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A Multi-Million Dollar Opportunity

Published by
World Cement,

Markus Burbach, Klüber Lubrication, explains how energy efficient lubricants can unlock overlooked energy saving opportunities in cement plant grinding mills.

Energy costs are a huge (and growing) consideration for the cement industry. An often-underestimated factor is the extent of energy loss due to the inefficient lubrication of friction points. A significant increase in energy efficiency can be achieved by switching to a purpose-formulated energy efficient speciality lubricant. For example, an average of 3 – 4% of the energy consumption in gearboxes could be saved in this way. It is estimated that by switching to energy-efficient speciality lubricants, the global cement industry could save up to €500 million per year.

It is well known that the cement industry is a major emitter of CO2 emissions, causing 8% of global CO2 output. Furthermore, cement plants display excessive electric power consumption. Driven by carbon reduction technologies, such as carbon capture or the electrification of kilns, power consumption will continue to increase over the next few years – all of this in the face of rising energy costs.

These challenges add up to an enormous pressure to increase energy efficiency and reduce power consumption – whether driven by stakeholders, local regulations, the ISO 50001 certification, or any other local energy management system. Energy efficient lubricants are an often-underestimated component that can help cement plants to significantly reduce electricity consumption.

Energy wasting gearboxes in grinding mills

Grinding mills account for up to 60% of a cement plant’s electricity costs. Grinding is a very inefficient process where a lot of the power that goes into the drive is not actually used for grinding, but is instead turned into heat, vibration, wear, friction and noise. For example, a typical mill rated at around 5500 kW, which runs at a load of 90% and for about 6000 operating hours per year, will consume close to 30 MW of electricity per year. At a price of €0.10/kWh, this results in roughly €3 million of electricity costs for that one single mill.

Considering that every cement plant has multiple mills and often multiple production lines installed, it is easy to see that this can result in enormous annual electricity costs.

When striving to save energy through energy-efficient lubricants, the gearboxes of grinding mills are an obvious starting point. This includes ball mills, which typically have one or two main gearboxes, vertical mills with typically one gearbox, roller presses with typically two main gearboxes.

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