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All About Air Cannons

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World Cement,

Jeff Shelton, IGS, sat down with World Cement to answer questions about his perspective on the history and future of air cannons in the cement industry.

Tell us more about IGS

Jeff Shelton (JS): IGS has little name recognition in the cement industry but is well known and respected in the oil, gas, and power industries. IGS is a technical company that serves as a leader in several critical areas. We provide a coating service that protects high-pressure vessels from corrosion and erosion, and we offer unmatched cleaning services for SCRs in coal-fired boilers. We approach and solve industry problems with advanced technology and expertise. IGS engineers and business developers are employed for their specialised knowledge and ability to provide fast and efficient service to customers.

How did you become involved with air cannons?

JS: I think this is an interesting story. In the 1970s, I was called upon to discuss sonic horns to help clean a cement tower. I understood the potential this could have, but sonic horns didn’t provide the most adequate cleaning for this application. Years later, I received a call from an engineer that I had worked closely with in the pulp and paper industry.

In this call, the engineer told me he had a build-up problem, and he wanted me to come inspect it and offer suggestions. To say the least, I was not impressed with the air cannon installation I saw. At that moment, I started working on different methods to solve this problem. After some initial ideas, I came to realise that while air cannons were a good solution, a different approach was required for their installation.

I designed an air cannon to solve the buildup problems, but I used the fundamental principles used throughout heavy industry. The concept was that velocity and volume were more important than peak force. The air cannons I designed were based on the generation of the highest possible velocity and extension of blasting time. This system was also designed to improve the accessibility of the cannons for proper maintenance. The air cannons designed and built by IGS are different than the first air cannons, but we don’t stray from the importance of velocity, volume, and accessibility.

How has the air cannon market changed over the last 30 years?

JS: In the last 30 years, the cleaning requirement for air cannons and the average size of a cement plant have both increased. The huge cement towers that we have today did not exist 30 years ago. With this increase in size, the cleaning distance required for air cannons has increased. The current 1 m standard in many applications is no longer enough. In addition, the burning of supplemental fuel has caused buildup to become harder to clean. Also, the safety requirements for performing maintenance on air cannons has increased to the point where many plants are not allowed to work on their own air cannons when in operation. It doesn’t matter how powerful your air cannon is if it’s not working. I often wonder, with the increasing demand for air cannons, how and why drastic change hasn’t already occurred.

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