Vietnam is the third-largest cement-producing country, behind only China and India, with production remaining strong through 2020, despite the global COVID-19 pandemic. Sales of cement and clinker rose by an estimated 1.5% over 2019 to hit 101.5 million tonnes.¹ And with new capacity coming online, production continues to grow: according to data from the General Statistics Office, cement production rose 7% in the first four months of 2021 to 32.5Mt.²
The industry has been boosted by strong demand for Vietnamese exports from China, where the government has been pumping money into infrastructure construction to help the economy recover from the pandemic. Export demand is expected to remain high through this year, while domestic demand will also return to growth, after a dip in 2020, fueled by investment in infrastructure and the recovery of the real estate market.¹
An outsized influence
The large size of cement production relative to the size of the country means the Vietnamese industry has a significant impact on the country and the 96.5 million people who call it home. It even makes the local news! In comparison, the USA, the fourth largest producer, manufactured about 90Mtpa but has a population more than three times that of Vietnam.³ Efforts to reduce the negative impacts of cement production on the environment and local population are therefore a priority.
To this end, the Vietnam National Cement Corporation (VICEM), the leading cement producer in the country, and FLSmidth signed a cooperation agreement in February 2020 to improve the sustainability of the company’s cement plants. The goal: to implement technologies that radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, pioneer solutions for using alternative fuels and improve air quality.
The partnership reflects a history stretching back to 1899, when FLSmidth supplied the country’s first cement plant at Hai Phong. FLSmidth was called back to Hai Phong in 2006 to build a new plant at the site for VICEM and has continued its involvement since. The plant is now the site of the first project implemented under the VICEM-FLSmidth agreement.
“The cement sector is a complex industry with significant environmental footprint. To improve, it can adopt scientific solutions and technologies from other industries. At the same time, a cement sector focused on sustainable development can positively impact other industries,” comments VICEM CEO, Bùi Hồng Minh. “We are happy to share 120 years of experience and expertise to serve Vietnam, as well as world markets, with products contributing to a more sustainable environment.”
Hai Phong: the first step on the journey
The recent upgrade project at Hai Phong included the conversion of the preheater to an In-Line Calciner Preheater System (ILC) with the aim to increase production capacity from 3600tpd to 3800-3900tpd, reduce energy consumption and reduce NOx emissions. The new equipment has recently been commissioned and hit guaranteed performance with energy consumption and NOx emissions lowered and a production rate of 4117tpd achieved – 5% more than the target.
Construction of the upgrade made use of locally-fabricated steel – a more sustainable, cost-effective and timely approach than shipping steel from the other side of the world, which would have risked delays from COVID-19 disruption of global trade routes. The local FLSmidth team in Vietnam was also able to manage the upgrade with remote support from FLSmidth’s global network of experts. Only one additional colleague was brought into the country – Process Expert Seref Gokkaya, who supervised, adjusted and optimised the process after the upgrade to reach and overachieve the performance guarantees. This again helped expedite the project in the face of travel shutdowns.
“From contract signing to handover, the project took eight months – an impressive achievement,” said Maxime Ramael, Country Head for Vietnam at FLSmidth. “VICEM are very happy with the service and solution we provided. And the business case for VICEM at Hai Phong is opening doors, both within VICEM and at other cement companies, for other similar projects. We’re now recognised as a company that can supply upgrades to enable older plants to produce sustainable cement.”
The next step
At Hai Phong, the installation of the ILC opens the way for further improvements. “The upgrade is the first necessary step to install a HOTDISC combustion device that allows you to use of a wide range of coarse waste-derived alternative fuels in the calciner, instead of coal,” explained Maxime.
The substitution of coal with waste-derived fuels not only helps to reduce the carbon intensity of cement production; it also has an important social benefit by helping manage municipal and other waste streams – something that is an important challenge for Vietnam. In the capital city, Hanoi, it’s estimated that 700t of waste are burnt on a daily basis, emitting CO2 and other toxic gases, such as SO2 and CO. Meanwhile, the country’s rice industry produces almost 50Mt of agricultural waste, with the average rice paddy field producing 1t of waste material each year, much of which is also burnt.⁴
This incineration of waste is one of the major causes of air pollution in Vietnam’s urban centres. But it needn’t be so: both municipal and agricultural waste can be used as alternative fuels at cement plants. This cleans up urban air quality; reduces the use of fossil fuels, lowering carbon emissions; and reduces energy costs for cement plants, as alternative fuels are often cheaper than the traditional fuels they replace. It is a win-win-win.
This is the future of the cement industry that FLSmidth is pioneering with its MissionZero programme for a sustainable transition in the cement industry. Built on three pillars of zero emissions, 100% fuel substitution and zero waste, MissionZero is at the heart of the partnership with VICEM.
”The transition of the cement sector towards more sustainable production requires collective action and leadership,” concluded Maxime Ramael. “We are proud of our partnership with VICEM and the opportunity it presents to significantly increase the sustainability of Vietnamese cement industry.” The project at Hai Phong is an important first step in that partnership, opening to door for real change for the sector and people of Vietnam.
1. ‘Domestic cement sales forecast to increase but export to slow down’, Vietnam.plus (11 January 2021): https://en.vietnamplus.vn/domestic-cement-sales-forecast-to-increase-but-export-to-slow-down/194550.vnp
2. ‘Vietnam’s four-month cement production rises to 32.4Mt in 2021’, GlobalCement.com (21 April 2021): https://www.globalcement.com/news/item/12335-vietnam-s-four-month-cement-production-rises-to-32-4mt-in-2021
3. ‘Cement production in the United States and worldwide from 2010 to 2020’, Statista (15 February 2021): https://www.statista.com/statistics/219343/cement-production-worldwide/#:~:text=Cement%20production%20reached%20an%20estimated,in%202020%20in%20the%20U.S
4. ‘Air quality in Hanoi’, IQAir, last updated: 15 May 2021: https://www.iqair.com/vietnam/hanoi