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Audit Procedures for Cement Production Tax

Revised 12/2005


Chapter 1 – Introduction to Cement Production


HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The term cement is commonly used to refer to powdered materials which develop strong adhesive qualities when combined with water. These materials are more properly known as hydraulic cements. Gypsum plaster, common lime, hydraulic limes, natural pozzolana, and Portland cements are the more common hydraulic cements, with Portland cement being the most important in construction.

Cement was first invented by the Egyptians. Cement was later reinvented by the Greeks and the Babylonians who made their mortar out of lime. Later, the Romans produced cement from pozzolana, an ash found in all of the volcanic areas of Italy, by mixing the ash with lime.

Cement is a fine grayish powder which, when mixed with water, forms a thick paste.  When this paste is mixed with sand and gravel and allowed to dry it is called concrete.

About ninety-nine percent of all cement used today is Portland cement. The name Portland cement is not a brand name. This name was given to the cement by Joseph Aspdin of Leeds, England who obtained a patent for his product in 1824. The concrete made from the cement resembled the color of the natural limestone quarried on the Isle of Portland in the English Channel. The balance of cement used today consists of masonry cement, which is fifty percent Portland cement and fifty percent ground lime rock.

The first cement manufactured in the United States was produced in 1871 by David Saylor of Coplay, Pennsylvania.

There are two types of raw materials which are combined to make cement:

  • Lime-containing materials, such as limestone, marble, oyster shells, marl, chalk, etc.
  • Clay and clay-like materials, such as shale, slag from blast furnaces, bauxite, iron ore, silica, sand, etc.

It takes approximately 3,400 lbs. of raw materials to make one ton (2,000 lbs.) of Portland cement. The mixture of materials is finely ground in a raw mill. The resultant raw mix is burned in a rotary kiln at temperatures around 4482 degrees Celsius to form clinker.  The clinker nodules are then ground with about 3 % gypsum to produce cement with a fineness typically of less than 90 micrometers.


PRODUCTION PROCESSES

The production of cement takes place with several steps:

  • Quarrying of limestone and shale
  • Dredging the ocean floor for shells
  • Digging for clay and marl
  • Grinding
  • Blending of components
  • Fine grinding
  • Burning
  • Finish grinding
  • Packaging and/or shipping

Quarrying, Dredging, and Digging

Quarrying of limestone and shale is accomplished by using explosives to blast the rocks from the ground. After blasting, huge power shovels are used to load dump trucks or small railroad cars for transportation to the cement plant, which is usually nearby.

The ocean floor is dredged to obtain the shells, while clay and marl are dug out of the ground with power shovels. All of the raw materials are transported to the plant.

Grinding

After the raw materials have been transported to the plant, the limestone and shale which have been blasted out of the quarry must be crushed into smaller pieces. Some of the pieces, when blasted out, are quite large. The pieces are then dumped into primary crushers which reduce them to the size of a softball. The pieces are carried by conveyors to secondary crushers which crush the rocks into fragments usually no larger than 3/4 inch across.

Blending

After the rock is crushed, plant chemists analyze the rock and raw materials to determine their mineral content. The chemists also determine the proportions of each raw material to utilize in order to obtain a uniform cement product. The various raw materials are then mixed in proper proportions and prepared for fine grinding.

Fine Grinding

When the raw materials have been blended, they must be ground into a fine powder. This may be done by one of two methods:

  • Wet process, or
  • Dry process

The wet process of fine grinding is the older process, having been used in Europe prior to the manufacture of cement in the United States. This process is used more often when clay and marl, which are very moist, are included in the composition of the cement. In the wet process, the blended raw materials are moved into ball or tube mills which are cylindrical rotating drums which contain steel balls.  These steel balls grind the raw materials into smaller fragments of up to 200 of an inch. As the grinding is done, water is added until a slurry (thin mud) forms, and the slurry is stored in open tanks where additional mixing is done. Some of the water may be removed from the slurry before it is burned, or the slurry may be sent to the kiln as is and the water evaporated during the burning.

The dry process of fine grinding is accomplished with a similar set of ball or tube mills; however, water is not added during the grinding. The dry materials are stored in silos where additional mixing and blending may be done.

Burning

Burning the blended materials is the key in the process of making cement. The wet or dry mix is fed into the kiln, which is one of the largest pieces of moving machinery in the industry. It is generally twelve feet or more in diameter and 500 feet or more in length, made of steel and lined with firebrick. It revolves on large roller bearings and is gradually slanted with the intake end higher than the output end.

As the kiln revolves, the materials roll and slide downward for approximately four hours. In the burning zone, where the heat can reach 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the materials become incandescent and change in color from purple to violet to orange. Here, the gases are driven from the raw materials, which actually change the properties of the raw materials. What emerges is “clinker” which is round, marble-sized, glass-hard balls which are harder than the quarried rock. The clinker is then fed into a cooler where it is cooled for storage.

Finish Grinding

The cooled clinker is mixed with a small amount of gypsum, which will help regulate the setting time when the cement is mixed with other materials and becomes concrete. Here again there are primary and secondary grinders. The primary grinders leave the clinker , ground to the fineness of sand, and the secondary grinders leave the clinker ground to the fineness of flour, which is the final product ready for marketing.

Packaging/Shipping

The final product is shipped either in bulk (ships, barges, tanker trucks, railroad cars, etc.) or in strong paper bags which are filled by machine. In the United States, one bag of Portland cement contains 94 pounds of cement, and a “barrel” weighs four times that amount, or 376 pounds. In Canada, one bag weighs 87 1/2 pounds and a “barrel” weighs 350 pounds.

Masonry cement bags contain only seventy pounds of cement.

When cement is shipped, the shipping documents may include “sack weights.”  This must be verified by the auditor since only the cement is taxable. “Sack weights” must be excluded.


FLOW CHARTS OF MANUFACTURING PROCESS

The following pages contain flowcharts of the manufacturing process of Portland cement. The first chart represents the process in approximately ninety percent of the plants currently in operation. The second chart represents the process being used in approximately ten percent of the plants currently in operations. However, the second process is the one being adopted for virtually all new cement plants.


Typical Manufacturing Processing Flow Chart

Typical Manufacturing Processing Flow Chart

Newer Manufacturing Process Flow Chart

Newer Manufacturing Processing Flow Chart

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