Between hope and skepticism

The 55th IEEE-IAS/PCA conference took place from 14.-18.04.2013 in Disney World in Orlando, Florida/USA and was attended by 916 registered participants from 25 countries. Although the four-day event did not include any plant visits this year, it nevertheless provided the complete package of information covering the various subjects of importance for the American cement industry. In the exhibition that took place parallel to the conference there were stands representing 166 com­panies from all over the world, which gave plenty of opportunity for networking after the sessions.

The conference consisted of 45 technical presentations that dealt with practically every topic that is meanwhile also of significance to the American cement industry, such as energy, environment, sustainability, efficiency-improvements etc. Once again, a special ­focus was placed on the subject of emission reduction. In this connection, the new emission limits of NESHAP (National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants) and NSPS (New Source Performance Standards) regulations provided a lot of material for discussion. Technological developments, alternative fuels and numerous other topics were also on the agenda. In the evenings the attendees could visit the traditional “Hospitality Suites” of some of the companies represented in the exhibition, to broaden the discussions about the topics already dealt with in the course of the day and to go into more detail.

Tutorials

As usual, the tutorials were held on the first day of the IEEE conference. In the casual atmosphere of a workshop, the attendees were able to exchange experience and discuss the following subjects:

Drive units: 1. Medium-voltage drives with variable speed – fundamentals, standards, overview of applications, implications for the overall drive system and vibration issues; 2. Hydraulic drive systems for clinker coolers

Power generation: Transformer failure due to switch­ing currents induced by power circuit ­breakers

Automation: Networked communication in a modern cement plant

MSHA (Mine Safety and Health Administration), section 46, as an annual refresher course

The tutorial on the subject of “Environment, energy and sustainability” (EE&S) dealt exclusively with funda­mental issues concerning mercury. John Kline and ­Peter Paone of Bridge Gap Engineering comprehensively ­explained the problems involved and described the ­efforts being made by the US environmental protection agency EPA to apply the NESHAP standards to deal with mercury emission in the cement manufacturing process by 2015.

Conference

Cary Cohrs, chairman of the PCA executive board, and Michael Mueller (Bedeschi America, Inc.), chairman of the Orlando organization committee, kicked off the second day of the conference with their welcoming speeches. Next up, David Zwicke (PCA senior economist) and Imran Akram (CEO IA Cement) presented an overview of the situation of the cement industry, ­taking account of US-American and global viewpoints and forecasts.

In the USA, 2012 showed the strongest increase in cement consumption for seven years, and experts are expecting the upward trend to continue. In 2013, the anticipated increase in consumption is around 6.2 %. According to the latest forecast by the PCA, the extent of the further market recovery will become visible in the second half of 2013.

“Recessions correct the imbalances created during boom phases”, said Ed Sullivan, chief economist of the PCA, in a short address. For personal reasons, he was unable to be in Orlando. Few economists, Sullivan went on, would doubt that a great demand backlog had been created in the last few years. The only question is when the economy is going to unleash its potential for strong growth.

The recession had created a demand backlog, not only for consumer goods but also on the building and construction sector he said. For 2013, the PCA expected around a million new construction projects. The building of apartment houses is also showing rapid development and will provide additional impetus for the construction materials industry. In 2011, apartment house construction showed a growth of 55 %, and in 2012 it was still running at 36 %. The PCA therefore expects a further growth of about 29 % in 2013, to 318 000 units.

Although the construction of non-residential and residential buildings is showing a strong recovery in 2013, the PCA states that the lack of public construction projects is still putting the brakes on cement consumption. However, the economic upturn expected for 2014 will boost the number of people in work, which will in turn improve the country’s fiscal situation and enable an increase in public-sector construction investment. The growth in consumption predicted for the second half of 2013 should continue into the following year and, according to the PCA, result in an increase of 9.2 % in the USA in 2014. In the longer term (2015-2017) the average annual growth should be 11.1 %. In this connection, the PCA forecasts a cement consumption of 120 million tpa for the USA up to 2017.

The total of 45 papers presented in the course of the conference dealt with a wide variety of technical subjects, commencing with general production-relevant aspects, such as fly ash and mercury emissions, but also covering topics like energy efficiency, drives and ­motors, maintenance, the environment and sustainability. ZKG will address some of these topics at irregular intervals in future issues.

Panel discussions

During the conference three panel discussions took place, dealing with different topic areas. Topic one was the utilization of waste heat, and covered four particular aspects: power generation systems for cement production plants, the Kalina cycle, the Rankine cycle and supercritical CO2.

The second discussion was concerned with different roller press technologies for high-pressure clinker grinding. After John Terembula (FLSmidth), Thomas Binninger (KHD), Thomas Hanstein (Köppern) and Thomas Schmitz (ThyssenKrupp Resource Technologies) had presented the systems supplied by their respective companies, this proved to be a controversial subject.

A further topic of discussion was the labor-market situation in the American industry. In the USA, the cement industry is also having to cope with the problem of finding suitably skilled professionals for its factories. In addition, the subject of education and training has ­become a very important aspect in the USA.

The 55th IEEE drew to its conclusion with the traditional banquet, which this year was held in the neighboring Epcot Center of Disney World. The highlight was a spectacular firework display that lasted a good 20 minutes. The venue for the 56th IEEE, to be held from 13.-17.04.2014, is Washington, D. C., the capital city of the USA.

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