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Wheels of automation picking up pace



For the cement industry, it is imperative to adapt ways to address the key challenges of energy saving, water conservation, reduction in carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, and material resource and waste management. The question is how does one address this? An answer to this is process control automation, and major players in India’s cement sector feel the same.

Steel and cement are the two most critical elements of the construction industry. Any movement in these two components can have a direct impact on the infrastructure and economy of the country. Currently, India is the second largest cement producer in the world with a production capacity of more than 500 million tonne per annum (MTPA), and is expected to cross 550 MTPA by the end of 2020.

According to a projection in a report published by Research and Markets titled "Global Cement Market Insight, Trends and Forecast 2019-2021: Production, Consumption, Imports & Exports", the global cement consumption volume is expected to reach 4.42 billion tonnes in 2021, growing at a CAGR of 2.96 per cent during the period 2018-2021.

Increasing construction activities, rising urbanisation and higher disposable income are likely to be the growth drivers. However, the growth of the market would be challenged by depleting fossil fuel reserves. A few notable trends include expansion of civil engineering sector on a global scale, rising demand for green cement and increasing infrastructure projects in developing regions.

"The global cement industry is expanding in terms of production as well as consumption volume. The rising construction activities at a fast pace is promoting the cement demand considerably. The market demand for cement from civil engineering industry is rising strongly, due to the increasing investment by government on residential as well as public work sectors. This is enabling the cement manufacturers to produce cement on a large scale and thereby raising the consumption volume also," the report highlighted.

India: Still lagging
Though Indian exports cement to the international market, the country is far behind with $295.8 million, which is 2.9 per cent of the total international market. According to 2018 statistics, Vietnam led the pack with $1.1 billion (11.1 per cent of total cement exports). China is much ahead of India in ranking with more than double the share in its kitty. However, there is a bigger gap created by China with fewer exports, which can be filled by India if the companies increase their exports.

Cement as an industry is energy intense, highly raw material-driven, water intense, and has a higher environmental impact. Cement industry in India consumes 10 per cent of the total coal produced and 6 per cent of the total power consumed in the country. Typically, a cement plant consumes between 60-100 KW to produce one tonne of cement.

With the help of advanced technology the industry has been taking steps to control the environmental impact by adopting various measures. Reducing water intake by shifting from the previous wet process to the latest dry process, shifting of captive power from thermal (coal) to heat recovery as cement plants generate high temperature during the manufacturing process.

Change is happening
Cement factories are notorious for high greenhouse gas emissions. However, major players have been taking steps to mitigate the shortcomings and, to a large extent, have succeeded in their efforts by adopting various technologies.

For the industry, it is imperative to adapt ways to the address the key challenges of energy saving, water conservation, reduction in carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, material resource and waste management. The question is how does one address this? One-line answer to this is process control automation. The industry is in agreement that the cement industry requires faster changes to realise the set Vision 2030.

Here again, process control automation is seen with much apprehension: the disruption it creates, the cost factor, up-skilling of existing manpower, and the challenges of retrofitting.

Highlighting the solutions available for issues concerning cement plants these days, Rajat Kishore, Managing Director & Vice President- Process Automation India Hub, Schneider Electric India, points out, "In Schneider Electric, we have a specific initiative called "eco structure" for the cement industry. This helps plants to achieve greater efficiency with digitally-enabled solutions, through which energy monitoring and control solutions are provided. The solution also gives a transparent view of energy usage of productions both in the production process usage as well is in identifying potential savings. It also helps companies realise how automation is key to addressing the challenges of the cement industry."

Process control digitalisation
Cement industry in India has enormous opportunities for new investments. Plants are being set up, new captive plants are being done and the annual capacity is ever increasing. With a healthy pipeline of infrastructure development and hoisting sector in the offing, Indian cement industry is expected to gain momentum. To cater to the increasing demand, companies should also look at increasing efficiency in operations by automation.

The huge growth of infrastructure puts pressure on the cement manufacturers to become more and more efficient, and explore and attract entry of more international players to meet the competition. The fierce competition is driving the industry players to adopt automation. However, the key factor that would drive the automation process is the government regulations that stipulate strict compliance to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Dwelling upon the digitalisation aspect vis-a-vis the cement industry, Mark Yseboodt, Sales Manager Automation – Minerals, Siemens AG, says, "Digitalisation is a very broad concept that can have various positive influences on a cement manufacturer’s costs, depending on the specific application in question."

