Martin Engineering launches a new N2® remote monitoring system
Martin Engineering, a bulk handling equipment solutions company, has launched its innovative N2® remote monitoring system for conveyor belt cleaners in countries across Europe, Middle East, Africa, India and South Asia.
Designed for any belt cleaner using a polyurethane blade, the N2® Position Indicator (PI) system tracks belt cleaner performance and tells users when servicing is required via an intuitive cloud-based mobile app or desktop dashboard. The N2® PI recently met all the requirements to achieve CE Marking in Europe. The N2® PI can be retro-fitted to most conveyor belt cleaner mainframes that use polyurethane belt cleaner blades, or it can be introduced as part of a new installation.
The gateway then sends the information to a cloud-based server, which delivers it to Martin’s dedicated mobile app and desktop dashboard on a computer. Initial trials on ten conveyors showed us that the N2® PI not only cuts inspection time, but it also helps reduce exposure to moving conveyors and associated hazards. The mobile app tracks and displays blade status, remaining life, next scheduled tensioning, run time, wear rate, cleaner model, blade type and other details. Alerts are provided automatically when a blade change is required, re-tensioning is needed or an unusual condition or change is detected.
Stringent safety protocols, strict adherence to safety norms and mandatory audits and risk assessments are required to make the cement manufacturing process less hazardous and accident-prone. ICR looks at the various measures that companies are implementing in order to remain on top of the safety game.
The oil and gas industries of the world have witnessed catastrophic blasts and hazards at their plants. Safety is always a matter of concern and conversation in the said industries. The cement industry, though less volatile when compared to the oil and gas industry, is also adept to hazardous working conditions, and safety is of paramount importance at the cement plants as well.
Cement is one of the most widely used substances in the world. It has the second highest consumption worldwide after water, studies have noted. Making this high demand product is labour- and resource-intensive and this has an impact on the environment as well as the health and safety of those involved in the process. The process of making cement begins at the mining site and ends when the product is packaged and loaded in trucks to move out of the plant. Safety in operations and for personnel must be looked after at each step in the process.
Health and safety at a cement plant is a two-way street. It is the organisation’s responsibility to create a workplace environment in order to protect their employees from the various risks. It is also the duty of every personnel to adhere to the safety rules and compliances ensued by the organisation. To streamline this and to look after the safety of the plant, specific experts and departments are set in place. Audits are also conducted from time to time to understand the maintenance and adherence to safety standards and best practices at cement plants.
Cement making is a continuous process. Right from the excavation of raw material to the movement of finished goods, safety concerns arise at each point in practice.
Quarrying involves extraction of limestone by the process of drilling, blasting and extracting. This large stone is then transported to a crusher that breaks it down into smaller pieces which make it easier to prepare the raw mix. During this process, workmen are exposed to dust, noise and movement of heavy equipment and vehicles. Each touchpoint has potential hazards.
Once the raw mix is fed to the kiln, the chemical reaction begins with the help of heat, which is primarily achieved from coal. These plants are huge and the feeding process is automated, however, working in such a high temperature zone can be a potential cause of a hazard due to negligence or human error.
At the end of the cement making process, the final product is loaded in trucks. This is done manually. Multiple accidents can take place at this point as well. From loading vehicles harming the labour to the workmen tripping or falling, hazards can occur at any point.
These are the major areas of concern every organisation must keep a lookout for. Besides the physical accidents or hazards, health of the employees and workers is of primary concern for the organisation. Coming in contact with pollutants or particles may cause respiratory or skin issues, while the noise may cause hearing damage.
According to a Risk Assessment Report published by Ultratech Cement, the cement industry experiences risk of several hazards inherent to the cement production process that mainly impact those working within the industry. Some health hazards can also create an impact on local communities. The potentially hazardous areas and the likely incidents with the concerned area have been enlisted below in Table – 1.
The International Research Journal of Engineering and Technology (IRJET) Volume 4 describes major hazards being an associated term with material, which is a measure or the likelihood of the human working with or studying the material in question.
All the probable potential hazards are classified under different heads, namely:
• Fire hazards
• Toxic gas release hazards
• Explosion hazards
• Corrosion hazards
Fire is dangerous if it occurs in an uncontrolled manner. It is important to understand in a plant environment that use of liquid with its flash point below the normal ambient temperature, in suitable circumstances could liberate enough vapours to give rise to flammable mixtures with air. Thus, causing a fire hazard in the cement plant.
