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Accepted Manuscript

How to reduce energy and water consumption in the preparation of raw materials
for ceramic tile manufacturing: Dry versus wet route

A. Mezquita, E. Monfort, S. Ferrer, D. Gabaldn-Estevan

PII: S0959-6526(17)30800-4

DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.04.082

Reference: JCLP 9437

To appear in: Journal of Cleaner Production

Received Date: 08 July 2016

Revised Date: 02 February 2017

Accepted Date: 12 April 2017

Please cite this article as: A. Mezquita, E. Monfort, S. Ferrer, D. Gabaldn-Estevan, How to reduce
energy and water consumption in the preparation of raw materials for ceramic tile manufacturing:
Dry versus wet route, Journal of Cleaner Production (2017), doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.04.082

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How to reduce energy andACCEPTED MANUSCRIPT
water consumption in the preparation of raw
materials in the ceramic tile manufacturing. Dry versus wet route.
Highlights

Dry route has been seen as an interesting alternative to produce ceramic tiles.
New developments in dry milling and granulation systems.
Successful use of the dry route in some important producer countries.
Environmental issues affecting the ceramic tile industry are gaining momentum.
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How to reduce energy and water consumption in the preparation of


raw materials for ceramic tile manufacturing: Dry versus wet route.
A. Mezquita1, E. Monfort1, S. Ferrer1, D. Gabaldn-Estevan2
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1 Instituto de Tecnologa Cermica (ITC). Asociacin de Investigacin de las Industrias Cermicas
(AICE), Universitat Jaume I. Castelln. Spain.
2 Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, University of Valencia. Spain
(E-mail:, ana.mezquita@itc.uji.es, eliseo.monfort@itc.uji.es, salvador.ferrer@itc.uji.es,
10 Daniel.Gabaldon@uv.es)

Abstract

Dry and wet routes in the ceramic tile manufacturing process refer to two different technologies for

15 preparing the raw materials for the forming stage. Both result in a granulated solid ready for use in the

pressing stage, but with different characteristics. The dry route was the first to be developed. As quality

standards and tile sizes increased, the wet route was developed and introduced successfully into the

manufacturing process. Since 1990, the wet route has been the most used around the world to prepare

ceramic tile body raw materials. The powder produced by the wet route has finer particles and higher

20 flowability, which has allowed the production of higher quality ceramic tiles of larger sizes. However,

the process uses more energy and water and, consequently, is more costly in both economic and

environmental terms. New developments in dry milling and granulation systems combined with the

growing awareness of environmental impacts and European Union energy policy, and successful uses of

the dry route in some important tile producer countries (especially Brazil), are leading to a

25 reconsideration of the tile production processes. In the current context, implementation of the dry route

is being considered an interesting alternative for the production of ceramic tiles with lower

environmental costs. This has resulted in a significant number of studies of the technology from applied

research centres and machinery producers.

The present paper provides an up to date technical and environmental comparison of the dry and wet

30 routes, based on the most recent advances, to add to the debate on the use of the dry route to produce

high quality ceramic tiles.

Keywords: ceramic tiles, environmental impacts, energy consumption

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This work was supported by the project ESTIBMEIC- GV/2014/049 (Generalitat Valenciana).

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1 Introduction

The document guiding EU action on energy policy and climate change is Strategy Europe 2020,

which was published in 2010 and set out a strategy for growth based on five objectives. One of these

objectives is related to climate change and energy sustainability, and involves three specific targets:

40 a minimum 20% reduction, by 2020, in greenhouse gas emissions compared with 1990. This

target was updated in January 2014 from 20% by 2020 to 40% by 2030 (see below);

20 % of energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020;

20% increase in energy efficiency by 2020.

In January 2014, the European Commission presented its 2030 policy framework (COM(2014) 15

45 final), which drives continuous progress towards a low-carbon economy. The centrepiece of this

framework is the target of a 40% reduction on 1990 levels of domestic greenhouse gas emissions in the

EU by 2030. One of the tools for achieving its objectives is the European Union Emission Trading

Scheme (EU-ETS), which came into force in 2005 and is currently in its third period (2013-2020). The

ETS is regulated by Directive 2003/87 /EC amended by Directive 2009/29 /EC .