Digital platform
He goes on to explain: "A simple logistics example is a digital platform where customers can place their order to the cement producer. The platform tells the customer and their truck driver where to find the nearest plant to pick up the order. The truck driver is identified with an RFID tag at the weighbridge at the entrance. The truck is guided to the right silo. He only has access to the silo that contains the type of cement that was ordered. The truck is loaded with the required amount of cement and leaves the plant through the weighbridge at the exit and an invoice is generated. Such a solution ensures that trucks are not loaded with the wrong cement type or quantity. Cement theft is avoided. An additional bonus is that by keeping track of the truck drivers and their behaviour, the plant can blacklist drivers that don’t respect the rules, thus improving the onsite safety."

When such simple technologies are available, what is preventing the cement industry from adapting to them, one wonders!

Rajat Kishore of Schneider adds, "The resistance to change invariably comes from the fear of how much you want to change. Take for instance, upscaling of manpower. Cement industry has a combination of skilled and unskilled manpower. The industry faces the challenge of finding suitably-trained manpower, especially equipped to handle newer technology. In my personal experience domestic cement players are increasingly adopting automation in process control. One will be surprised to know one of the technologies is called "digital road map". What is noticeable is that they are adopting our automation and energy-saving solutions. A tendency has been developed but things are moving at a slow pace. But change is not inevitable."

Next technology
Elaborating on the next level of technology, Yseboodt of Siemens says,"Remote access is becoming more and more the standard, resulting in the need for newly-killed people at cement plants. This has been going on for some years now. The main trend is the continued development of digitalisation solutions in various parts of the process. Basically, plant data is collected, transferred and stored so that it is available where and when it is required. We are seeing cases where additional data from the field is being used to improve the production process."

But is collection of data feasible and manageable? According to Yseboodt, data collection and management isn’t problematic at all!"Generating more data in itself is often not difficult. Simply, add another sensor. However, it is important to remember that most cement plants are running plants and there is often a limit to the amount of data that can be added to the control system. In fact, a lot of the data from the sensors is not necessarily required to control the process itself. Some data may only be relevant for maintenance purposes or for quality KPIs. In such cases, it is important not to overload the CPUs with irrelevant data," he says, adding: "The trend today is to create an additional data channel. Smart switches route the signals through the CPU and/or through the additional channel. In this way, you can add as much data as you want to your plant without (negatively) interfering with the existing automation system. The second data channel is designed to be fully secure and the data can be made available to selected users to see only what they need to see."

He further adds: "This new transparent layer of data analytics is gaining importance above the plant automation DCS, in which data is being quickly made available to customers on their machines and which help them to analyse and plan future course of action. Data analytics on plant data helps to define optimisation strategies as well as facilitate predictive maintenance."

According to Yseboodt,"Data analytics is paving the path for Artificial Intelligence (AI), a new technology that is finding its way into the cement industry. AI creates opportunities to solve issues that couldn’t be handled in the past. By collecting and archiving relevant data, it becomes possible to recognise patterns and detect anomalies that previously remained invisible. This allows the plant operators or the automation system to take corrective measures before an actual problem occurs."

Way forward
Smart Mining Platforms that can communicate with the machinery in the factory, support predictive assets maintenance on site, and support augmented reality, virtual reality and digital print. In the cement industry the objective is to achieve operational asset management excellence by increasing the readiness to leverage new age automation and deployment of integrated distant solutions. As AI and Machine Learning are taking their first steps into the cement industry, manufacturers are hopeful of a better management system at a reasonable cost.


