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2014 IEEE-IAS/PCA Cement Industry Technical Conference Round-Up

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World Cement,

With a total attendance of 987 people from 27 countries, the 2014 IEEE-IAS/PCA Cement Industry Technical Conference was a huge success. The technical programme at these conferences is always very strong, but this year the committee and the speakers seemed to have gone the extra mile to provide delegates with industry updates and technical insights that they could take back to the plant.

Ted Richardson, CIC Chair, opened the conference with a reminder as to why we all attend – the educational offering, the networking opportunities and the chance to meet old friends at the premiere event for the North American cement industry. Derek Nicholls, 2014 Local Chair, added his own welcome and highlighted the success of the New Professional Training, which was ongoing throughout the conference. Jeff Nagel, CIC Vice-Chair, pointed out that the various technical paper topics reflect the broad scope of the cement industry committee before introducing Ed Sullivan, who presented an optimistic (yet conservative) industry update. You can find an abridged version of Ed’s state-of-the-industry address on our website, Next up, Dr Mark Johnson of the Advanced Manufacturing Office of the Department of Environment gave us an insight into why he is a ‘true believer in the transformative power of technology’. It was a fascinating presentation on the Office’s drive to increase manufacturing competitiveness through industrial efficiency for specific energy-intensive industries, including concrete.

During the main technical sessions there were too many excellent presentations to list in detail. Subscribers can download World Cement’s IEEE-IAS/PCA Conference Supplement at or visit the conference website,, for more information. A few highlights are presented here.

William Finley of Siemens spoke of the advantages of optimising motors and drives – an insightful paper that illustrated how the whole should be better than the sum of its parts. Bedeschi, Dustex, FLSmidth, GEA Bischoff and Siemens took part in a relatively lively panel discussion on particulate matter that prompted a lot of questions from the audience. John and Charles Kline won the award for best paper and attracted a large crowd for ‘Cement and CO2: What’s Happening?’. Joe Main’s presentation on safety in the cement industry was a reminder that the industry still has some work to do in this regard, as was Landis Floyd’s ‘System Safety Approach to Occupational Electric Safety’, in which the author used his personal experiences to drive the message home. The update from Franz-Josef Ulm at MIT on the work of the Concrete Sustainability Hub was exciting as always – one of the delegates commented that they would pass the information on to their sales team to help promote the use of concrete over alternative paving solutions. Betsy Dutrow praised the cement industry’s efforts in the EPA ENERGY STAR programme – it was performing so well, ENERGY STAR had to re-baseline! Tom Harman’s update on the various regulatory issues affecting the US cement industry was also insightful – especially in terms of new water regulations. Watch this space for more on that. Bruce Blair’s paper on Environmental Product Declarations gave delegates a hint of what is coming their way next, as did Steve Minshall’s presentation on a globally harmonised system for classification and labelling of chemicals.

In addition to the conference, the exhibition ran for three days and boasted more than 150 exhibitors, with a lot of new faces this year. The general mood was (conservatively) optimistic, and the expectation is that the industry is on the up. Some regions are feeling it more than others, but if Ed Sullivan’s predictions are to be believed, the US is looking at a cement shortage within a relatively short time and that’s good news for those supplying equipment to the industry.

Of course, the conference could not happen without the outstanding efforts of the local committee and the IEEE-IAS cement industry committee, who volunteer countless hours making sure that the venue, the papers, the plant tour, the exhibition and all the related events go off without a hitch. They are to be congratulated on another excellent event.

On to next year, and World Cement had the opportunity to sit down with 2015 Promotions Chair, Heinz Knopfel, also known as Plant Manager at the Lafarge Exshaw Plant in Canada, and Martin Vroegh, who is 2015 Local Chair and Director of Environmental Affairs at Votorantim North America, to get the inside scoop on what’s coming up next year.

“The money’s going to be different; people will need passports,” Heinz teases when we ask him what will be different about hosting the conference in Canada. “But it’s still going to be the same great conference, with an added flavour.”

“From a producer perspective, it’s going to be interesting because there are a lot of local Canadian businesses that the producers in the Great Lakes area use, but who wouldn’t necessarily come to a big conference in another city – they’ll be able to come to Toronto and other producers will be able to see the talent that the likes of Holcim, Lafarge and St Marys Cement on the northern shore of Lake Ontario already use,” Martin says.

“From a venue standpoint, Toronto is an exciting city,” he adds. “You can’t beat walking out the front door of the hotel and being on the busiest shopping street in Toronto, or even in Canada, with Queen St West right there and the Toronto Eaton Centre across the street. Toronto’s having a construction boom right now – we’ve got some of the most cranes of any city in North America thanks to a strong condo market and there’s a big highway expansion project happening just outside the city.”

And then of course there is all the traditional attractions. “There will be the usual excellent technical content and we’ve already put out a call for papers and for vendors to support the new professional training programme. Certainly, I think there’s an opportunity for St Marys Cement to take advantage of that programme and I’d highly recommend other producers to get their new professionals out to Toronto to get the skills training they’re looking for,” Martin says.

Heinz agrees: “We should be looking at these conferences as an opportunity for training the young engineers coming into the industry that are going to be our future. Helping them understand, first off, networking, which is absolutely critical. This is really the only conference where you get to talk with your competitors, you get to talk with your suppliers, you get to go to a competitor’s cement plant and look at what they’re doing.  I think everyone has a mutual respect – I don’t think there are any confidentialities that are being broken, there’s no collusion – but it gives us a chance for comparison because the technology we use is the same technology as other people are using.”

“The tour is going to be St Marys Cement’s Bowmanville plant, which is one of the largest plants in North America with 1.8 million tpa of clinker capacity. Some of the fantastic things you’ll get to see will be a state-of-the-art emissions control system as well as the development of our Pond Biofuels algae project,” says Martin.

Well, World Cement will certainly be there! And if you are interested in putting forward a paper or supporting the training programme, you can find the relevant contacts here.

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