50 European ceramic tile companies are being directed to reduce their CO2 emissions in the medium

and long terms. Guidance is provided by the Roadmap for Moving to a Low-Carbon Economy in 2050,

which was published by the European Commission in 2011. This document provides objectives for

reducing CO2 emissions in all industrial sectors including ceramics to achieve a reduction in CO2

emissions of between 34% and 40% by 2030, and between 83% and 87% by 2050.

55 In 2012, Cerame-Unie (European Ceramic Industry Association) responded by publishing the

Ceramic Industry Roadmap. This document indicates that, in the short-term, the Best Available

Techniques (BATs) or so-called widespread technologies, should be adopted by all manufacturing

countries. However, the BATs will not be sufficient to achieve the ambitious European objectives,

which will require the development of breakthrough technologies, and new energy sources.

60 In the long term, the ceramics roadmap considers the option of electrification of kilns, which,

currently, is not economically viable (Cerame-Unie, 2012). Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) also is

unlikely to be economically viable for a considerable period ; other sectors, such as cement and steel,

should be higher priorities for CCS since heavy clay installations produce more diluted CO2 exhaust

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streams and production sites are smaller and more widely dispersed (Gabaldn-Estevan et al., 2016).

65 Among the so-called widespread technologies which could be implemented at ceramic facilities,

the ceramic roadmap cites changes to raw materials formulations for more efficient firing, energy

management and process optimization. For several decades, since 1990, the European ceramic tile

industry has been adopting innovative technologies and implementing energy saving actions to reduce

its energy consumption and CO2 emissions (Agrafiotis et al.,2001; Gabaldn-Estevan et al., 2014;

70 Mezquita et al., 2009; Monfort et al., 2014). However, implementation of EU-ETS scheme affects the

economic situation of ceramic companies directly due to the allowances to buy and indirectly through

electricity costs, monitoring system and auditing costs. As a consequence, regulation and environmental

policies require careful formation in order to avoid relocation of ceramic factories outside the EU, in

areas with less strict environmental policies (Gabaldn-Estevan et al., 2013).

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2 Description of the ceramic manufacturing process

Ceramic tiles are thin flat structures formed from clays, silica, fluxes, pigments and other raw

materials. They are used, generally, to pave floors and as interior wall coverings, although there is

increasing interest in developing safe fastening systems to allow use of ceramic tiles to coat exterior

80 surfaces.

The most frequent process worldwide for the manufacture of ceramic tiles, whether glazed or

unglazed, is the wet method with single firing (Snchez et al., 2010). Figure 1 depicts the main

production stages of raw materials preparation by wet milling, forming by pressing, drying, glazing and

decorating, and final firing (IPTS European Commission, BREF, 2007).

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Raw materials

Glaze
Milling preparation
Spray drying

Pressing Drying Glazing Firing


Glaze
stoneware
Figure 1. Main production stages in ceramic tile manufacture (ITC own elaboration)

90 The ceramic tile manufacturing process begins with the selection of the raw materials, mainly clays,

feldspars and carbonates. In most cases, the natural origin of the raw materials makes it necessary a

process of homogenization of the mixture, to ensure continuity of features. The first mixing of the

various components into a ceramic paste, is subjected to a milling process which can be by dry or wet

based.

95 The preparation of the raw materials results in a solid granulate, with low water content, which is

ready for use in the next forming stage. Tiles generally are conformed by pressing followed by drying in

continuous dryers. The dried bodies are then ready for decoration. The last step in the process is firing

of the ceramic tiles, which endows the product with its mechanical and aesthetic properties, based on the

physical and chemical reactions that take place in the ceramic composition during thermal treatment in

100 the kiln.

This manufacturing process entails significant consumption of energy and natural resources,

including water. Average water consumption per square metre of manufactured tiles is around 20 litres,

and energy consumption is around 32 kWh per square metre of manufactured tiles (Monfort et al., 2010).

Milling the body composition consumes about 60% of the water used. Although much of the wastewater

105 is recycled (Enrique et al., 2000), in the certain types of tile body, the solids contained in the used water

could affect certain finished product characteristics, such as colour and fusibility, which limits the

possibilities for recycling in these cases.

The highest energy consumption (90%) occurs in heating (Monfort et al., 2010 and 2012), so that

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energy improvements need to focus on these areas. The two stages that consume more than 90% of the

110 thermal energy used are spray drying of the body suspensions, and firing. Although some energy saving

measures are being implemented in single-deck kilns (Mezquita et al., 2014), breakthrough technologies

to allow significantly lower energy consumption in ceramic tile firing are not expected to emerge in the

short to medium term.