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Economy & Market

Impactful Branding




Advertising or branding is never about driving sales. It’s about creating brand awareness and recall. It’s about conveying the core values of your brand to your consumers. In this context, why is branding important for cement companies? As far as the customers are concerned cement is simply cement. It is precisely for this reason that branding, marketing and advertising of cement becomes crucial. Since the customer is unable to differentiate between the shades of grey, the onus of creating this awareness is carried by the brands. That explains the heavy marketing budgets, celebrity-centric commercials, emotion-invoking taglines and campaigns enunciating the many benefits of their offerings.
Marketing strategies of cement companies have undergone gradual transformation owing to the change in consumer behaviour. While TV commercials are high on humour and emotions to establish a fast connect with the customer, social media campaigns are focussed more on capturing the consumer’s attention in an over-crowded virtual world. Branding for cement companies has become a holistic growth strategy with quantifiable results. This has made brands opt for a mix package of traditional and new-age tools, such as social media. However, the hero of every marketing communication is the message, which encapsulates the unique selling points of the product. That after all is crux of the matter here.
While cement companies are effectively using marketing tools to reach out to the consumers, they need to strengthen the four Cs of the branding process – Consumer, Cost, Communication and Convenience. Putting up the right message, at the right time and at the right place for the right kind of customer demographic is of utmost importance in the long run. It is precisely for this reason that regional players are likely to have an upper hand as they rely on local language and cultural references to drive home the point. But modern marketing and branding domain is exponentially growing and it would be an interesting exercise to tabulate and analyse its impact on branding for cement.

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Indian cement industry is well known for its energy and natural resource efficiency




Dr Hitesh Sukhwal, Deputy General Manager – Environment, Udaipur Cement Works Limited (UCWL) takes us through the multifaceted efforts that the company has undertaken to keep emissions in check with the use of alternative sources of energy and carbon capture technology.

Tell us about the policies of your organisation for the betterment of the environment.
Caring for people is one of the core values of our JK Lakshmi Cement Limited. We strongly believe that we all together can make a difference. In all our units, we have taken measures to reduce carbon footprint, emissions and minimise the use of natural resources. Climate change and sustainable development are major global concerns. As a responsible corporate, we are committed with and doing consistent effort small or big to preserve and enrich the environment in and around our area of operations.
As far as environmental policies are concerned, we are committed to comply with all applicable laws, standards and regulations of regulatory bodies pertaining to the environment. We are consistently making efforts to integrate the environmental concerns into the mainstream of the operations. We are giving thrust upon natural resource conservation like limestone, gypsum, water and energy. We are utilising different kinds of alternative fuels and raw materials. Awareness among the employees and local people on environmental concerns is an integral part of our company. We are adopting best environmental practices aligned with sustainable development goals.
Udaipur Cement Works Limited is a subsidiary of the JK Lakshmi Cement Limited. Since its inception, the company is committed towards boosting sustainability through adopting the latest art of technology designs, resource efficient equipment and various in-house innovations. We are giving thrust upon renewable and clean energy sources for our cement manufacturing. Solar Power and Waste Heat Recovery based power are our key ingredients for total power mix.

What impact does cement production have on the environment? Elaborate the major areas affected.
The major environmental concern areas during cement production are air emissions through point and nonpoint sources due to plant operation and emissions from mining operation, from material transport, carbon emissions through process, transit, noise pollution, vibration during mining, natural resource depletion, loss of biodiversity and change in landscape.
India is the second largest cement producer in the world. The Indian cement industry is well known for its energy and natural resource efficiency worldwide. The Indian cement industry is a frontrunner for implementing significant technology measures to ensure a greener future.
The cement industry is an energy intensive and significant contributor to climate change. Cement production contributes greenhouse gases directly and indirectly into the atmosphere through calcination and use of fossil fuels in an energy form. The industry believes in a circular economy by utilising alternative fuels for making cement. Cement companies are focusing on major areas of energy efficiency by adoption of technology measures, clinker substitution by alternative raw material for cement making, alternative fuels and green and clean energy resources. These all efforts are being done towards environment protection and sustainable future.
Nowadays, almost all cement units have a dry manufacturing process for cement production, only a few exceptions where wet manufacturing processes are in operation. In the dry manufacturing process, water is used only for the purpose of machinery cooling, which is recirculated in a closed loop, thus, no polluted water is generated during the dry manufacturing process.
We should also accept the fact that modern life is impossible without cement. However, through state-of-the-art technology and innovations, it is possible to mitigate all kinds of pollution without harm to the environment and human beings.