Toxic hazards are caused by ingestion, absorption and inhalation of toxic substances that may be released in the open environment due to a glitch or imperfection in the equipment. These toxins could enter the human body and cause irritation or inflammation.
Corrosion hazards take place when chemicals or other corrosive materials touch the surface of equipment, thus, deteriorating their strength and performance which may lead to accidents or harm to the plant and those working there.
Uncontrolled release or capture of energy leads to explosion hazards. This can be very dangerous for those around the same.
In addition to specific hazards, there are also general hazards in all of the cement manufacturing processes such as safe behaviour, work equipment, safety labelling, personal protective equipment (PPE), manual load handling (TRIA Project) etc.
Respiratory health has a long history within the cement industry, and it is a topic of consistent focus. Cement manufacturing is multifaceted, and companies formulate, implement and periodically evaluate respiratory protection among employees to guard against dust exposures. Cement plants consider all other conditions affecting miners’ health, such as exposure to excessive noise and hazardous materials. Hearing conservation programmes require baseline audio testing and subsequent tests.
Dust emissions are one of the most significant impacts of cement manufacturing and associated with handling and storage of raw materials (including crushing and grinding of raw materials), solid fuels, transportation of materials (e.g., by trucks or conveyor belts), kiln systems, clinker coolers, and mills, including clinker and limestone burning and packaging/bagging activities. Packaging is the most polluting process (in terms of dust) in cement production. Nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions are emitted from the high temperature combustion process of the cement kiln. Carbon dioxide defined as greenhouse gas is mainly associated with fuel combustion and with the decarbonation of limestone. These can be the reasons for causing respiratory or other health disorders.
Safety Needs Good Practices
As much as it is the responsibility of the organisation to ensure the safety of its employees, staff and workmen, it is equally their responsibility as well to be aware, alert and follow rules and regulations for their safety and for others safety as well. Audits are a key to maintaining good plant safety and understanding the gaps that may occur at the cement plant or unit.
Kanishk Khanna, CEO, Elion Technologies and Consulting, says, “In general, it is a good practice to conduct safety audits at least once a year, but some companies may choose to conduct them more frequently. Cement plants possess multiple hazards so it is also important to conduct safety audits following any significant changes to the facility or its operations, such as new equipment or processes or after any incidents or accidents. Annual Safety Audits are also mandatory as per factory rules. For these audits, the rules vary from state to state.”
The cement manufacturing industry is labour intensive and uses large scale and potentially hazardous manufacturing processes. Therefore, health and safety is the number one priority for the cement industry for its employees, contractors, end-users and all those associated with the workings of the cement manufacturing process.
Exposure to dust and high temperatures, contact with allergic substances, and noise exposure can be defined as hazards associated with health; while falling / impact with objects; hot surface burns; and transportation, working at height, slip/trips/falls can be defined as hazards associated with safety. It is a critical issue that ensures a health and safety culture in workplaces.
For this purpose, health and safety policy should be adapted with other policies of the company. Additionally, the risk management policy of the company should be developed and risk assessment should be performed regularly and efficiently.
“At UCWL, we have well planned, systematically designed safety guidelines/ standards for safety in our organisation. We have consequence management standards for employees / workers who do not follow safety or break any safety rules and guidelines at the workplace and penalties are imposed. Here, we have comprehensive safety guidelines in our
plant for achieving our vision ‘Zero Harm.’ These guidelines keep employees safe and protect their well-being,” says Nirmal K Jain, Safety Head, JK Lakshmi Cement.
“By following the safety guidelines employees can perform their jobs more effectively and confidently without fear of being injured or suffering from an illness. We have separate safety guidelines for road safety, lifting safety, working at height, hot work, confined space working, covid-19 etc.,” he adds.
The objective of the safety managers of the organisation as well as every individual should be to maintain the utmost responsible approach towards the safety of self, fellow workmen and the plant as a whole.
Basic safety rules to be followed in a cement plant are as follows:
• Wearing job specific personal protective equipment. Some processes may require a basic PPE
while some may require additions like earplugs, gloves etc.
• Ensuring all guards are in place before starting a process. Machines have safety guards or valves which must be in place before operating them. Any alteration done to the guards would require written permission from authorised personnel.
• Regular inspections of machinery health and safety standards. This would involve checking for any kind of cracks, leaks, unlocked
guards, safety equipment, personal protective equipment etc.
