Cement Machinery: Poised for a big leap

Cement Machinery: Poised for a big leap

Cement production in India has increased rapidly during the last few years. Despite recession, Indian cement industry performed well with the boom in infrastructure and housing markets. In view of the upcoming infrastructure projects, manufacturers are expanding their production capacities. This is where the cement machinery firms can play a vital role in meeting the demand with the latest technology machines and equipment. Nitin Madkaikar, Economist, First Infocentre, elaborates on the renewed vigour in the cement machinery market.

Cement plant and machinery based on raw mill grinding, pyro-processing and cement grinding process technology, for capacities up to 10,000 tonne per day (tpd), are being manufactured in India in collaboration with foreign technology providers. Unlike conventional, modern cement plants are designed for zero downtime, high product quality and better output with minimum energy consumed per unit of cement produced.

Currently, there are only six major suppliers of complete cement plant machinery in the organised sector. They together have an installed capacity of around Rs 600 crore per annum and are fully capable to meet the domestic demand. Including the unorganised sector, the total production was worth Rs 2,000 crore in 2010.

This industry is de-licensed and foreign direct investment (FDI) up to 100 per cent under automatic route as well as technology collaboration, is allowed free. Import of old and new machinery too is allowed free. However, the industry has made no significant progress in importing or exporting cement plants in the past five years.

The manufacturing process

Cement manufacturing process is mainly divided into three segments:

  • Wet process,
  • Semi-dry/semi-wet process and
  • Dry process.

Older cement plants are based on wet process but the modern plants invariably adopt the dry process except in rare cases where the raw material characteristics may decide for wet or semi-dry process. The dry process is very much superior in terms of fuel economy. Due to this single major factor, a number of older wet process plants are converted to dry process for the reason they being economically viable.

Indian cement machinery manufacturing industry is backed by collaboration agreements with world-renowned machinery manufacturers and are capable of supplying plant, machinery and equipment for large size cement plant of capacity 3,000 tpd and above, based on the latest state-of-the-art technology.

Technical development in cement industry

Cement production has reached 215 million tonne in 2010-11, more than doubling over the decade. To achieve this, different unit operations have undergone substantial development with introduction of dry process technology based on pre-heater and pre-calciner. Various kiln systems have been developed to achieve improved fuel efficiency. The size of modern dry process kilns is now standardised between 1,500 tpd to as high as 4500 tpd. Recently it has gone up to even 10,000 tpd.

The development in other areas include use of vertical roller mills in place of ball mills for grinding raw materials and coal, use of pre-blending stockpile and continuous homogenising silos for homogenisation of raw meal, use of roller press and high-efficiency separators for energy-efficient cement grinding, electronic packing machines for improved weight reliability and efficiency, packed bag loading machines, advanced process control and instrumentation etc.

Dry process for pollution control

The dry process cement plants presently being installed are equipped with most effective pollution control measures to fulfill the stipulations laid down by the Pollution Control Authorities. Many old plants are now installing pollution control equipment to meet the stipulations. Suitable pollution control equipment of advanced design including ESP, fabric bag dust collectors, gravel bed filters etc, are now available in India from reputed manufacturers.

Machinery for mini cement plants

Mini cement plants which have contributed significantly towards the growth of cement industry are based on either vertical shaft kiln technology or rotary kiln technology. The vertical shaft technology provides the following advantages:

  • Low cost of installation
  • Plant can be designed for lower capacity so that small limestone deposits also can be used
  • Machinery can be fabricated by small workshops
  • Plant emits low dust
  • Low maintenance and refractory cost
  • Lesser space needed
  • Clinker is easier to grind and therefore, consumes less energy

Mini plants based on rotary kiln usually follow dry process with suspension pre-heater. The machinery is supplied by a number of medium-scale manufacturers. The designs for mini cement plants (rotary kiln/VSK-based) are developed indigenously.

Research and development

Technology absorption and adaptation depends largely on the research & development (R&D) activities of the licencees. A number of R&D organisations are devoted to cement industry in India, viz, National Council for Cement and Building Materials (NCB), Central Research Station (CRS) of ACC Limited and Dalmia Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research (DISIR). Larsen & Toubro and Walchandnagar Industries Limited are two main machinery suppliers who have their own R&D divisions.

The R&D units have contributed significantly to the development of indigenous technology as well as adaptation of imported technology. Areas which may be considered for detailed study by a centralised research institute include energy conservation, production optimisation, quality enhancement, development of special cement, human resources development, modern computerized methods for quarry planning and waste heat recovery.

Jump in plant and machinery gross block

Twenty-three cement majors' aggregate gross block in plant and machinery stood at Rs 44,000 crore as of March 2011. This was Rs 4,000 crore higher than the gross block of March 2010. In 2009-10, plant and machinery assets of these companies had jumped Rs 6,100 crore over and above the increase of Rs 6,500 crore recorded in the year ending March 2008-09. This implies that capacity addition, modernisation of machinery and change in spares had shot up in both the years. In 2010-11, cement majors ACC and Ambuja Cements added close to Rs 2,000 worth of plant and machinery, implying a major leap for cement machinery suppliers. However, most of these machinery were imported.

Upcoming business

As of end-April 2011, there are 102 cement projects under implementation entailing an aggregate capacity of 183 million tonne. The total investment envisaged in these projects is Rs 70,200 crore. Another 240 projects have been announced by various companies and are under implementation. The total capacity of such projects is 480 million tonne envisaging an investment of Rs 131,000 crore. Even if, half of these intentions are implemented the total investment works out to about Rs 130,000 crore over the next 3-4 years. This implies demand for plant and machinery of around Rs 30,000 crore per annum in the project implementation period.

The largest cement project is being proposed by Reliance Industries (RIL) which has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of Gujarat during the 5th Global Summit of Vibrant Gujarat in January 2011. It proposes to set up new cement plant at Kachchh and will invest Rs 15,000 crore for a 5 million tonne per annum (mtpa)cement plant. RIL was scouting for limestone reserves from the State Government.

The largest project under implementation was of Reliance Cementation which is investing Rs 10,000 crore to set up cement project in Madhya Pradesh. In the phase I, the company is setting up a 5 mtpa, a 3.6-mtpa clinker plant and a 75-MW capacity captive power plant. The project was announced in May 2008 and is being set up at Maihar in Satna district of Madhya Pradesh. It will be executed in four phases, with 5-mtpa capacity cement units in each phase.

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