Lafarge Cement AS in Cížkovice, a 1.2Mta integrated cement works located 65km north of Prague. The plant, which is equipped with a 2250tpd kiln with five-stage preheater and calciner, began burning alternative fuels in the late 1980s, and has now reached an impressive substitution rate of 80 per cent. A variety of solid waste-derived alternative fuels, including SSW, sludges, shredded tyres and animal meal are consumed, in addition to liquid solvents and lipix. Supporting fuels are coal dust (lignite) and heavy oil (heating up) at 20 per cent. To reach this level of substitution, the kiln system was recently modified, including extending the calciner length by 30m to increase the combustion gas residence times, a chloride bypass system and the adoption of a Unitherm Mono Airduct System burner.

Networking opportunities

Technical proceedings were further supported by an international exhibition area featuring the latest developments from the industry’s leading equipment and service providers.

Extensive hospitality included lunches, evening receptions and a superb Gala Dinner offering additional opportunities for delegates to mix. Meanwhile, a sightseeing tour gave accompanying partners the chance to see some of the many historic sights and scenic delights Prague has to offer.

With yet another successful European event under its wing, Cemtech looks forward to returning to the region again next September. In the mean time, attention turns to Cemtech Middle East & Africa event, to be hosted in Dubai, UAE, over 2-5 February 2014. We hope to see you there!

Article first published in International Cement Review, December 2013.