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Analytical solutions for the cement industry

Saving energy and costs with a monitoring system for

kiln inlet gas

Monitoring gas composition at the inlets

of modern cement kilns provides safe
control over the main flame (temperature,
shape, etc.) and ultimately over clinker
quality too.
At a glance, a monitoring system for kiln
inlet gas contributes between 2% and
3% in reduced energy.

Generally, reducing the content of oxygen at the kiln inlets
leads to reduced heat consumption in the range of 25 to
75 kJ/kg per clinker output. This equals between 1% and
2% of heat consumption for modern cement kilns.
In addition, kiln inlet samples render optimal and immediate
control over the content of free lime in clinker and help maintain an optimal value range between 0.8% and 1.2%.
Generally, this leads to reduced heat consumption between
25 and 75 kJ/kg per clinker output or 0.5% and 0.8% of heat
consumption in cement kilns.
Further benefits include softer clinker and reduced energy
needs for cement mills.

Why measure at the kiln inlet?

In a modern cement kiln (Fig. 1), fuel is fed via primary and
secondary firing. Normally 50% to 60% of the total thermal
heat is produced by the main flame, the rest by the precalciner.
Rotary kiln
In the rotary part of the kiln system, the raw meal is heated
up to 1,450 C and sintered. From the basic raw material,
this leads to the formation of new compounds known as
clinker minerals, which mainly comprise calcium silicates and
calcium aluminates. This transformation requires excess air.
Any lack of oxygen either results in an incomplete formation or
in the formation of other phases. Other risks include improper
feeding of the main flame and the improper burning of clinker.
This can involve clinker being overburnt, or treated at excessive temperatures. In that case, a cement mill is wasting
excessive energy in forming clinker minerals whose clinker
turns out to be too hard.
The precalciner is where the raw meal is completely calcined
before entering the kiln. Operation in a reducing atmosphere
leads to a loss in heat recovery and other specific problems
with the precalciner and/or the preheater.

Any measurements taken after the

precalciner or exit preheater stage are
of no use in controlling the conditions
prevalent in the rotary kiln.

Measurements and influences

Measurement of carbon monoxide (CO)
The presence of carbon monoxide anywhere near the main
flame has a negative influence on clinker quality, which is why
clinker should not be burnt in a reducing atmosphere.
Measurement of oxygen (O2)
When it comes to energy efficiency, the excess air required
by the main flame should not be overly excessive. Depending
on the type of kiln, characteristics of the raw meal, and other
influences, oxygen content at the kiln inlet should range
between 1% and 2%, mostly around 1.5%.
Avoiding overly excessive content of oxygen makes it possible
to reduce heat consumption as shown in Fig. 2. Experience
shows the oxygen content of most kilns without inlet sampling
devices to hover far above the generally recommended 1.5%.
In fact, they could stand to reduce anywhere between 25%
and 75% of their heat consumption.
Measurement of nitrogen monoxide (NO)
Nitrogen monoxide in the main flame forms from molecular
oxide and molecular nitrogen contained in combustion air.
The amount of nitrogen monoxide generated depends on the
temperature of the main flame. Temperature of the main flame
also has a direct influence on clinker quality. If it is too low,
any resulting clinker will lack sufficient quality.
If it is too high, any resulting clinker will be of sufficient quality,
except that itll be too hard and require more energy at the
cement mill.

Only direct measurements taken from

sampling devices installed at the kiln
inlet offer sufficient control.

Fig. 1: Fuel distribution in a modern cement kiln

I.D. fan

Raw meal #1

(dust removal)

Raw mill

CO, O2

Cooling tower


Secondary firing (tires, waste..)

Cooler exhaust
Primary firing
(coal, oil, gas)

Rotary kiln

CO, NO, O2
(CH4, CO2, SO2)

ABB | Analytical solutions for the cement industry


Dust removal







NO kiln inlet

Reduction in heat consumption

[kJ/kg clinker]




Optimal range
0.8% < CaO < 1.2%




0 2 reduction at kiln inlet [%]





Free lime clinker [%]



Fig. 2: Reduction in heat consumption

Modern kilns with a heat consumption between 2,800 and 3,700 kJ/kg per
clinker output; fuel ratio main flame/calciner: 50:50

Fig. 3: Example of the correlation between NO and free-lime content

One of the quality criterions of clinker is its free-lime content.

Mill operators usually need at least two hours before they can
determine it with certainty. In cement kilns, free-lime content
is in correlation with the concentration of nitrogen monoxide
at the kiln inlet (Fig. 3). This correlation varies with individual
kilns, but once established, it presents a perfect instant factor
in determining the quality of clinker.

Energy reduction in relation to heat consumption of a kiln

Following is the average heat consumption rate of modern
cement kilns:
4-stage preheater kilns
without precalcination: 3,740 kJ/kg per clinker output

Producing a free-lime content of 1% is difficult with any kiln,

and any sudden change to even higher values results in low
clinker quality. Thats why cement kiln operators typically limit
free-lime contents of their clinker to roughly 0.5% and less.
Most kiln operating programs (e.g., ABB LINKman) today
apply the aforesaid correlation as a control loop, which is only
possible with kiln inlet samples.
Kiln operations are enhanced with the following features,
either manual or computer-controlled:
Reduced NO emissions from main flame
Production of softer clinker with up to 5% in reduced
energy at cement mills
Clinker production using 20 to 30kJ/kg less fuel,
depending on the individual kilns
Measurement of sulfur dioxide (SO2)
At present, the concentration of sulfur dioxide at kiln inlets
is rarely used in measurements, if ever. Which is a shame,
because heres an indicator vital to monitoring not only the
sulfur cycle of rotary kilns but also any factors influencing it.
Expect it to gain momentum in the near future though, with
the growing use of alternative fuels and raw materials.
For example, consider particles in a fuel mix of plastics that
are too coarse for consumption by the main flame. Falling into
the sinter area, they continue to burn, creating a reducing
atmosphere, which compromises clinker quality. As a result,
locally formed carbon monoxide oxidizes in the atmosphere of
the kiln without any detectable increase at the kiln inlet.

4-stage preheater kilns

with precalcination:

3,510 kJ/kg per clinker output

Modern preheater kilns

with 5 or 6 stages and

3,250 kJ/kg per clinker output

More than 70% of heat consumption is used for the formation

of clinker, the preparation of raw materials, fuels, etc.; less than
30% presents heat loss (exhaust gas at stack, cooled waste
air, radiation, etc.)
This explains why measures to reduce heat consumption
appear rather small, mostly within a small percentage range.
By reducing oxygen at the kiln inlet, heat consumption can be
decreased between 25 and 75 kJ/kg per clinker output.
Improved free-lime control allows an additional reduction of
20 to 30 kJ/kg per clinker output. What may seem like minor
reductions at first actually constitute major improvements in
light of the vastly increased utilization of energy.
Energy reduction with kiln inlet sampling is usually not a core
issue. To go without it, however, is to face inadequate kiln cycle
control. An excessively heated main flame is all it takes to put
increasing stress on the lining of a sinter area. Consequently,
as heat consumption rises, so does the rate at which that lining
needs replacing. Chances are, by then its too late to start
taking samples.

Analytical solutions for the cement industry | ABB

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