Setting the house in order
In today´s market scenario, the biggest challenge is the alarming drop in capacity utilisation due to the demand-supply mismatch. If a state-of the-art plant is running at 70- 80 per cent of its installed capacity, any benefits perceived in installing advanced plant and machinery as also the energy management drives initiated, become ineffective. As long as plants cannot work at designed or higher capacity, the specific energy consumption will not stand reduced. Sustained energy efficiency is possible only when plants run continuously with one hundred per cent run-time and a greater than one hundred per cent production factor. In simple terms, a higher capacity cement plant operating at a lower capacity simply wastes energy and money, and unfortunately that is the one of the prevailing concerns now. So the most pressing need today is to up the demand; the government needs to fast- track its infrastructure spends and boost the house sector.
Then again, opportunities abound when it comes to energy efficiency. One can consider upgrading old plants, co-processing industrial and municipal waste in cement kilns, generating power from the waste heat in kilns, and using waste from other industries like fly ash and slag in the manufacturing process. Use of alternate fuels and raw materials (AFR) is a major potential area for improvement. Present thermal substitution rate by use of AFR is in the range of 0.5 to 1 per cent, whereas developed countries achieve levels as high as 40 per cent TSR.
Another important initiative from the manufacturers would be to constantly examine and evaluate measures to optimise clinker component per tonne of cement. Fly ash has a direct impact in the reduction of specific energy consumption, since it reduces clinker component in cement to a certain extent, and it has been scientifically proven that fly ash- based concrete is more durable than purely OPC- based concrete. However, the use of fly ash has its own constraints, like availability of good quality fly ash and transportation costs.
Even as the world´s energy utilisation is growing at 2.6 per cent, India is at 6.8 per cent, which makes it imperative to have a positive approach towards framing policies for energy security, especially those to make renewable energy economically viable. There has to be a standard for energy supplies, a benchmark on the price and a proper quality redressal mechanism to ensure the right energy services to the industry.
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