Cement Machinery: Driving Growth
The Indian cement industry has made rapid strides in the recent years. With a rise in infrastructure and housing projects in the coming years, demand for cement will increase tremendously. This is where modern machines and latest technological developments will help cement manufacturers keep pace with the increased demand.
Indian Cement Review
takes a look at the vast cement machinery market in India.
Modern cement plants work on the principle of zero downtime, high product quality and better output with minimum energy consumed per unit of cement production. As per recent forecasts, projections for the next three years predict that the cement industry will grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of around three per cent. This implies that cement production in India is set to reach 303 million mt in 2014. Keeping in mind the present degree of utilization, the growth rate for the installation of production facilities is seen at roughly 8 per cent per annum. In order to optimize production and minimize losses, the cement industry needs to install machinery which is in sync with the latest technology. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of up to 100 per cent is allowed in the industry under automatic route as well as technology collaboration. The industry is de-licensed and import of old and new machinery too is allowed free.
Till date in India, cement used to be manufactured through the wet process. In the wet process, each raw material is proportioned to meet a desired chemical composition and fed to a rotating ball mill with water. Materials exiting the mill are called "slurry" and have flowability characteristics. The slurry is pumped to blending tanks and homogenized to insure the chemical composition of the slurry is correct. After the completion of the homogenization process, the slurry is stored in tanks until required. However, in recent years, cement manufacturers have adopted the dry process of cement manufacturing which is superior in terms of fuel economy. In this process, each raw material is proportioned to meet a desired chemical composition and supplied to a rotating ball mill or vertical roller mill. The raw materials are dried with waste process gases and ground to a size where majority of the materials are less than 75 microns. The dry materials exiting either type of mill are called kiln feed which is pneumatically blended to ensure that the chemical composition of the kiln feed is well homogenized and then stored in silos
Technical evolution in the manufacturing process
With the introduction of dry process technology in the cement industry based on preheater and precalciner, a substantial development has been seen in different unit operations. In order to achieve improved fuel efficiency, various kiln systems have been developed. Modern dry process kilns are now standardized between 1500 tpd to 4500 tpd. The other innovative features in the manufacturing process include use of vertical roller mills in place of ball mills for grinding raw materials and coal, use of preblending stockpile and continuous homogenizing silos for homogenization of raw materials, use of roller press and high efficiency separators for energy efficient cement grinding, electronic packing machines for improved weight reliability and efficiency and advanced process control and instrumentation. The present dry process plants which have been installed are equipped with the most effective pollution control measures for complying with the rules laid down by the pollution control authorities. In order to meet the stipulations, many old plants are now installing pollution control equipment of advanced design including ESP, fabric bag dust collectors, gravel bed filters etc.
Size of Indian cement machinery market
Presently, there are around six major suppliers of complete cement plant machinery in the organized sector having a combined sales turnover of around Rs 600 crore per annum and are in a position to fully meet the demand of the domestic cement industry. Alongwith the unorganized sector, the total production is worth between Rs 1,400 crore to Rs 2,000 crore per annum.
Research & Development
With the recent advances in technological equipments and a thrust in economizing production, research & development has assumed a prime importance in choosing the right machinery for the right process. The absorption and adaptation of technology depends on the R&D activities of the licensees. The chief organisations which are engaged in R&D activities for the cement industry in India include the National Council for Cement and Building Materials (NCCB), Central Research Station (CRS) of ACC and Dalmia Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research (DISIR). Two main indigenous machinery suppliers who have their own R&D divisions are Larsen & Toubro and Walchandnagar Industries.
A centralized R&D Centre has also been set up by the Cement Corporation of India. The R&D units have contributed immensely in making the cement industry technologically competitive through the development of indigenous technology and adapting international technology protocols. A centralized R&D institute can play a major role in various technological and production processes of the cement industry. These processes can comprise of several areas like energy conservation, production optimization, quality enhancement, human resources development, modern computerized methods for quarry planning and waste heat recovery.
Mini cement plant machinery
There are an estimated 300 mini cement plants in operation in India which have contributed immensely to the growth of the cement industry in India. The manufacturing process at these plants is based on either vertical shaft kiln (VSK) technology or rotary kiln technology. Several advantages are accrued through the use of VSK technology which includes cement production in a decentralized manner and low cost of installation. The plant can be designed for lower capacity due to which small limestone deposits can be used. At the plants, there is low dust emission and low maintenance and refractory cost.
Machinery used at mini cement plants can be fabricated by small workshops and the plants have low space requirement. Clinker at the plants is easier to grind and therefore consumes less power.
Dry production process with suspension preheater is usually followed by mini plants which operate on rotary kiln technology. Machinery for the plants is supplied by medium scale manufacturers. Designs for the mini cement plants, which are based on rotary kiln and VSK technology have been developed indigenously.
Even though Indian cement manufacturers have been largely adaptable to the changing technological trends in cement machineries, there are certain areas which face lacunae and which need to be addressed immediately. It has been observed that the facilities and capability for conducting complete raw materials, fuel and product investigation are not possessed by a majority of the machinery manufacturers. Indigenous capabilities are limited in the areas of equipment design and commissioning services with particular reference to modern cement plants.
R&D activities are undertaken on a modest scale and are limited to a few specific areas. Another area which needs to be paid attention to is the training of personnel. No long term planning module has been developed for their personnel by most of the cement plants and machinery manufacturers. No significant success has been achieved by India in the export of cement machinery.
The country has not majorly exported modern dry process plant machinery except the export of machinery for dry process plant in Indonesia as per an arrangement between the governments of the two countries and export to Nepal. The failure to export machinery has been attributed by Indian machinery manufacturers to the high machinery cost and the lack of confidence in Indian cement machinery on the part of the importers.
Recommendations for increased technology adaptation
A modern and state of the art R&D infrastructure needs to be set up by all cement manufacturers for developing and adapting to newer technologies. A reputed R&D organization should try to have testing facilities which are on par with those used by foreign cement machinery manufacturers. Facilities at the organization should cover the entire gamut of chemical, physical and mineralogical testing. A centralized training institute needs to be established in collaboration with leading cement machinery manufacturers. The main thrust of the institute should be on manpower development, up-gradation of technology, equipment design, improvement in manufacturing procedures and quality assurance. An agency can be established for the monitoring of technological development in the Indian cement industry. R&D establishments can assist this agency in the evaluation of technology. Computerized kiln and mill simulators should be set up by all the concerned cement plants. This will help in gaining of knowledge at a lower cost and lesser time duration. Use of these simulators can be taken up on a centralized basis. A full scale simulator facility is already available at the Hyderabad centre of National Council for Cement and Building Materials (NCCB) and should be utilized by cement plants. Machinery and cement manufacturers should develop a well conceived human resources development plan which should include areas of training and level of personnel to be trained as well as duration of training. Keeping in view the erection and commissioning problems faced in a number of units using advanced technology, all license agreements should stipulate for rendering training to licensees' personnel for undertaking such operations on an independent basis.