The Portland Cement Association (PCA) recently awarded two Lafarge North America facilities with innovation awards. The Paulding Cement Plant, in Paulding, Ohio, won PCA’s 2014 Cement Industry Energy & Environment Award for Innovation, while the Cave in Rock Quarry, located in Cave in Rock, Ill., won PCA’s 2014 Safety Innovation Award.

“A hearty congratulations to the Paulding Plant and the Cave in Rock Quarry on their respective PCA awards,” said Lafarge U.S. President and CEO John Stull. “These achievements are especially gratifying because they reflect the innovative thinking that drives Lafarge, from our product research and development teams to the employees who work hard to produce our building materials every day.”

The Paulding Plant pioneered a briquetting process to optimize the recycling of cement kiln dust (CKD) back into the cement making process. “We had been returning CKD in its native powder form to the kilns for many years,” said Paulding Senior Environmental Manager Tim Weible. “But it was common for the dust to float around inside the kiln as opposed to staying in the kiln feed bed.”

To resolve this problem, the Paulding leadership team came up with the innovative idea of creating CKD briquettes, after the fashion of charcoal briquettes used for grilling. After an initial and successful trial period, the plant invested approximately $600,000 to install a large briquetting machine and feed system.

“Today Paulding has the potential to return about 16,000 tons of CKD to the hood of the kilns as raw material, increasing our clinker production and improving kiln performance,” said Weible. “We’ve also decreased our specific heat consumption and use of chlorinated grinding aid accelerator, as well as reduced the amount of CKD we send to the landfill, and associated haul truck hours and fuel use.”

With a yearly savings of $1 million, Paulding’s CKD briquetting project payback period was less than eight months. The project supports Lafarge’s corporate-wide goal to recycle or reuse all of our CKD, and its ongoing commitment to sustainability.

To the west of Paulding, in Cave in Rock, Ill., employees came up with a safer way to service the jaw crusher hopper. Used for crushing quarried rocks, the crusher hopper requires periodic maintenance and repairs. Climbing in and out of the hopper on extension ladders while carrying the necessary tools presents both a physical challenge and a potential safety risk. By repurposing equipment and materials found on site, Cave in Rock employees built a movable staircase, complete with handrails, to facilitate access to and egress from the hopper.

“This seems like a simple solution, but it hasn’t been done here at Cave in Rock before,” said Health & Safety Coordinator for Lafarge U.S. West Cement Trent Hesselschwardt. “And this is just one example of how the group here thinks outside the box to find ways to improve processes and make things safer.”

The staircase solution is safer in more ways than one, since in addition to providing a handhold, it also creates a clear visual that alerts others working in the area that someone is in the hopper, and to steer clear.

“The PCA award is well deserved recognition for the group at Cave in Rock Quarry,” adds Hesselschwardt. “This is a great example of innovative thinking, where form and function create an opportunity to do our jobs more safely. And the opportunity to share this idea with others is equally satisfying.”

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