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Gas-suspension preheaters

  The key component of the gas-suspension preheater is the cyclone. A cyclone is a conical vessel into which a dust-bearing gas-stream is passed tangentially. This produces a vortex within the vessel. The gas leaves the vessel through a co-axial "vortex-finder". The solids are thrown to the outside edge of the vessel by centrifugal action, and leave through a valve in the vertex of the cone. Cyclones were originally used to clean up the dust-laden gases leaving simple dry process kilns. If, instead, the entire feed of rawmix is encouraged to pass through the cyclone, it is found that a very efficient heat exchange takes place: the gas is efficiently cooled, hence producing less waste of heat to the atmosphere, and the raw mix is efficiently heated. This efficiency is further increased if a number of cyclones are connected in series.

  The number of cyclones stages used in practice varies from 1 to 6. Energy, in the form of fan-power, is required to draw the gases through the string of cyclones, and at a string of 6 cyclones, the cost of the added fan-power needed for an extra cyclone exceeds the efficiency advantage gained. It is normal to use the warm exhaust gas to dry the raw materials in the rawmill, and if the raw materials are wet, hot gas from a less efficient preheater is desirable. For this reason, the most commonly encountered suspension preheaters have 4 cyclones. The hot feed that leaves the base of the preheater string is typically 20% calcined, so the kiln has less subsequent processing to do, and can therefore achieve a higher specific output. Typical large systems installed in the early 1970s had cyclones 6 m in diameter, a rotary kiln of 5 x 75 m, making 2500 tonnes per day, using about 0.11-0.12 tonnes of coal fuel for every tonne of clinker produced.

  A penalty paid for the efficiency of suspension preheaters is their tendency to block up. Salts, such as the sulfate and chloride of sodium and potassium, tend to evaporate in the burning zone of the kiln. They are carried back in vapor form, and re-condense when a sufficiently low temperature is encountered. Because these salts re-circulate back into the rawmix and re-enter the burning zone, a recirculation cycle establishes itself. A kiln with 0.1% chloride in the rawmix and clinker may have 5% chloride in the mid-kiln material. Condensation usually occurs in the preheater, and a sticky deposit of liquid salts glues dusty rawmix into a hard deposit, typically on surfaces against which the gas-flow is impacting. This can choke the preheater to the point that air-flow can no longer be maintained in the kiln. It then becomes necessary to manually break the build-up away. Modern installations often have automatic devices installed at vulnerable points to knock out build-up regularly. An alternative approach is to "bleed off" some of the kiln exhaust at the kiln inlet where the salts are still in the vapor phase, and remove and discard the solids in this. This is usually termed an "alkali bleed" and it breaks the recirculation cycle. It can also be of advantage for cement quality reasons, since it reduces the alkali content of the clinker. However, hot gas is run to waste so the process is inefficient and increases kiln fuel consumption.

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