The 3D version of a conference –
an exciting experience

This year’s IEEE-IAS/PCA Cement Industry Technical Conference was held completely virtually on May 24-28, 2021. The 63rd annual conference took place on The Aggregate 3D platform, where each participant was “present” by an individually created avatar.

When joining the Aggregate 3D platform for the first time, the future attendee was asked to be creative form the start: You could create your own avatar, representing yourself in the platform like in a game. The avatars could interact via voice chat, text chat, or playful animations. The Aggregate platform and its buildings and facilities also provided private meeting spaces as well as communal areas allowing multiple attendees to join into a group conversation as if they were standing there in person together.

About 300 attendees joined the virtual conference that offered as usual a comprehensive program of advanced training and papers including presentations of the latest technology covering a variety of topics important to the industry.At the accompanying exhibition, over 100 exhibitors informed the participants about the latest trends in product and service offerings. Companies could display their logos, websites, power points, and videos on the screens located within their booth, creating a unique interaction with each attendee that stopped by.

The Aggregate Platform also offered various “recreational facilities”, including a soccer field, a beach with the possibility of boating and viewing terraces. On a beach stage live music was performed as evening program.

A plant tour is traditionally part of the conference program. The virtual orientation of this year‘s conference, however, had the advantage that several plant tours could be “visited” during the event. Thus, five plant tours could be shown, among others a tour of the Yamama Cement Plant in Saudi Arabia, the Lehigh Hanson Cement Plant in Redding, California/USA and the Argos Plant in Martinsburg, West Virginia/USA.

Sustainable strength through innovation

After the Conference Opening by Chris Macey, Resco Products, Inc., CIC Chair, Mark Mueller, 2021 Local Chair and Nate Murphy, FLSmidth, CIC Vice Chair, the first keynote was held by Rick Bohan, Portland Cement Association’s Vice President of Sustainability. He presented “The cement industry’s roadmap to carbon neutrality” regarding the critical role cement and concrete have in sustainability and addressing climate change.

Robert McCaffrey, Editorial Director of Global Cement Magazine, gave the next presentation on asking “Have we arrived at peak cement”. Starting from the problem that CO2 emission costs are increasing solutions have to be found to reduce these emissions such as zero-CO2 alternative fuels, retro-fitting existing plants with CO2 reduction and capture or increased use of fillers. To his opinion it is now an exciting time to be in the cement industry at the edge of the most fundamental change in cement’s history on its way to net CO2 neutrality. One of the most important impacts will have a strong decrease of the clinker factor.

This was followed by two contributions of the Maintenance & Safety Working Group. John Kline, Kline Consulting, presented the topic “Lubrication best practices” that can improve the equipment’s reliability and productivity while reducing costs.

Gerald Lynskey, SSI Consulting, described factors to be considered regarding inspections and repairs, such as access requirements, when “Outage planning for silo inspection and repairs”.

In the General Practices Working Group the presentation by Luis Sucre and Desi Delgado, Vezer Industrial Professionals, Inc., delt with “Fully automated cement horizontal storage (FACHS) – A new concept to store cement”, based on storing large amounts of cement in horizontal existing warehouses.

Jose Venegas and John Dale, Ash Grove Louisville, and Manuel Sanchez and Ronald Nikoleyczik, FLSmidth Inc., described the project of a successful replacement of two ball mills in a cement plant in Nebraska in “Five months to new ball mill installation delivers two extra weeks of production”.

“Using condition monitoring tools to improve the reliability of various hydraulic drive systems for cement plant applications” by Ashok B. Amin, Bosch Rexroth Corporation, was a contribution in the Drives Working Group on the installation and operation of sensors and monitoring techniques to evaluate the health of hydraulic drive systems.

“Alternative raw materials and impacts on the cement manufacturing process and regulated air emissions” was a joint contribution by Branden Barry and Ron Hawks, Trinity Consultants, and Luis Rodriguez and Mark Junkins, Texas Lehigh Cement Company LP, in the Environmental, Energy & Sustainability Working Group. With a focus on the preheater/precalciner kiln type the commonly used alternative raw materials as well as potential novel sources and impacts on operation of the kiln system and air emissions were discussed.

Gerald Ayling, Ashrith Domun and Gino de Villa, Hatch, referred to the topic the “Pathways to alternative power and decarbonization technologies in cement manufacturing”. Technologies and case studies evaluating novel, carbon-abating technologies and examples of potential technology solutions were presented and discussed.

One of the technical papers of the Automation Working Group was held by Adam Chapman, CalPortland, on “Applying unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology in the cement and mining industry”. The paper described a UAV program of one company in the cement industry from its start in 2016 to the present day.

A contribution of Power Generation Working Group was “Emerging applications for IEC 61850 in process industry power distribution systems” by Matthew P. Ellis, Sentinel Power Services, Inc, as well as Vignesh Palanichamy and Dr Navin Shenoy, Sentinel Field Services, LLC. The paper discussed techniques for modernizing existing industrial Distributed Control Systems (DCS), aiming for the future “Industrial Smart Grid”.

The 64th Annual IEEE-IAS/PCA Cement Industry Technical Conference will be held – hopefully in person – in Las Vegas, Nevada/USA from May 1-5, 2022.



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