MAGNIFICENT MILL

Montreal-based McInnis Cement began portland cement clinker production and finishing at its eastern Quebec mill last month, triggering what will likely be a two-year ramp up to annual capacity exceeding 2 million metric tons (mt)—much delivered to concrete producers in Great Lakes, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic markets.

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Shown here from the south (cement and kiln fuel terminal foreground), McInnis Cement’s Port-Daniel – Gascons plant is poised to be the greenest operation of its kind in North America, with hydroelectric power, high Btu fuels, high efficiency pre-heater and other advanced equipment lowering net carbon dioxide emissions per metric ton of output. AERIAL PHOTO: WG Productions, New Richmond, Quebec, for McInnis Cement

“This milestone marks the work of hundreds of employees, workers and partners who have helped make our plant a model for the cement industry, both in terms of performance and environment,” said McInnis President and CEO Hervé Mallet, noting that early cement deliveries are set to begin shortly.

Along with the initial cement output at the Port-Daniel – Gascons operation, where headcount has reached 100, McInnis has established a rail car fleet to serve Canadian and U.S. customers; sited two Canadian and two U.S. terminals along St. Lawrence Seaway and Atlantic Ocean routes; and, staffed Montreal (main and Canadian headquarters) and Stamford, Conn., (U.S. headquarters) offices with 10 sales and technical team members assigned to six territories.

As a $1.5 billion greenfield project, the Port-Daniel – Gascons plant is the boldest North American cement capacity undertaking this decade and the first centered on Great Lakes and Northeast markets in generations. Approaching the 2014 groundbreaking at its remote site along the Gulf of St. Lawrence, McInnis Cement underscored a telling metric: Nearly 25 million short tons of capacity within a geographic area serving such population centers as Montreal, Toronto, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Cleveland is at least 50 years old.

Since the 1960s or before, the industry has seen few if any players akin to McInnis Cement: A genuine start up with rich limestone deposit along a deep waterway, but otherwise blank sheet to map strategies around entrenched incumbents and their plant and terminal networks.

The Great Lakes, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic markets on the McInnis Cement radar embody upwards of one-third and one-half the U.S. and Canada population. The supply chains for concrete producers and other cement customers in those markets have shifted over the past five years, due especially to developments pre-dating and following the Port-Daniel – Gascons groundbreaking: Cement capacity constraints tied to recession-driven idling or plant retirement ahead of lower emissions thresholds in the Environmental Protection Agency NESHAP rule, effective September 2015; and, the 2015-2016 mergers of Lafarge Group-Holcim Ltd. and HeidelbergCement AG-Italcementi SpA, which have rippled through four Canadian and U.S. subsidiaries, each with Northeast, Mid-Atlantic or Eastern Canada market stakes.

PRODUCTION

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SILO, TERMINAL PHOTOS: Concrete Products
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The remotely located, export-driven plant is nearing commercial deliveries as U.S. clinker capacity stands at 103.3 million mt and consumption approaches 98 million mt, based on the Portland Cement Association figures for 2017. Cement is transferred from the four 30,000-mt silos to the marine terminal loadout through the fully enclosed conveyor on the right; kiln fuel and additives are transferred from vessels to warehouses through the conveyor on the left.

“The Port-Daniel – Gascons plant will place us at the industry’s forefront by redefining the way cement is made, and taking a greener approach to the process to reduce the environmental impact for each ton produced and delivered,” affirms McInnis Vice President, Marketing and Sales, USA, Tony Sneska.

The operation lies on an 850-acre site in a region of timber, farming and fishing. Across 90 acres, it encompasses a quarry with primary and secondary crushers processing limestone from a deposit with decades of reserves assuming annual extraction of more than 3 million-mt; crushed, graded stone and other raw feed mills, storage and transfer equipment for relay to pre-heater and 250-mt per hour kiln; fuel storage and kiln transfer equipment; two vertical clinker mills and three 40,000-mt clinker silos; four 30,000-mt cement silos; plus, conveyors for marine terminal and rail or truck load out. The plant equipment is state of the art technology.

An administration building at Port-Daniel – Gascons houses offices, along with one concrete and two cement labs. Each of the latter has completed audits by the Cement and Concrete Reference Laboratory, a joint program of ASTM International Committees C01 and C09, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Portland Cement Association. The concrete lab equips McInnis Cement to test and validate mix designs from producers or contractors throughout the Great Lakes, Maritimes and Northeast regions, and is an integral part of the quality control process.

