Sales of cement increased by nearly 3% in 2018. The overall value of shipments was nearly $12.7 billion.
Production of portland cement in 2018 in the United States increased slightly to about 85.4 million tons, and output of masonry cement continued to be stagnant at 2.4 million tons. Cement was produced at 98 plants in 34 states, and at two plants in Puerto Rico.
Overall U.S. cement production continued to be well below the record level of 99 million tons reported in 2005, indicating continued full-time idle status at a few plants, underutilized capacity at many others, production disruptions from plant upgrades, plant closures over the interim, and relatively inexpensive imports in some recent years. Sales of cement increased by nearly 3% in 2018. Overall, shipments were 27.8 million tons lower than the record volume set in 2005. The overall value of shipments was nearly $12.7 billion. Most of the sales of cement were to make concrete, worth at least $66 billion.
In recent years, about 70% to 75% of cement sales have been to ready-mixed concrete producers, 8% to 10% to contractors (mainly road paving; much contractor work also involves ready-mixed concrete), about 10% to concrete product manufacturers, and 7% to 10% to other customer types. Texas, California, Missouri, Florida and Alabama were, in descending order of production, the five leading cement-producing states and accounted for nearly 50% of U.S. production.
Cement kiln dust is routinely recycled to the kilns, which also can make use of a variety of waste fuels and recycled raw materials such as slags and fly ash. Various secondary materials can be incorporated as supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs) in blended cements and in the cement paste in concrete. Cement is not directly recycled, but significant quantities of concrete are recycled for use as construction aggregate.
Events, Trends and Issues
Shipments of cement increased by nearly 3% overall in 2018, tempered by stagnant sales of masonry cement. Construction spending increased modestly during the year, largely owing to somewhat higher spending in the residential and public construction sectors; the nonresidential private building sector, however, declined slightly. Cement shipments into parts of the southeast and in Florida were lower than originally expected because of damage from hurricanes in 2017.
In contrast, shipments into Puerto Rico were relatively strong because of reconstruction following devastating hurricanes in 2017. The leading cement-consuming states continued to be Texas, California and Florida, in descending order by tonnage. Production of cement remained well below capacity, in part reflecting both the technical and environmental issues in returning long-idle kilns to full production at some plants, and the ready availability of imported cement in coastal markets.
Company mergers continued in 2018, with the final approval of the sale of a major U.S. cement company to a European cement company (the sales agreement had been announced in 2017). Completion of the sale required the consolidation of the European company’s holdings (two cement plants) in Florida, and the sale by the European company of its newly acquired plant in Montana to a Mexican cement company. A major upgrade to a cement plant in Michigan was completed during the year; minor upgrades were ongoing at a number of other plants in the country.
Apart from increasing production efficiency, these upgrades were expected to improve the ability of individual plants to comply with the stringent emissions limits of the 2010 National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) protocol for cement plants, which went into effect in September 2015.
Many cement plants have installed emissions-reduction technologies to comply with the NESHAP protocol, but it remained unclear if such modifications would be economic for all individual kilns (some being of older technology) at multi-kiln plants. It remained possible that some kilns would be shut down, or used only sparingly, because of the NESHAP limits, and thus constrain U.S. clinker production capacity.
Despite environmental permitting difficulties in recent years reducing the attractiveness of constructing new (greenfield) plants in the United States, a project to construct a greenfield white cement plant in Texas was announced during the year; currently, the United States has only two white cement plants.