Tell us about the impact blended cement creates on the environment and emission rate.
Our country started cement production in 1914. However, it was introduced in the year 1904 at a small scale, earlier. Initially, the manufacturing of cement was only for Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC). In the 1980s, the production of blended cement was introduced by replacing fly ash and blast furnace slag. The production of blended cement increased in the growth period and crossed the 50 per cent in the year 2004.
The manufacturing of blended cement results in substantial savings in the thermal and electrical energy consumption as well as saving of natural resources. The overall consumption of raw materials, fossil fuel such as coal, efficient burning and state-of-the-art technology in cement plants have resulted in the gradual reduction of emission of carbon dioxide (CO2). Later, the production of blended cement was increased in manifolds.
If we think about the growth of blended cement in the past few decades, we can understand how much quantity of , (fly ash and slag) consumed and saved natural resources like limestone and fossil fuel, which were anyhow disposed of and harmed the environment. This is the reason it is called green cement. Reduction in the clinker to cement ratio has the second highest emission reduction potential i.e., 37 per cent. The low carbon roadmap for cement industries can be achieved from blended cement. Portland Pozzolana Cement (PPC), Portland Slag Cement (PSC) and Composite Cement are already approved by the National Agency BIS.
As far as kilogram CO2 per ton of cement emission concerns, Portland Slag Cement (PSC) has a larger potential, other than PPC, Composite Cement etc. for carbon emission reduction. BIS approved 60 per cent slag and 35 per cent clinker in composition of PSC. Thus, clinker per centage is quite less in PSC composition compared to other blended cement. The manufacturing of blended cement directly reduces thermal and process emissions, which contribute high in overall emissions from the cement industry, and this cannot be addressed through adoption of energy efficiency measures.
In the coming times, the cement industry must relook for other blended cement options to achieve a low carbon emissions road map. In near future, availability of fly ash and slag in terms of quality and quantity will be reduced due to various government schemes for low carbon initiatives viz. enhance renewable energy sources, waste to energy plants etc.
Further, it is required to increase awareness among consumers, like individual home builders or large infrastructure projects, to adopt greener alternatives viz. PPC and PSC for more sustainable
resource utilisation.

What are the decarbonising efforts taken by your organisation?
India is the world’s second largest cement producer. Rapid growth of big infrastructure, low-cost housing (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna), smart cities project and urbanisation will create cement demand in future. Being an energy intensive industry, we are also focusing upon alternative and renewable energy sources for long-term sustainable business growth for cement production.
Presently, our focus is to improve efficiency of zero carbon electricity generation technology such as waste heat recovery power through process optimisation and by adopting technological innovations in WHR power systems. We are also increasing our capacity for WHR based power and solar power in the near future. Right now, we are sourcing about 50 per cent of our power requirement from clean and renewable energy sources i.e., zero carbon electricity generation technology. Usage of alternative fuel during co-processing in the cement manufacturing process is a viable and sustainable option. In our unit, we are utilising alternative raw material and fuel for reducing carbon emissions. We are also looking forward to green logistics for our product transport in nearby areas.
By reducing clinker – cement ratio, increasing production of PPC and PSC cement, utilisation of alternative raw materials like synthetic gypsum/chemical gypsum, Jarosite generated from other process industries, we can reduce carbon emissions from cement manufacturing process. Further, we are looking forward to generating onsite fossil free electricity generation facilities by increasing the capacity of WHR based power and ground mounted solar energy plants.
We can say energy is the prime requirement of the cement industry and renewable energy is one of the major sources, which provides an opportunity to make a clean, safe and infinite source of power which is affordable for the cement industry.

