29 April 2016

Achinsky Cement: A leading force in Siberia

BaselCement, part of parent company Basic Element, was founded in 2006 and is now one of Russia’s leading construction materials companies. BaselCement produces cement, lime, aerated concrete, breakstone and powdered minerals from six plants across Russia. Global Cement recently spoke to Vladimir Kolychev, Plant Director of Achinsky Cement, about aspects of the Siberian plant’s rich history, its markets and the unusual production process that it uses.
 
Global Cement (GC): Can you explain the history of cement production at the Achinsky Cement site?
 
Vladimir Kolychev, Plant Director (VK): The Achin­sky Cement plant was built in 1965 with two lines supplied by the French company Fives Lille Caille. At that time, the production lines consisted of five double-chamber raw mills (Ø = 3.2m, L = 14m), two wet process kilns (Ø = 5m, L = 185m) and five double-chamber cement mills (Ø = 3.2m, L = 14m). As the process developed, the kilns were increased to 5.6m in diameter.
Later on new Russian-made Volgocemmash lines were put into operation. This included wholesale changes to the material preparation, clinker burning and cement grinding sections of the plant. It included three new raw mills (Ø = 4m, L = 13.5m), three wet rotary kilns (Ø = 5-5.6m, L = 185m) and five cement mills (Ø = 4m, L = 13.5m).

The plant was initially intended to use belite sludge, but during the first few years it used a classic scheme while construction of the adjacent Achinsky Alumina Plant was still in progress. The plant adopted a unique technology that uses be­lite (nepheline) sludge as a raw material. It is sourced from the chemical hydrology department of the adja­cent Achinsky Alumina Plant.
  
During the 1980 and 1990s the company implemented a new technology of using fluorite ore (CaF2) as a mineraliser and lignite as a raw meal liquefier. To accomodate these new requirements, the Volgocem­mash raw mills were converted to act as a primary raw meal grinding step, with a subsequent second step performed by the older Fives Lille Caille mills. In 1989 a nepheline sludge drying shop was put into operation and equipped with a mazut- (heavy fuel oil-) fired 1Mt/yr drying drum (Ø = 4.6m, L = 5.6m). Improvement to the raw meal preparation in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as well as stabilis­ing fuel burning and clinker formation in the kilns enabled improvements to the quality of the cement and acheivement of М500-М550 quality, which cor­respond to European marks CEM I 42.5N and CEM I 42.5B respectively.

Follow­ing the end of the USSR and the formation of the Russian Federation, construction rates plunged and cement demand dropped to rock bottom. By 2001 the plant was de­clared unprofitable and was mothballed.
At the end of 2006, BaselCement holding was founded. It took hold of Achinsky Cement as one of its first assets. US$13m was invested to restore the plant. The first renewed 0.7Mt/yr line was launched in August 2007. With a second, the capacity of Achinsky Cement site is now 1.4Mt/yr.

The revamp included new modern equipment and overhaul of the entire pro­duction process. Special attention was paid to production automation and environment aspects, kilns, electrical precipitators and cement mill bag filters in particular.

The use of mazut as kiln fuel was as­sumed in the economic strategy of the plant because the market prices at that time allowed us to carry through high fuel prices to the cost of the ce­ment. This solution was temporary and a new facility to produce a pulverised coal had been planned. How­ever, due to the deterioration of the global economic environment in 2009, the 2-3 year construction period and US$40m cost, the project had to be sus­pended.

Nevertheless, the plant’s specialists came up with a more cost-effective option to prepare pulverised coal. The project was based on conversion of one of cement mills to produce pulverised coal. Its capac­ity is about 60t/hr of dry fuel, which covers the fuel demand of the two cement production chains. It could potentially incorporate a third production line, should that also be restarted.

The project was implemented in two stages. The first temporarily converted a cement mill to coal grinding and drying using equipment that was al­ready available on site. This required: Renovation and replacement of main parts and joints of the mill; Construction of a raw coal supply duct; Purchase and installation of a gas generator; Installation of an intermediate hopper for dry coal and installation of dry coal transportation duct. The capacity of the coal grinding plant at that stage was 20-40t/hr of dry coal, in order to test the methodology and quality of the product.

The aim of the second stage of the project was to reach the installed capacity of 60t/hr of dry coal. This included: Renovation of the raw coal feeding duct and installation of an intermediate hopper; Installation of production equipment according to design documentation; Installation and connection to the production line; Renovation of the building to meet fire safety requirements and; Installation of a firefighting system.

