West Africa opportunity for pioneering cement technology

By | 2022-02-02T07:27:00+00:00 February 2nd, 2022|

With its range of equipment forging sustainability gains in the cement sector, FLSmidth is receiving global attention for its role in Europe’s first full-scale clay calcination installation in France. With suitable clays being readily found in Africa – including West Africa – there is scope for cement production there to take another step towards zero emissions.

The cement sector in West Africa could make exciting use of clay calcination technology to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption in cement production, in line with the industry’s sustainability goals.

As a leader in clay calcination, the company offers its technology to replace a portion of clinker with environmentally friendly calcined clay, thereby cutting carbon dioxide emissions in comparison conventional cement production.

FLSmidth is receiving global attention for its role in Europe’s first full-scale clay calcination installation in France. Image credit: FLSmidth

FLSmidth is receiving global attention for its role in Europe’s first full-scale clay calcination installation in France. Image credit: FLSmidth

According to Deon de Kock, FLSmidth President for sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and South Asia, clay calcination is one of three main areas of technology advancement in cement that the company is currently pursuing. In terms of the company’s MissionZero pledge, it is committed to enable the company’s customers to run cement production at zero emissions by the year 2030.

“In addition to clay calcination, we are also focused on enabling the replacement of fossil fuels with alternative fuel sources, and on enhancing carbon capture in cement plants,” says De Kock. “Our current involvement in Europe’s first full-scale clay calcination installation has raised interest globally, and we look forward to applying this technology in our Africa, Middle East and South Asian region.”

The cement sector has had a difficult few years, says De Kock, having to deal with a challenging economic climate while under pressure to meet ever-more stringent environmental regulations and expectations.

Sridhar Shanmugha Sundaram, the company’s Vice President for Cement in sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and South Africa highlights that FLSmidth’s new flash calciner system can produce a highly reactive clay that increases the clinker substitution by up to 40% in the final product.

“Addressing the bottom-line issue, this solution also brings energy savings as calcined clay activates at a much lower temperature than clinker – with required temperatures of 750 to 850˚C instead of 1400 to 1500˚C,” Shanmugha Sundaram he says. “This means lower costs to generate the necessary power.”

He notes the process can deliver significant fuel and power savings of 30% and 40% respectively, when comparing the operating cost of making a tonne of clay versus a tonne of clinker. While a traditional ‘ordinary Portland cement’ (OPC) contains 95% clinker and 5% gypsum, ‘green’ cement can contain as little as 50% clinker – with 30% activated clay, 15% limestone and 5% gypsum. This has a dramatic impact on the plant’s carbon footprint, reducing CO₂ emissions per tonne of cement by 40%.

In addition to the company’s strong presence in South Africa is its Ghana office – a 13-strong team of local people which is committed to developing local expertise and capacity in the West African region. According to Joseph Appiah-Kubi, General Manager of FLSmidth in Ghana, the company’s corporate social responsibility programme includes a graduate scheme to empower Ghanaians, transfer skills and provide opportunities in the economy to young graduates.

“This year we have had our first cohort of graduates working with us as part of the government’s compulsory National Service Scheme,” he says. “We will also soon be receiving our first cohort of graduate trainees – those who have finished one year at service engineering school and are coming to us to learn. This gives young people vital experience in the workplace to improve their employability in the market.”