What are the current programmes run by your organisation for re-building the environment and reducing pollution?
We are working in different ways for environmental aspects. As I said, we strongly believe that we all together can make a difference. We focus on every environmental aspect directly / indirectly related to our operation and surroundings.
If we talk about air pollution in operation, every section of the operational unit is well equipped with state-of-the-art technology-based air pollution control equipment (BagHouse and ESP) to mitigate the dust pollution beyond the compliance standard. We use high class standard PTFE glass fibre filter bags in our bag houses. UCWL has installed the DeNOx system (SNCR) for abatement of NOx pollution within norms. The company has installed a 6 MW capacity Waste Heat Recovery based power plant that utilises waste heat of kiln i.e., green and clean energy source. Also, installed a 14.6 MW capacity solar power system in the form of a renewable energy source.
All material transfer points are equipped with a dust extraction system. Material is stored under a covered shed to avoid secondary fugitive dust emission sources. Finished product is stored in silos. Water spraying system are mounted with material handling point. Road vacuum sweeping machine deployed for housekeeping of paved area.
In mining, have deployed wet drill machine for drilling bore holes. Controlled blasting is carried out with optimum charge using Air Decking Technique with wooden spacers and non-electric detonator (NONEL) for control of noise, fly rock, vibration, and dust emission. No secondary blasting is being done. The boulders are broken by hydraulic rock breaker. Moreover, instead of road transport, we installed Overland Belt Conveying system for crushed limestone transport from mine lease area to cement plant. Thus omit an insignificant amount of greenhouse gas emissions due to material transport, which is otherwise emitted from combustion of fossil fuel in the transport system. All point emission sources (stacks) are well equipped with online continuous emission monitoring system (OCEMS) for measuring parameters like PM, SO2 and NOx for 24×7. OCEMS data are interfaced with SPCB and CPCB servers.
The company has done considerable work upon water conservation and certified at 2.76 times water positive. We installed a digital water flow metre for each abstraction point and digital ground water level recorder for measuring ground water level 24×7. All digital metres and level recorders are monitored by an in-house designed IoT based dashboard. Through this live dashboard, we can assess the impact of rainwater harvesting (RWH) and ground water monitoring.
All points of domestic sewage are well connected with Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) and treated water is being utilised in industrial cooling purposes, green belt development and in dust suppression. Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) installed for mine’s workshop. Treated water is reused in washing activity. The unit maintains Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD).
Our unit has done extensive plantations of native and pollution tolerant species in industrial premises and mine lease areas. Moreover, we are not confined to our industrial boundary for plantation. We organised seedling distribution camps in our surrounding areas. We involve our stakeholders, too, for our plantation drive. UCWL has also extended its services under Corporate Social Responsibility for betterment of the environment in its surrounding. We conduct awareness programs for employees and stakeholders. We have banned Single Use Plastic (SUP) in our premises. In our industrial township, we have implemented a solid waste management system for our all households, guest house and bachelor hostel. A complete process of segregated waste (dry and wet) door to door collection systems is well established.

Tell us about the efforts taken by your organisation to better the environment in and around the manufacturing unit.
UCWL has invested capital in various environmental management and protection projects like installed DeNOx (SNCR) system, strengthening green belt development in and out of industrial premises, installed high class pollution control equipment, ground-mounted solar power plant etc.
The company has taken up various energy conservation projects like, installed VFD to reduce power consumption, improve efficiency of WHR power generation by installing additional economiser tubes and AI-based process optimisation systems. Further, we are going to increase WHR power generation capacity under our upcoming expansion project. UCWL promotes rainwater harvesting for augmentation of the ground water resource. Various scientifically based WHR structures are installed in plant premises and mine lease areas. About 80 per cent of present water requirement is being fulfilled by harvested rainwater sourced from Mine’s Pit. We are also looking forward towards green transport (CNG/LNG based), which will drastically reduce carbon footprint.
We are proud to say that JK Lakshmi Cement Limited has a strong leadership and vision for developing an eco-conscious and sustainable role model of our cement business. The company was a pioneer among cement industries of India, which had installed the DeNOx (SNCR) system in its cement plant.

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NTPC selects Carbon Clean and Green Power for carbon capture facility




Carbon Clean and Green Power International Pvt. Ltd has been chosen by NTPC Energy Technology Research Alliance (NETRA) to establish the carbon capture facility at NTPC Vindhyachal. This facility, which will use a modified tertiary amine to absorb CO2 from the power plant’s flue gas, is intended to capture 20 tonnes of CO2) per day. A catalytic hydrogenation method will eventually be used to mix the CO2 with hydrogen to create 10 tonnes of methanol each day. For NTPC, capturing CO2 from coal-fired power plant flue gas and turning it into methanol is a key area that has the potential to open up new business prospects and revenue streams.

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