Figure 2 depicts the preparation of the raw materials for the wet route ceramic tile manufacturing

115 process.

Proportioning of
raw materials

Ball mill

Storage tanks

Spray-dryer

Silos

Spray-dried powder
for the press
Figure 2. Raw materials preparation by wet route (ITC own elaboration)

The raw materials are mixed with water and some additives, in ball mills, which can be continuous

120 or discontinuous. The result is a suspension with a solids content of around 65% (by weight). The

suspension is stored in pools that are stirred continuously. The slurry is pumped into the spray dryer,

where it is pulverized to produce fine drops, which, on contact with hot air, yield a solid granulate

product with low water content (5%-6 % by weight). The drying gases come from a burner or a

cogeneration system.

125 This method is used in the vast majority of ceramic facilities, due to the properties of the granulates

obtained: good particle and granule size distribution, shape and flowability.

The energy cost of this drying process is very high, but it is possible to increase profitability by

harnessing the heat from gas and electricity generation by implementing cogeneration turbines (Monfort

et al., 2014). Table 1 shows the water consumption (in cubic metres of water per Mg of dried solid),

130 electrical and thermal energy consumption (in kWh per Mg of dried solid), and direct CO2 emissions

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from natural gas combustion (in kg de CO2 per Mg of dried solid) used in the preparation of the raw

materials by the wet process. Consumption and emissions data are calculated based on the literature

(Mezquita et al., 2009; Monfort et al., 2010; Nassetti et al., 1999) on raw materials preparation using the

existing wet process (i.e. raw material wet milling and spray-drying).

Wet process Consumption


Water consumption 0.47-0.59 m3/Mg d.s.a
Electrical energy consumption 50-54 kWh/Mg d.s.
Thermal energy consumption (in HHVb) 442-462 kWh/Mg d.s.
CO2 direct emissionsc 80-84 kg CO2 /Mg d.s.
135 Table 1. Water, energy consumptions and CO2 emissions in the raw preparation by the wet method. (a) d.s.:
dried solid (b) HHV: Higher Heating Value (c) Emission factor for natural gas: 0.202 kg CO2/kWh (IPCC,
2006)

Spray-drying facilities in the EU are affected by the EU-ETS, but are eligible for some free

140 allowances for some of the process. Most spray drying facilities are linked to cogeneration systems and

the CO2 emissions related to electricity production are not included in the free allowances received by

companies, which obliges the facilities to purchase them.

3 New methodology to prepare the raw materials

145 This study investigates an alternative technology for the ceramic tile body preparation system to

reduce the environmental effects of the ceramic tile manufacturing process (Gil et al., 2012). The

savings are based mainly on lessening water consumption to reduce the length of the raw materials

drying stage. One of the processes being studied to prepare materials using a dry method consist of use

of a pendulum mill and subsequent granulation (to obtain granules with similar flowability to that

150 obtained using the wet method).

Figure 3 depicts raw materials preparation by the most popular current dry method.

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Pendulum
mill

Mixing granulator

Screen
Dryer

Extra-granulate
Silos

Granutate
Standarization for the press
Figure 3. Raw materials preparation by dry route (ITC own elaboration)

155 Table 2 shows the water consumption, electrical and thermal energy consumption and direct CO2

emissions (from natural gas combustion) in the dry process. Consumption and emissions data are

calculated based on the literature (Mart et al., 2009; Shu et al., 2011; Varsos et al, 1994) on the existing

dry process for raw materials preparation (i.e. raw materials dry milling and granulation).

Dry process Consumption


Water consumption 0.12-0.16 m3/Mg d.s.a
Electrical energy consumption 31-35 kWh/Mg d.s.
Thermal energy consumption (in HHVb) 88-108 kWh/Mg d.s.
CO2 direct emissionsc 16-20 kg CO2 /Mg d.s.
Table 2. Water, energy consumptions and CO2 emissions in the raw preparation by dry method. (a) d.s.:
160 dried solid (b) HHV: Higher Heating Value (c) Emission factor for natural gas: 0.202 kg CO2/kWh (IPCC,
2006)

Table 3 provides a comparison of the energy and water consumption, and CO2 emissions for the

two methods.

