Air Cannons hammer Preheater Buildup at Nebraska Cement Plant
An American cement producer faced severe problems of material buildup in his preheater. Manual hydro-lancing meant process disruptions. With a new air cannon network now in place, the need for water blasting has been significantly reduced, material flows more efficiently, and maintenance personnel have drastically reduced the man-hours that were spent on manual removal.
The largest American-owned cement manufacturer in the nation has solved a buildup problem in the precalciner of its Nebraska plant by installing a network of high-performance air cannons, improving material flow and drastically reducing the need to hydro-lance. The series of 25 air cannons from Martin Engineering fires a powerful discharge of compressed air in a prescribed pattern to remove material that becomes adhered to the vessel walls. The solution helps the plant avoid downtime and eliminate the potential for water blasting to cause lumps of material to fall into the kiln feed and interfere with production.
Ash Grove Cement Company has established a longstanding tradition of service, reliability and quality that stretches back more than 125 years. A pioneer of the lime and cement industries, the company was incorporated in Missouri in 1882 as the Ash Grove White Lime Association. Today, Ash Grove Cement is the sixth-largest producer in the U.S., with nine manufacturing plants, two deep water import terminals and a major quarry operation in Blubber Bay, British Columbia. In all, the company has a total annual capacity of nearly 9 million short tons of cement, including a wide range of specialty products for difficult service environments. Located on the south bank of the Platte River between Omaha and Lincoln, the facility in Louisville, Nebraska has an annual output of about a million short tons per year of Portland and blended cement.
When system operators began noticing material buildup in the precalciner, they found that it was impeding the flow through the preheater and into the kiln. The staff used the common technique of water lancing to remove blockages, particularly from the preheater tower’s riser duct. But the time-consuming process had to be repeated twice daily, when maintenance personnel would open access doors into the tower and remove the accumulation with a high-pressure spray.