Cement manufacturer PPC is reaping the benefits of an upgrade to the cooler on one of the kiln lines at its Dwaalboom production facility, in the North West.
PPC group technical services head Niru Govender says there has been a notable improvement in production capacity and the reliability of the production unit, since the introduction of the new cooler. It has also enabled the facility to achieve higher yearly clinker production and improved the thermal efficiency of the clinker line.
Govender says this is the first clinker cooler of its kind to be installed in the local cement industry. “It incorporates the very latest thermally efficient cooler technology and has been sourced from a leading international supplier.”
He explains that the cooler is designed to cool clinker from the kiln from about 1 200 °C down to below 65 °C – above ambient air temperature – while recouping the maximum heat to be introduced back to the kiln burning process.
“This kiln line was originally constructed in the early 1980s, and, although the cooler technology from that era was optimised throughout its lifetime, it could not be incrementally modified any further.”
The cooler construction project started in June 2015; unit commissioning and optimisation were conducted shortly afterwards.
He notes that, owing to the success of the upgrade, this type of cooler technology will be applied as the standard for all PPC’s new projects, and gradually replace old cooler technology as it is phased out at PPC.
“This upgrade demonstrates the continuous effort at PPC to align world-class best practice and technical excellence to improve operating efficiency at all manufacturing facilities,” Govender says.
He comments that PPC’s operations range from fully integrated plants to milling depots that manufacture between 600 t/d and 5 500 t/d, adding that the facilities are sized to match the markets they service.
The R70-million planned upgrade of PPC’s Dwaalboom kiln line will be completed by 2017 and will align with efficiency improvements and legislation.
Govender cites the introduction of revamped quality control and quality assurance systems to ensure that PPC consistently delivers high-quality products as another example of the company’s commitment to continuous improvement.
“A far more integrated system has been implemented, which has included the internal restructuring of our teams to allow for improved collaboration and application of PPC’s core quality management skills,” he explains.
PPC can subsequently ensure consistent cement quality and provide greater levels of technical support for customers. The company can also offer special customers engineering and technical support to achieve equipment and process optimisation at their facilities.
Govender explains that most of PPC’s clinker production facilities are located at the deposits of the major components – for example, calcareous rock, for which local transport, including conveyors and mobile equipment, is predominantly used. He adds that fuel, clinker and other materials are transported using the rail infrastructure, supplemented by road transport, where appropriate.
The company has also invested a considerable amount of capital to migrate most of its plant control systems to automation and control supplier Siemens’ latest S7 systems, in addition to upgrading the supervisory control and data acquisition systems to enable process operators to easily control the manufacturing processes.
PPC has also implemented an energy-monitoring and -management system that tracks and optimises energy consumption. This has benefited the company, as, in one case, an electricity billing problem was identified where PPC had been billed for consumption that was much higher than the actual use.
PPC is implementing a much more integrated energy management system for its operations, in line with international best practice. This process is being supported by the Department of Trade and Industry’s energy efficiency initiative, the National Cleaner Production Centre.
Govender says, despite South Africa’s challenging economic situation, there are still “compelling” development opportunities locally; as a result, PPC is preparing for future growth by improving technology and infrastructure at its plants.
He states that PPC’s investment of R1.7-billion in the upgrade of PPC Slurry Kiln 9, located in Lichtenberg, in the North West, is a good example of the company’s ongoing focus on modernisation to contribute significantly to local infrastructure development going forward.
“Quality management also remains an imperative throughout the organisation, enabling us to attract and retain key customers based on our ability to provide high-end technical solutions. These projects form part of the strategic approach that aims to double PPC’s business every ten years through a diversified product and solution strategy,” he concludes.