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The best of both worlds

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World Cement,

Liran Akavia, Seebo, explains how adopting an AI-driven sustainability model could allow cement producers to both reduce their carbon footprint and increase their profits.

Emissions reduction is now more important to cement manufacturers than ever before. Between the CemBureau 2050 target for zero emissions, mounting government legislation and penalties, and incentives in areas such as alternative fuels, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is no longer just a vague, long-term aspiration – it is a firm, immediate business objective. There is just one problem: it conflicts with many other business objectives.

Cement manufacturing executives around the world grapple with this challenge every day. How can emissions be cut without negatively impacting other KPIs like kiln throughput, clinker quality, cost per ton of clinker, 28-day strength, etc.?

More to the point – is it even possible to run a cement production process that optimises all these conflicting objectives simultaneously? The answer is yes, but to get there, cement manufacturers will need to enlist the help of a very specific type of artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

Emissions are rooted in the manufacturing process

It is easy to see things two-dimensionally, believing that by increasing production, the production line will emit more CO2, and in order to cut CO2, efficiency and output must be sacrificed. These two objectives seem diametrically-opposed.

But upon deeper inspection, that is not true. Both emissions and other common inefficiencies and production losses stem from the same place – inefficiencies in the production process.

In theory, by removing inefficiencies and optimising the production process overall, the production line should see both reductions in CO2 emissions, and improvements in other key areas like throughput, quality, cost per ton of clinker, and energy efficiency.

This can be most clearly seen in two of the most common approaches to reducing cement manufacturing emissions – increasing alternative fuel rates and/or clinker alternatives, and reducing overall energy consumption.

Alternative fuel rates/clinker alternatives versus process stability

Where government incentives exist, alternative fuels are a particularly effective way to reach emissions reduction goals. The major challenge here is process stability; given the unstable and inconsistent nature of alternative fuels, increasing alternative fuel rates (AFR) risks destabilising the process in unpredictable ways, and thus impacting everything from the kiln throughput, to 28-day strength.

The same is also true for clinker alternatives. While there are a number of viable options, any change to the most basic of raw materials can alter or destabilise the process further downstream.

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