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Irondale cement terminal: sustainable cement storage

World Cement,

Defining sustainability

Recently, Dr. Adrian Vaida, Independent Sustainability Researcher from Australia, explained that sustainability has been traditionally defined on “three interconnected performance areas associated with sustainable development: economic, social and environmental.” Another way of expressing sustainability is the ‘3P’ concept, which “holds that a sustainable organisation must demonstrate high performance in the areas related to people, planet and profit… Being ‘green’ is a must when ‘sustainable’, but being ‘sustainable’ is more than just being ‘green’.”Many companies in the cement industry have been sustainable, according to the above definition, since their founding decades ago. To help foster sustainability in their industry and the world business community, some of the world’s cement companies came together in 1999 to voluntarily propose best practices, key performance indicators and reporting mechanisms for sustainability, creating the Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI). In its most recent 2012 report, the CSI addressed the following issues:

  • Safety.
  • Climate protection.
  • Fuels and raw material use.
  •  Air emissions.
  • Local impacts on land and communities.
  • Water.
  • Supply chain management.
  • Sustainability with concrete.
  • Working with others.

As the demand for concrete grows, so does the capacity to produce and distribute it, along with an expectation for environmental stewardship. Because concrete is a relatively inexpensive construction material, the highest produced synthetic material on earth, and with raw materials locally available in most areas of the world, it has become nearly irreplaceable as a building material. More recently, the Portland Cement Association, the Ready Mixed Concrete Research and Education Foundation and Massachusetts Institute of Technology came together with the vision to, “focus on quantifying and enhancing the sustainable nature of concrete, as the call for an increased emphasis on environmental issues in the building industry grows louder.”

Taking many of these factors into account, Grupos Cementos de Chihuahua (GCC), a new member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD) CSI, has built a cement terminal that is productive, efficient, clean and that takes into account the community at large.

Irondale cement terminal

In 2006, GCC awarded River Consulting the engineering contract, including all electrical, structural and mechanical design and engineering for a 50 000 t capacity increase at the terminal facility in Irondale, Colorado, USA. This included optimising the layout and design of the truck and rail route and distribution, as well as a reclaimer and 50 000 t cement storage dome (158 in. dia. and 96.5 in. tall). DOMTEC® International was chosen as the contractor for the insulated concrete storage dome.

Due to height restrictions requiring the facility not to block the scenic Rocky Mountain view, the dome was designed 10 ft. lower into the ground, the reclaim tunnel was lowered 25 ft. underground and 5100 yards3 of soil was removed. To control settlement, River Consulting designed forty 4 ft. dia. caissons under the tunnel and around the perimeter of the dome, approximately every 16 ft.

Now complete and fully operational, the terminal accepts rail deliveries and loads trucks like clockwork. The enclosed pneumatic conveyors ensure a near zero fugitive dust escape, keeping the terminal clean with less maintenance year-round.

Concrete benefits

The natural, sustainable benefits of building structures, such as domes, using concrete has been realised by GCC and identified by the WBCSD:

  • Strength and durability.
  • Low maintenance.
  • Affordability.
  • Fire resistance.
  • Excellent thermal mass.
  • Locally produced and used.

 Other benefits include:

  • Local labour is used to manufacture, transport and place concrete, keeping much of the project money in the local economy.
  • Product is contained and stacked high against the walls, reducing the footprint of the building.
  • Fugitive dust is virtually eliminated, keeping the project site cleaner and building better community relationships.
  • A waterproof DomeSkin keeps the rain off of the concrete, adding to the useful life of the dome.
  • Insulation is sandwiched between the DomeSkin and concrete, further decreasing temperature fluctuation of concrete, also avoiding freeze/thaw cycles, which can cause deterioration.
  • Heavy loads can be supported on the apex (over 500 kips).


Written by Benjamin Davis, VP Business Development, DOMTEC International.

Edited by Louise Fordham.

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