Imagine orchestrating a delicate, yet complex surgery involving large equipment in the middle of a jungle. This is what Empresa Colombiana de Cementos encountered when building its new cement plant. Despite facing challenges with location, size, logistics and weather, sheer precision through collaboration made it all possible.
Amidst the rugged mountains of Sonsón municipality in the Department of Antioquia, Colombia, lies Rio Claro, where a cement plant capable of producing 1.35 million tonnes of cement per year is being carefully constructed. The soon-to-be-completed cement plant is owned by Empresa Colombiana de Cementos.
Empresa Colombiana de Cementos is a joint venture between the Colombian group, Corona, and the Spanish company, Cementos Molins. The two companies started working together in September 2015 and 18 months later, the contract for this new plant in Rio Clara was signed. Once completed, the plant will boast a clinker production capacity of 3,150 tonnes per day (tpd).
Empresa Colombiana de Cementos new cement plant will help boost local growth by providing approximately 120 direct and 250 indirect jobs once full operation commence. The construction project itself has already produced around 800 jobs.
Small town, big dreams
With a total population of around 38,779, Sonsón covers over 1,300 square kilometres. Historically, the municipality’s economy relied heavily on agriculture, yet the region is also rich in minerals. Specifically, the area is noted for marble mining and a cement plant in Magdalena, which has been producing cement for many years.
Being wedged between a highway, a river, and a mountain is atypical for cement plants. Local authorities and the residents themselves wanted to ensure the surrounding environment, including wildlife and their habitats, are preserved as well as possible. Therefore, Empresa Colombiana de Cementos focused on limiting the unnecessary felling of trees, the systematic removal of rubbish in order to avoid it ending up in the river and relocating excavated soil to areas in the surrounding vicinity.
Location, location, location
In the real estate world, they say location is the best attribute of a property. The location of this new cement plant, however, has proven to be challenging. The site itself is limited to a small, triangular area with varying elevation levels throughout. Flattening the site was necessary to make room for the crusher and reclaimer. Pedro Lluch, project director at Empresa Colombiana de Cementos, has overseen the project since construction began. He comments:
We knew that building a cement plant in a tight space in the middle of the jungle would be tough – it was almost like preparing for surgery. That’s why it was important to get the right people to do the job.
Planning with precision
It wasn’t just the physical state of the site that was an ambitious task. The logistics themselves called for meticulous planning. Sonsón is about a three and a half hours’ drive from Medellin and lies 900 kilometres from the nearest port, Cartagena. Furthermore, the site sits in a region of Colombia dominated by hills and mountains, making transport of equipment a slow and complicated task.
“With more than 300 containers and 3,000 bulk packages arriving on site from Cartagena Port, through 753 km of narrow roads and tropical weather with normally heavy rains, we had not a single incident in transportation nor any damage in equipment’s, as all the goods were very well protected and safely transported,” says Pedro Lluch.
The contracted company, OHL Industrial, delivers large turnkey industrial installations and has a long-standing relationship with FLSmidth. FLSmidth was selected for the engineering, procurement and supply of the equipment for the complete cement production line. Given the logistics involved, the lead project manager from FLSmidth, Oscar Mitra, knew this had to be a well-orchestrated operation.
He comments: “It’s like putting together pieces of a puzzle. The limited space of the site needed careful placement of the mammoth-sized pieces of equipment. We needed to have easy access to all the parts where and when they were needed.”
The equipment FLSmidth provided for the new cement plant
- ATOX® 37.5 Raw Mill
- OK™ 39-4 Cement Mill
- ATOX® 17.5 Coal Mill
- ROTAX-2® Rotary Kiln with low NOX ILC calciner
- Cross-Bar® Cooler
- DUOFLEX® Burner
When it rains, it rains
A tropical climate sees the construction site through average temperatures of around 30 degrees Celsius (86 deg. F) all year round. It rains six months of the year, attracting mosquitoes and creating humidity that is not a welcome friend for final cement products. Special measures were taken to avoid moisture in all areas ranging from materials handling, to crushing in mills and storage. Pedro Lluch notes that this was a particularly big challenge, saying:
I was impressed with how the project team, including the engineers and contractors, worked together to troubleshoot the effects of humidity. It was an excellent display of industry experience and the challenges this local climate presents.