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I Cost and value of homogenity

by Dr Michael Clark

The cement industry around the world expends a great deal of effort and
money in the pursuit of homogeneity. The most conspicuous effort goes
into reducing the variability of the raw mix delivered to the cement kiln.
That has to be supplemented by consistent fuel supply to the kiln, in
particular with respect to the ash content. Kiln feed and fuel of low
variability then have to be combined with stable operation of the kiln to
produce a clinker of consistent mineralogy and hydraulic reactivity.

Feeding the plant with well

homogenised raw material
is crucial for consistent
high quality clinker

nce that consistent clinker has

been produced the efforts need
to focus on ensuring that
variability in cement performance is not
induced in either the clinker storage and
handling systems or the cement milling
process. The hydraulic performance of
clinker will change in storage due to
relaxation of the stresses and strains in the
clinker mineral structure induced by rapid
cooling. Extraction of clinker from storage
needs to take this into consideration to
produce a consistent cement. Clinker
stock rotation and management is the
way to achieve this. Cement milling

Raw milling stage where corrective

materials can be added

systems have to be set up and maintained

to produce cements with the same particle
size distribution to prevent variability
between different mills. If all these
procedures are in place the customers of
the cement company receive cement with
predictable hydraulic performance and
they in turn can then optimise their
processes for the production of concrete.
Returning to the reduction of the
variability of the raw mix delivered to the
kiln the efforts begin with the geological
surveying and core drilling of the raw
material deposits to establish their
inherent variability. Calcium carbonate,
CaCO3, is the primary raw material for
cement manufacture, usually in the form
of limestone or chalk. This calcium
carbonate must be combined with other
raw materials which will provide the acidic
silica, alumina and iron oxide required to
combine with the lime liberated from the
calcium carbonate in the cement kiln.
Most calcium carbonate deposits contain
contaminants which provide part of these
requirements. The level and variability of
these contaminants must be established to
determine which supplementary raw
materials will be required to produce a kiln

feed of the necessary lime saturation, silica

and alumina modulus which will in turn
combine to produce a clinker of the
desired mineralogy.
After the inherent variability in the raw
materials has been established along with
the requirements for supplementary
materials to adjust the chemistry of the
mix the equipment can be specified to
bring these together into a raw mix of low
variability. If more than one raw material
are to be mixed at the crusher then
different feeders can be provided for each
material. The speeds and delivery rate of
these feeders can be automatically
adjusted based on the feedback from
continuous composition measurement
devices using PGNAA (prompt gamma
neutron activation analysis) technology.
After the crusher and the PGNAA device
the variability in the crushed raw material
stream can be smoothed out in a blending
From the blending bed the
homogenous raw material passes to the
raw milling for fine grinding and drying.
At this stage consideration has to be given
in the operation and design of the plant to
ensuring that variability is not induced in
the blended raw materials by intermediate
storage bins. Final corrective raw materials
are often added at the raw milling stage
and these must be proportioned into the
mill in the required quantities. The raw
mill product then usually passes to a
continuous or batch blending system
before being delivered to the cement kiln.
At this late stage in the process variability
n the clinker produced form the kiln can
be introduced via the handling of the
precipitator dust. It is a matter of
considerable debate whether this dust
should be directed to the homogenisation
silo or directly back to the kiln feed. To

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the homogenisation silo is often preferred when the raw mill

is running as the precipitator dust is then mixed with the
raw mill product. However, when the raw mill is stopped a
slug of pure dust, usually with high lime saturation, is input
to the silo. Always directing the dust to the kiln feed avoids
these mill on/mill off problems.
So the solutions to proportioning and intimately mixing
the raw materials to produce a homogenous kiln feed are
known. If all this equipment is installed a cement company
will be faced with a capital investment requirement of
between US$5m and US$10m. Is all this equipment
necessary in every case, or can some of this investment be
saved? Is there some overlap or duplication in the
These are not easy questions to answer, but are worth
asking when a new cement factory is being specified and
designed. With the ongoing drive to use alternative fuels
and raw materials to manufacture cement these are also
relevant considerations for existing cement factories. Quite
possibly some or all of these mixing or monitoring
equipments might need to be retrofitted to the process.
Answering the questions requires consideration of the
homogenisation task from both ends. How much variation is
there in the raw materials? If the raw material is a marl
approaching the composition of cement rock with very
little variation then there would be no point in spending the
capital to install multiple crusher feeders, PGNAA equipment
or blending beds. The variation is given by the maximum
and minimum lime, silica alumina and iron oxide contents of
the core drilling samples. These cores are usually split into
one, two or five metre sections before analysis. The analyses
of these sections should be inspected to detect any outliers
and statistical process control then tells us that the range of
the compositions will encompass three standard deviations
of the actual composition variation that will be experienced
in practice.
From the other end of the problem what is the maximum
variation in kiln feed that a cement kiln can contend with a
produce a clinker of consistent and predictable hydraulic
performance? Convention is that less than one per cent
standard deviation in kiln feed LSF is attainable and that this
will result in a uniform clinker product (provided that there
is no large variation in fuel ash or the operation of the kiln).
Knowledge of the inherent variation and the final required
variation can then be combined with the reduction in
variation that is typically achieved by the different items of
equipment to decide which equipment needs to be installed.
Simply blasting and loading the rock will reduce the inherent
variation by approximately 20 per cent. Stockpiling at the
crusher can reduce variation by up to 40 per cent. A
blending bed can achieve 75 to 90 per cent reduction in
variation. At the raw grinding stage 30 per cent reduction in
variation can be achieved. Continuous homogenisation silos
will reduce variation by around 75 per cent. A batch
homogenisation system has greater capability and can
reduce variation by 85 per cent. Armed with these
benchmarks a cement company is able to make a rational
decision as to the level of investment required to produce a
consistent clinker product.____________________________ I