The efficiency of Achinsky Cement’s in-house pulverised coal production solution was proved by consulting with research institutes and studying the experience of other companies. The main effect of using coal as the main fuel has been a more than 30% cost reduction relative to mazut. This enabled improved competitiveness, even against the dry plants that are in operation today. 

GC: Could you provide a run-down of the production process used at the plant today?

VK: The plant currently uses two Volgocem­mash double-chamber tube raw mills (Ø =4.0m, L = 13.5m), which have a capacity of 973,000m3/ yr of raw meal, two Volgocemmash kilns that are rated at 0.667Mt/yr each and three Volgocemmash cement mills. The internals and QDK 143-Z clas­sifier of one of the finish mills were supplied by Christian Рfeiffer of Germany. The capacity of each is 0.7Mt/yr.
The coal mill (Ø = 4.0m, L = 13.5m) has an SPTsV 4750/1600 classifier / separator and Italian HP JS1×1- 44X16-5.5 60t/hr bag filter.

The plant uses nepheline (belite) sludge as a raw material from the neighbouring Achinsky Alumina Plant. A co-product of alumina production, it mainly consists of dicalcium silicate 2СаО-SiO2 (C2S). It can almost completely substitute for clay and 50% of the limestone in the raw meal blend for the production of Portland-cement clinker. Nepheline sludge is capable of increasing kiln capacity by 30% and can reduce fuel consumption by 25% compared to conventional raw materials.

As well as the nepheline sludge, the plant uses limestone and red clay from the Mazulsky limestone quarry. This quarry also belongs to Basic Element and is only 3km away from the production site. The raw materials undergo joint wet grinding and blending in the ball tube mills.

Ground raw meal is then homogenised in a total of six 1700m3 vertical pools. Six are for homogenisa­tion, two for unloading and one is for argillaceous pulp. Material then travels to the kilns, which have al­ready been described. The coolers are Russian-made Volga-125 type grate coolers.

The clinker from the coolers is taken to eight reinforced-concrete silos with the total capacity of 20,000t and then to the cement mills. Through a pneumatic transportation system cement is then conveyed to finished cement silos. There are a total of 17 silos that we use today and a total cement storage capacity of 75,000t.
An automated system of production management and Delta V software module from US-based Emse­ron Electric provide online monitoring of the most significant parameters. These can be changed from the control room.

GC: When did the plant last halt for maintenance and what work was conducted?

VK: Annual scheduled maintenance work is carried out during the sea­sonal demand reduction, between January and April. The maintenance is gradual and involves main and auxiliary equipment of both cement production lines of the site.

Looking back over previous stop­pages, a number of the projects that we have implemented in recent years were aimed at product cost reduc­tion. For example, converting the raw meal pump to frequency steering and the elimination of a reciprocat­ing control device from the raw meal feed allowed for a 1.3% reduction in raw meal mois­ture content that led to a 2% fuel saving. Another project involving a cooler grate drive conversion to frequency-controlled motors enabled an 8% saving of electrical power in the cooler.
Conversion of one of cement mills to a closed circuit in 2015, as well as installation of additional equipment from Christian Рfeiffer GmbH and the introduction of automatic process controls, has contributed to growth in the amount of high-grade cement (CEM I 42.5N, CEM I 42.5B) produced at the plant to 0.5Mt/yr. This is 35% of capacity.

GC: Are there any planned changes to the produc­tion process in the pipeline?

VK: A number of measures are being taken during 2016 to optimise shipments and increase the bagged cement sales. If cement demand grows, we have plans to expand our production to 2.1Mt by bringing the third 0.7Mt/yr production line back on stream.
Fuels and the environment
 
GC: What fuels are currently used at the plant?

VK: The fuel is 100% hard coal from the Kuznet­sky basin, located around 3300km from the plant. We have no intention to change the fuel regime at the moment.

GC: What abatement and monitoring systems does the plant have?

VK: A special device is used to collect sludge dust from the kiln waste gases. The plant consists of a dust chamber and two UG type electrostatic precipitators.

The dust from the clinker cooler is recovered by eight groups of type CN 24 cyclones and a UG type electrical precipitator. The purification rate is 99.6%.

To collect dust from stationary sources (ce­ment mills in the clinker grinding shop) special gas cleaning plants are installed and equipped with bag filters. A specially-authorised laboratory is in charge of monitoring the emissions of controlled sources that have been measured using specialised equip­ment. It is also worth mentioning our quality control laboratory at this point. It controls the quality of raw materials, fuel and finished products.

