East African Portland Cement eyes coal for fuel

East African Portland Cement eyes coal for fuel
Published: 06 July 2007

East African Portland Cement hopes to make substantial savings when it starts using coal instead of electricity in its operations.  
 
East African Portland Cement Company yesterday invited tenders for the supply of a coal grinding and dosing facility at its Athi River plant. It is seeking to interest "well-established coal grinding technology holders."  
 
They must be manufacturers and suppliers of main coal grinding equipment who have done similar installations in the last five years, according to an advertisement the firm put out yesterday in the local press.  
 
The heating, mixing and catalysis that are at the very core of cement manufacture make it an energy-intensive exercise, estimated to require at least Sh3,000 worth of electricity per tonne of cement produced. It makes energy one of the key cost elements in cement manufacture, besides transportation.  
 
EAPC, for instance, pays the country’s third largest electricity bill of between Sh35-40 million per month. The other big spenders in this league are fellow cement firm Bamburi and Panafrican Paper Mills. According to Kananga M’chebere, technical manager at EA Portland, the key problem with local electricity supply is its reliability.  
 
"For us the main issue is the integrity of the supply. Even a few seconds’ outage costs much in time lost as it takes several hours to have the machines operating at optimal level again," he told Daily Nation in a recent interview. 
 
Even then, regular meetings with staffers of national power utility  Kenya Power & Lighting had resulted in a marked improvement, he noted.  
 
The shift to coal comes as EAPC is investing in a Sh2 billion plant to double its capacity from the current 600,000t to at least 1.3Mt.