Essroc Cement Corp.

Essroc Cement is making its manufacturing plant more efficient. When something is said to be “set in concrete,” it’s usually understood to be unchanging. But that is not the case with the actual cement industry, which continuously modernizes to keep up with trends.

Essroc Cement Corp.’s plant in Martinsburg, W.V., needed to be upgraded to keep up with the new technological advances. It operates on a site that had been producing cement since the early 1900s, in an area rich in limestone, which is a major component of cement.

The plant long has manufactured cement in a “wet process” that involves adding water to crushed limestone to create slurry. The slurry is then heated with a coal-fired process to create clinker, which is ground up to make cement. This process, according to Alessandro Rota, designer and project manager, is very costly and rather inefficient.

The more efficient process of creating cement involves no water and reduces the amount of coal that needs to be burned. “We had to upgrade the plant,” Plant Manager Paul Biel explains.

“We could not compete with other cement manufacturers using the old process.” The production upgrade has more than doubled Essroc’s annual production capacity to 2 million tons of cement.

Not only is it more productive, but the new plant can manufacture two types of clinker. “[The new process] is very complex,” explains Rota, who is with the Group Technical Center (CTG) with Essroc parent company, Italcementi Group, based in Bergamo, Italy. “We have a line designed to produce both normal clinker and low alkali clinker.”

Rota says CTG approached the plant upgrade as a group effort. “We asked for input from everyone,” he adds. “It was a collective decision. We spoke with our subsidiary (Essroc) top management to find out what they needed.” Those needs included storage for the coal, a new maintenance building, control room and office building.

Getting to where they are today was a fairly easy ride, Rota and Biel concur. “We erected the plant in 1.4 million hours and had no incidents,” Rota says. “Our safety managers were performing worksite walkthroughs everyday. We are quite sensitive to the [safety] topic.”

Rota says the company spent about 23,000 man-hours – to retrain the staff of the upgraded plant. A major component concerned teaching the employees how to use the new machinery, which is more difficult to operate than the old machinery. Since it’s all automated and requires additional skills and a higher education in the plant management in order to be properly operated.

The project started in June of 2007 and is almost finished, Rota says. “We’re just taking care of the minor details,” he notes. “We’re paving the extensive new roadways with long lasting RCC (Roller Compacted Concrete) and finishing the painting such as handrails, and we’re doing little touchups.” Essroc also is adding trees and grass to beautify the area.

Biel says he is eager to push the plant to the max production “I just want to get to the day-to-day operations,”

Good Neighbors

Today, Essroc views the surrounding town of Martinsburg with a completely different attitude from when the plant was built in the 1860s. “The way the plant was designed, there wasn’t too much thought put into the surrounding area,” Biel says. “There was a lot of outside storage, and we committed to improve our environmental footprint by enclosing all product and supplies storage areas.” Now, the storage areas are all indoors.

Biel says the upgraded plant’s footprint is actually smaller than its predecessor and the old, unnecessary buildings are being torn down. “When we’re done [tearing down] a section, we turn that area into a green space,” he explains. “We’re planting trees and grass where a pile of coal used be. It looks much better.”

The construction project even provided a mini-stimulus package for the town, Biel says. “The project brought about 1,500 people to the town who stayed at hotels, went out to eat and shopped at the stores,” he explains. “The locals really embraced the new plant. It was really good for the town.” Martinsburg also receives free water from Essroc’s quarry that the company no longer needs.

Better Living Through Cement

Rota says one of Italcementi’s guiding principles is sustainable development, and the company has been marketing innovative products such as TX Active, a line of photocatalytic cements. Depending on the formulation, TX Active has self-cleaning properties, resisting most organic and inorganic pollutants that would otherwise gather on the surface of a concrete construction and cause discoloration.

Or it can be self-cleaning and pollution reducing: in addition to the cleaning effect, concrete made with TX Active has the ability to absorb and reduce atmospheric pollutants that are deemed harmful to human health as well as the environment.

TX Active has been tested and certified effective by several independent research centers in Europe. It already has been used in the North American market in prestigious projects such as the new Louisiana State University Basketball Practice Facility, the gateways of the new Interstate 35 bridge in Minneapolis and the award-winning Bell Tower of Dalton State College in Georgia, to mention a few. The company’s TX Arca will resist most organic and inorganic pollutants that gather on the surface and cause discoloration. Compounds diminished or eliminated by the use of this formula include:

  • Soot, grime and organic particulates;
  • Mold, mildew, fungus and their spores;
  • Algae, bacteria and allergens; and
  • Tobacco smoke and stains.

TX Aria is the company’s self-cleaning and pollution-reducing formula. Essroc says it has been proven to reduce:

  • Nitrogen oxides, the major component in the formation of acid rain and ground level ozone (smog);
  • Certain toxic chemicals and water quality deterioration;
  • Sulfur oxides, a component of acid rain and the formation of many harmful sulfates and other products;
  • Volatile organic compounds such as benzene and toluene;
  • Ammonia;
  • Carbon monoxide; and
  • Organic chlorides, aledehydes and polycondensated aromatics.

The R&D on TX Active began about 10 years ago in response to a need created by the construction of precast panels for the Dives in Misericordia Church in Rome. The church, constructed in 2001 to celebrate the new millennium and designed by American architect Richard Meier, needed to maintain its brilliant white appearance after initial installation.

The company says just about any cement product can be manufactured with TX Active cements, such as:

  • Precast and architectural precast panels;
  • Cast-in-place pavements, road surfaces and sidewalks;
  • Portland cement based plaster/stucco for finish coat applications;
  • Manufactured concrete products including interlocking concrete pavers, concrete masonry units, roof tiles, architectural products and cement based tiles; and
  • Cement-based restoration products.
The Big Three

Nazareth, Pa.-based Essroc is a member of the Italcementi Group of companies. With an annual production capacity of around 70 million tons, Italcementi Group is the world’s fifth-largest cement producer. Italcementi Group’s companies combine the expertise, know-how and cultures of 22 countries on four continents. It boasts an industrial network of 59 cement plants, 15 grinding centers, five terminals, 373 concrete batching units and 92 aggregates quarries.

The company was founded in 1864 and achieved international status more than a century later with the takeover of Ciments Français in 1992. Following a period of reorganization and integration that culminated in the adoption of a single corporate identity for all its subsidiaries, the newly born Italcementi Group expanded into Bulgaria, Morocco, Kazakhstan, Thailand and India, as well as operations in North America. The group also boosted its investments in Egypt. In 2007, the company further strengthened its presence in Asia and the Middle East through new operations in China, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

As a member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Italcementi Group signed the Cement Sustainability Initia­tive’s Agenda for Action in 2002.

Italcementi was featured in “The Sustainability Yearbook 2010” published by Sustainable Asset Management, a Swiss investment group focused exclusively on sustainability investing.

Essroc is a leading North American cement producer with about 6.5 million metric tons of annual capacity. The company operates production facilities in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. An integrated supply network connects all Essroc plants, terminals and markets. Axim Concrete Technologies is Essroc’s chemical admixtures manufacturing business that enhances cement and concrete performance. The company provides cement to the East Coast, as well as Canada and the Midwest.

CTG was born from the merger of Italcementi and Ciments Français in 1992. It is headquartered in Bergamo, Italy, has a branch office in Guerville, France, and employs 400. CTG specializes in designing and building industrial plants and machinery; modernizing and optimizing production processes; monitoring plant performance; performing R&D into materials, products and processes; and providing technical assistance.

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