X-ray diffraction and other cement lab equipment supports rapid testing of the quarry’s limestone to ensure consistency of raw kiln feed. Optimizing those materials, coupled with real-time adjustments triggered by the use of in-line raw feed and clinker monitoring technology, nets finished cement with high tricalcium silicate and limited lime contents, and low alkali levels (< 0.85 percent). These characteristics translate into higher performing, more consistent cement for customers. Port-Daniel – Gascons production will center on Type I/II low and moderate alkali and Type III cements.

McInnis Cement has served as its own general contractor throughout the 2014-2017 plant construction phase, and let nearly 150 site and quarry preparation, foundation, building, plant and terminal equipment contracts—ultimately representing 3.8 million man hours on site. Foundation, column and silo contractors placed more than 60,000 cubic meters of concrete over the three-year window.

LOGISTICS & DISTRIBUTION

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Viewed from the east, above the quarry, the operation exhibits the raw material to finished cement chain (from right): primary and second crushers linked to raw feed mills and warehouse; pre-heater, kiln, clinker silos, finish mill and cement silos. A-frame warehouses (center, foreground) store kiln fuel and raw feed. AERIAL PHOTO: WG Productions, New Richmond, Quebec, for McInnis Cement
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A plant in Quebec’s fishing and farming-heavy Gaspé region positions McInnis Cement to supply company or customer terminals from Lake Michigan to the Chesapeake Bay in one to four days. Key to the producer’s capacity to deliver large volumes of powder are the 240,000 mt of clinker and cement storage capacity along the Gulf of St. Lawrence shoreline, and a deep-water marine terminal equipped to load 5,000- to 60,000-mt vessels at up to 20,000 mt per day. McInnis will have its own ocean and rail fleets, starting with the NACC Quebec, a ship converted from bulk to pneumatic vessel, and new TrinityRail pressure differential cars.

NACC Quebec will initially serve company terminals in Ontario and Quebec; additional bulk vessels will be assigned to Rhode Island and New York City sites. Joining the charter distribution facilities will be other terminals now in the planning or permitting phase, each within Atlantic coast reach, plus a series of rail-served, satellite properties for inland markets.

All terminals are being developed to expedite cement orders and help curtail tanker truck traffic in population centers large and small—a compelling message for local officials and other stakeholders involved in permitting. Nowhere is this more evident than the Bronx, N.Y., where McInnis Cement is building a 75,000-sq.-ft. warehouse with 43,000 mt storage; three load out silos with two stations; and, equipment providing 24/7 operation, key to concrete producers and contract haulers aiming to time powder delivery when streets and thoroughfares travel best. The terminal is rising on a brownfield whose redevelopment dovetails work on the adjacent South Bronx Greenway, which is part of a New York City master plan to provide pedestrian access to New York Harbor waterfronts long off limits due to industrial sites or transportation thoroughfares.

Bronx site preparation began earlier this year, months after work had commenced at the Port of Providence on the inaugural U.S. cement terminal. Scaled for 30,000 mt of cement storage, the $22 million PortProv facility will have a truck and rail station equal to loading 100 tankers and 10 railcars daily, enabling McInnis Cement to reach much of the New England market. A barge-mounted pneumatic unloader will shuttle between the Rhode Island and Bronx terminals, timed with deliveries from bulkers.

Rhode Island and New York City site construction is running in tandem with work on a 36,000-mt Ste. Catherine terminal serving Montreal, western Quebec, and eastern Ontario, and equipped for rail and truck loading. A Toronto market oriented terminal in Oshawa, Ontario, is being developed at a former industrial port operation; two existing domes are being upgraded with a cement transfer system and will combine for 15,000 mt of storage.

McInnis Cement officials anticipate the Ste. Catherine, Rhode Island and Oshawa terminals to begin operation later this summer, followed by the Bronx facility in 2018. The marine terminal at home base will be set for initial dispatches down the St. Lawrence and Atlantic thanks to Port-Daniel – Gascons staff meeting or surpassing clinker production and cement finishing target volumes in the first two months of kiln and vertical mill operation.

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WAREHOUSE, KILN, LAB PHOTOS: Concrete Products
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Alongside two cement labs in the administration building (forward the kiln) is a full-bore concrete lab, capable of validating mix designs based on McInnis Type I/II low or moderate alkali and Type III cements plus aggregates from Great Lakes, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.
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Graded limestone plus silica, alumina and iron materials exit the pre-heater tower at 300°C after 10 minutes, entering the 17-ft. diameter, 246-ft. long kiln, (shown above from the west) for a 20-minute residence time at 1,000°C. Partially cooled clinker then travels to one of the three 40,000-tonne silos.