• Using fall protections when working on heights like harness, helmet etc.
• Masks and shields for confined spaces and activities involving dust or fumes
• Any kind of distractions like mobile phones
are discouraged to be used in the plant while performing high risk activities or processes in the cement plant.
Manufacturers of safety equipment for the cement, Hemanshu Hashia, Country Head, Safety Joggers India says, “In India, typically safety equipment manufacturers have been following only one standard of norms for their quality tests. However, the times have changed and globally the demand is for all standard certifications in one product. Therefore, we are also educating the users of safety equipment in India to ask for global quality standard norms and are making it available for them at the same price.”
Safety in the Technology Era
Digitalisation of plants, its machinery and functions has not only positively impacted the efficiency and productivity of cement manufacturing, but has also contributed towards making plants safer.
Cement manufacturers are moving towards installation of monitoring equipment and softwares at maximum machineries for every process which helps them monitor functions in real time as well as understand indicators and preventive maintenance signals. Once such signals are noticed, action can be taken in time to prevent a breakdown of any function, which may lead to a certain hazard in the cement plant.
Similarly, automation in processes has reduced manual intervention in the functionality of cement manufacturing, thus, making machines work on the more difficult and risky tasks that were earlier performed by workmen or skilled personnel. Thus, avoiding accidents and hazards in the plant.
Technology is also enabling tracking and maintenance of protective gear in the plant. It allows those responsible for sourcing and restocking of the PPE to call for required gear when they are running down on inventory. It also allows them to monitor feedback and function of this gear as well as keep track of every person wearing the gear and working in the plant.
Safety is a matter of life and death in industries like cement where plants function with heat, pressure and combustible matter. Thus, it becomes important for organisations to have concrete guidelines in place for their employees and workmen and have all standards and protocols followed for the functions of the plant. Protective gear or function specific PPE should be always available for those who have to perform tasks in the plant.
Organisations should provide training at all levels of working professionals to educate them on the safety measures and protocol. These training should be revised and repeated at regular intervals for old employees and be a part of orientation and induction for new employees and workers. In case of negligence, there should be strict punishment for not following safety protocols.
Accidents not only cost money, but lives, too.
Sustainable mining is an essential element
Anurag Bagaria, Director – Sales & Mining Head, KK Bagaria Group and Anurag Bagaria Group, discusses the restrictions on mining, the efforts his company is taking in reducing environmental impact and the collaborations that are on cards with cement companies to achieve net zero goals.
Tell us about the key materials that are mined for the cement industry?
There are a lot of minerals mined and manufactured by us for the cement industry. We majorly mine high calcium limestone which helps give their product quality and strength. We are located in central India at Katni, Madhya Pradesh which is a hub for cement manufacturing. All major cement plants have their manufacturing units here and we have witnessed the growth and commissioning of a couple of plants every year like ACC Cement, four units of Birla Cement etc.
For the cement industry, we also mine the laterite stone, which is rich in Al2O3. They use it to derive a certain grade of bauxite for their manufacturing process. We also mine hydrated lime or quicklime, as a raw material for the cement industry.
For the energy needs of the cement industry, they burn coal in their furnaces. Coal mining is 95 per cent under the Government of India. Our role as miners is to procure the required grade of coal from the government and supply the same to cement plants.
We are also the manufacturer of high alumina fire bricks which are used in furnaces, ramming mass and castables in the cement plants.
Usually, the mining volumes are in lakhs of tonnes. However, it depends on the permissions from the government agencies like the Mining Ministry of India and the environment department.
Tell us about the state-of-the-art machinery and equipment used.
We use the best machinery and equipment for our work at the mines. JCB’s, poclain excavators, levelers, diesel excavators with bucket, wheel loaders, backhoe loaders, bulldozers, dump trucks, tippers, graders, rock breakers, vibratory compactors, cranes, fork lifts, dozers, off-highway dumpers (20T to 60T), drills, scrapers, motor graders etc., are the various machinery that we for our end-to-end mining process.
What is the role of automation and technology in your mining process?
Yes, automation plays an important role in the mining process. Our mining, over the past 65 years, has been significantly labour intensive. However, now we have moved over to the use of machinery and equipment in the work process.
We have retained our labour forces as they have contributed greatly to the mining work and we believe in giving employment to them. It is a strong belief that if one hires the right person for the job then they make the functionality of technology, machinery and equipment better, making them more productive and efficient.