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Process Difference
Parameters
Wet (W) Dry (D) (W-D)/W (%)
Water consumption (m3/Mg d.s.) 0.47-0.59 0.12-0.16 74%
Electrical energy consumption (kWh/Mg d.s.) 50-54 31-35 36%
Thermal energy consumption (kWh/Mg d.s.) 442-462 88-108
78%
CO2 direct emissions (kg CO2 /Mg d.s.) 80-84 16-20
165 Table 3. Comparison between dry and wet method.

In the dry method, water consumption is significantly reduced (by 74%), since it negates the need

to prepare a slurry (which on average consists of 35% water); in the dry method, the water is consumed

to increase the moisture content of the milled raw material in the granulation process up to 12-16 %.

170 Linked directly to this reduced water consumption is reduced demand for thermal energy to dry the

suspension. The new dry process includes a drying stage to reduce the water content from an initial

value of around 13% to 6%, compared with the spray dryer stage which is used to reduce the water

content by some 30%. This results in a 78% reduction in thermal energy consumption.

Direct CO2 emissions are lower from the dry method compared to the wet method, due to the

175 reduction in thermal energy obtained from natural gas combustion. There are significant differences also

in electrical energy consumption (36% lower in the dry method).

Thus, in the context of sustainability and considering the raw material preparation isolated, the dry

route for the preparation of raw materials seems to offer clear environmental advantages. However, the

wet method is the most popular because of the better technical properties of the final granulate obtained

180 (Melchiades et al., 2010; Sampaio et al., 2007).

Also, in the wet method, the wastewater from the ceramic tile manufacturing process can readily be

recycled for use in the preparation of the slurry, which reduces the consumption of fresh water and the

environmental impact of the process overall. Finally, the wet method allows implementation of

cogeneration systems, facilitating the generation of electricity and reducing companies dependence on

185 the electricity grid.

Although the technology for dry preparation of raw materials (pendulum mills and granulators) has

improved, the granulates obtained are denser and less deformable than spray-dried powders (Gil et al.,

2012), which makes production of very low porosity products more difficult. New developments will be

required to produce a comparable product (Shu et al., 2012a, 2012b).

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190 However, the economic gains for companies with cogeneration systems depend on the regulation

related to cogeneration systems. For instance, in Spain, this regulation has changed considerably in the

last years, and has significantly reduced the economic benefits accessible to companies with

cogeneration systems.

In this context of environmental constraints and technological developments, the dry method could

195 be an interesting option to reduce the environmental impacts of the ceramic manufacturing process.

Nevertheless, the type of final product and the quality criteria will be the parameters that will determine

which method is more appropriate.

4 Conclusions

200 This paper provides a technical and environmental comparison of the dry and wet routes to the

preparation of the raw materials for ceramic tile manufacturing. It is based on current technical

knowledge, in order to shed light on the potential convenience of using the dry route to produce high

quality ceramic tiles.

Despite the wet route using more energy and water, resulting in higher economic and

205 environmental costs, since the 1990s it has been the most widespread technology to prepare the body

raw materials, due to the high quality of the final granulate obtained. However, the growing awareness

of environmental impacts and stricter energy policy and environmental legislation are changing this

situation. New developments in dry milling and granulation systems are in use, successfully, in other

countries, such as Brazil, and are forcing a reconsideration of the production process. We highlighted

210 the significant reductions enabled by use of the dry route. In particular, water consumption is reduced by

74%; and thermal energy consumption and CO2 emissions are reduced by 78%, while electricity

consumption is reduced by 36%.

From a sustainability perspective, the dry route to prepare raw materials for the ceramic tile

process would seem to reduce the environmental impacts of the ceramic manufacturing process and the

215 economic costs involved in the consumption of energy and water. However, the properties of the

granulates obtained by the wet and dry methods are not equal; the most appropriate method will be the

one which leads to the desired technical and aesthetic properties in the final product.

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To sum up, the available information indicates that the dry route is not sufficiently well developed

for the production of all the required products, but the environmental results suggest that the dry route is

220 more sustainable. Therefore, more technical work is needed on the implementation of the dry route in a

wider variety of products with high quality standards, and life cycle research is also needed to assess the

magnitude of the environmental advantages over the products life.

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