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Cement preheating calcining

  In the 1970s the precalciner was pioneered in Japan, and has subsequently become the equipment of choice for new large installations worldwide. The precalciner is a development of the suspension preheater. The philosophy is this: the amount of fuel that can be burned in the kiln is directly related to the size of the kiln. If part of the fuel necessary to burn the rawmix is burned outside the kiln, the output of the system can be increased for a given kiln size. Users of suspension preheaters found that output could be increased by injecting extra fuel into the base of the preheater. The logical development was to install a specially designed combustion chamber at the base of the preheater, into which pulverized coal is injected. This is referred to as an "air-through" precalciner, because the combustion air for both the kiln fuel and the calciner fuel all passes through the kiln. This kind of precalciner can burn up to 30% (typically 20%) of its fuel in the calciner. If more fuel were injected in the calciner, the extra amount of air drawn through the kiln would cool the kiln flame excessively. The feed is 40-60% calcined before it enters the rotary kiln.

  The ultimate development is the "air-separate" precalciner, in which the hot combustion air for the calciner arrives in a duct directly from the cooler, bypassing the kiln. Typically, 60-75% of the fuel is burned in the precalciner. In these systems, the feed entering the rotary kiln is 100% calcined. The kiln has only to raise the feed to sintering temperature. In theory the maximum efficiency would be achieved if all the fuel were burned in the preheater, but the sintering operation involves partial melting and nodulization to make clinker, and the rolling action of the rotary kiln remains the most efficient way of doing this. Large modern installations typically have two parallel strings of 4 or 5 cyclones, with one attached to the kiln and the other attached to the precalciner chamber. A rotary kiln of 6 x 100 m makes 8,000–10,000 tonnes per day, using about 0.10-0.11 tonnes of coal fuel for every tonne of clinker produced. The kiln is dwarfed by the massive preheater tower and cooler in these installations. Such a kiln produces 3 million tonnes of clinker per year, and consumes 300,000 tonnes of coal. A diameter of 6 m appears to be the limit of size of rotary kilns, because the flexibility of the steel shell becomes unmanageable at or above this size, and the firebrick lining tends to fail when the kiln flexes.

  A particular advantage of the air-separate precalciner is that a large proportion, or even 100%, of the alkali-laden kiln exhaust gas can be taken off as alkali bleed (see above). Because this accounts for only 40% of the system heat input, it can be done with lower heat wastage than in a simple suspension preheater bleed. Because of this, air-separate precalciners are now always prescribed when only high-alkali raw materials are available at a cement plant.

  The accompanying figures show the movement towards the use of the more efficient processes in North America (for which data is readily available). But the average output per kiln in, for example, Thailand is twice that in North America.

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