How do you incorporate sustainability in your mining process?
We incorporate sustainability into our mining process by using renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, to power our operations. We also use water recycling systems to reduce water consumption and minimise our environmental impact. Additionally, we use advanced technologies to reduce our carbon footprint and minimise our waste output. Finally, we strive to ensure that our operations are conducted in a responsible manner that respects the local environment and communities. Sustainable mining is an essential element.
What are the challenges in protecting the environment and running the business?
We cannot say that protecting the environment is a challenge because according to government rules and norms, mining has a lot of restrictions in the forest areas. The government only sanctions 250 metres of forest land for mining.
Also, to ensure that there is no loss of green in the forest, we have a plantation drive. In our time as miners, we have planted around thousands of trees over a period of time. We maintain around 6000 cows, which not only is good for the environment, but they also provide for the vermi compost that helps better grow the trees.
We strongly believe in a green planet and are aware of the rising carbon situation. As an organisation, our endeavour is to plant as many trees as we can and bring that amount of oxygen to the environment, thus contributing to the protection of our planet.
How do you think depleting reserves impact the supply of these minerals?
The lowering of mineral reserves shall surely impact the industries and it has been a topic of conversation and concern amongst those who use minerals as their primary source of products. It is for these reasons that sustainable mining has gained popularity and is a means to maintain these reserves.
As the reserves of limestones and other minerals are depleting, it can have a significant impact on the supply of these minerals to cement players. This could lead to an increase in the cost of production, as they may have to source these minerals from more expensive sources. It could also lead to a decrease in the availability of these minerals, which could lead to a shortage of supply and an increase in prices. This could have a negative impact on the cement industry, as it could lead and with time and due to new technology materials, which are treated as low grade limestone are also being used with plants by installing washers and other machines which help in increasing their grade.
For example, earlier high silica limestone is not used in the manufacturing process now we wash the material due to which the silica percentage decreaseds, so it could be used for cement manufacturing.
How do you envision your collaboration with the cement industry in the coming years?
I envision our collaboration with the cement industry to focus on developing innovative solutions to reduce the environmental impact of cement production. This could include exploring new technologies and materials to reduce emissions, developing more efficient production processes, and finding ways to reuse and recycle materials. Additionally, I believe that our collaboration should focus on educating the public about the importance of sustainable cement production and the benefits of using sustainable materials.
Technology plays a vital role in coal mining
Vishal Uberoi, Director, KTP Exports – Indonesia, gives us a glimpse into the Indonesian coal mining industry and the challenges therein.
Tell us more about your distribution system for mined materials.
The Indonesian coal production in 2021-22 was approximately 600mmt. We distribute coal majorly through sea channels to all the top countries which import coal from Indonesia like China, India, Thailand, and Vietnam. The Indonesian domestic consumption of coal is increasing every year-on-year.
Tell us about the gap in demand and supply of raw materials for the cement industry and your role in bridging that gap.
There has been a significant increase in the demand for coal in Asian markets especially in the last in last 2 years. The demand for Indonesian coal has increased in Europe as well.
Steel and cement, two sectors that rely heavily on coal, grew in 2022. Average monthly cement production increased year over year by 11 per cent in India and we anticipate that thermal coal usage in the non-power industry climb by 7 per cent and met coal by 2 per cent. There is a consensus that coal consumption through 2023 will hit record levels due to gas shortages and uncertainties about supplies due to the Ukraine War.
Owing to this increase, the prices have increased drastically and seem to continue being on a relatively higher side in subsequent 2 quarters as well.
Indonesian miners are putting focused efforts in bridging this gap; however due to logistical constraints and harsh weather conditions, the current production rate in Indonesia alone cannot meet the pace of growth in market demand.
What is the role of technology and automation in bringing efficiency to your processes?
Like most other industries, technology has played a vital role in coal mining industry as well. The Coal Mapping technology enables us to find the approximate reserves of a particular mine which also helps us ascertain the costing of cargo to the stage of loading the vessels.
This technology also helps in tracking the cargo movement from the mine to the jetty and then from the jetty to the mother vessel. This has further assisted the industry to track the wastage that occurs during the transit and helps us control shortage of materials.
With the help of chemicals, we can also prevent combustion of cargo which is vital during loading of cargo on Mother Vessels.