GC: Will there be any changes to the emissions con­trols or limits coming in the near future?

VK: In 2017 we plan to introduce automated monitor­ing systems for gas emissions to carry out a constant control of the emission sources that contribute most to air pollution.

Distribution and customers
 
GC: What geographical area is covered by the plant and how does it distribute its cement?

VK: The sales market of Achinsky Cement includes all regions of Siberia. To meet the requirements of our principal customers here, the company has refocused its sales over the past three years and reduced sales to other regions from 25% to 10%. Nowadays around 90% of our entire output is sold within Siberia. The rest is distributed in Urals Federal District, as well as the Khanty-Mansiysk and Yamal-Nenets Federal Districts, mainly in big-bags.

Cement is mostly sold ex-works. About 60% is delivered in railway wagons, which are weighed by scales from Mettler Toledo. Bulk cement is loaded into hopper wagons and cement in 1t big-bags are loaded into open wagons. Cement is also delivered by cement trucks in bulk or packed in 1t big bags and regular 50kg bags. For one of our principal customers (Norilsky Nikel) cement is packed in 14t containers.

For our customers’ convenience, we have a trans­shipment station in Krasnoyarsk city where bulk CEM I 32.5B and CEM I 42.5N is loaded and dis­patched by bulk tankers. This helps save much time when delivering cement to construction sites and other projects in the city.

GC: What type of company is the Achinsky plant’s main customer?

VK: Our main consumers are producers of grouts and concretes, who take around half of our output. Then we have reinforced concrete plants, which con­sume around 20%, construction companies and dry mixture producers at another 20%. The remaining 10% is sold to local traders and retail consumers.

GC: Is the plant seeing any changes in terms of its customer profile with time?

VK: As the popularity of residential and industrial monolithic construction has increased, he number of consumer concrete producers has grown. At the same time, there has been a reduction in large-scale reinforced concrete plants, while independent pro­ducers with typical demands of 1500-2000t/month, have increased in number.

GC: Are you seeing a change in proportions of bulk / bagged cement with time?

VK: In 2016 the plant has planned a number of measures to increase the share of packed cement. The deliveries will be arranged to the nearby regions of Novosibirsk and Tomsk, as well as the Republic of Khakassia.

Markets and the future
 
GC: How is the plant being affected by the current economic downturn and low oil price in Russia?

VK: The economic recession has certainly influenced the construction sector. Most building companies have seen reduced residential contracts and cement consumption dropped by 12% year-on-year in Russia in 2015.
The decline in Siberian cement consump­tion in 2015 was actually worse, at 16.5% year-on-year. The production and sales from Achinsky Cement dropped by 15%. How­ever, the company fared better than some of its competitors in 2015. We were able to increase our market share to 11.2%. Clinker sales were also up. With clinker taken into account the company’s share in Siberia actu­ally increased to 13% in 2015.

This has been down to a strategy of product quality improvement, expansion of a product line and close cooperation with customers. In 2015 a new mill with dynamic separator was put into operation and reached its installed capacity, which helped increase production of CEM I 42.5N and CEM I 42.5B to 20% of our total production.

GC: What do you think will happen to the market in the next year to five years?

VK: According to forecasts, the market in 2016 will decline by another 10-15% compared to 2015. Despite that, we are going to increase produc­tion of popular cement types in 2016 and increase the share CEM I 42.5N and CEM I 42.5B to 30-40% of the whole production volume. This is not only to retain our Siberian market share but also increase it, in the event that the decline is less severe than we expect.

It’s really hard to make any forecasts for the next 3-5 years, since there are lots of external and internal factors. However, we hope that by 2018 the situa­tion will change for the better and construction will recover and start to grow. We will be ready for the upturn, when it comes.

GC: What are the most important factors that will help the plant in the coming years?

VK: One of the key factors for the recovery of the Siberian cement industry is recovery in the construc­tion sector. First and foremost, this means residential construction. This in turn requires mortgage im­provement, reduction of bank rates and increased availability of loans.

Another factor is the development of large-scale infrastructure projects, for example, by Power of Siberi, the Baikal-Amur Mainline 2 railway project and others.

GC: Thank you very much for your time.
 
VK: My pleasure!


Interview by Peter Edwards, Global Cement Magazine

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