Challenges and opportunities
With limited fossil fuel reserves suitable for cement production, India is seeking to increase its use of alternative fuels. In this undertaking, the country faces significant and wide-ranging challenges. However, the past few years have seen varied opportunities open up for cement producers to improve their substitution rates.
The Indian subcontinent presents its cement producers with a unique combination of challenges. There are large reserves of limestone, but mostly of marginal quality, located far from 90 per cent of the nation’s insufficient coal reserves and points of import. Almost all coal is of poor quality, with a high ash content, and the supply provides only about half of the industry’s needs. Coupled with this, the desirable option of freight transport by rail is frequently costly and unreliable, and most of the population (the consumers of cement and main sources of waste materials) live far from the limestone deposits, where the clusters of cement plants are established.
Broadly-speaking, about 70 per cent of the nation’s cement is produced in just seven states in the west and south, in excess of the regional demand, while production in the north and east does not meet local requirements (see Figure 1).