Energy Efficiency in Saudi Cement Industry

Saudi Arabia is the largest construction market in the Middle East, with large development projects under way and many more in the planning stage. The cement industry in Saudi Arabia is evolving rapidly and annual clinker production was 75 million tonnes in 2018.

The cement industry is one of the highest energy-intensive industries in the world, with fuel and energy costs typically representing 30-40% of total production costs. On an average, the specific electrical energy consumption typically ranges between 90 and 130 kWh per tonne of cement. Keeping in view the huge energy demand of the cement industry, the Saudi Arabian government has been making efforts to reduce the energy consumption in the country towards a more sustainable one.

Energy Demand in Cement Production

The theoretical fuel energy demand for cement clinker production is determined by the energy required for the chemical/mineralogical reactions (1,700 to 1,800 MJ/tonne clinker) and the thermal energy needed for raw material drying and pre-heating. Modern cement plants which were built within the last decade have low energy consumption compared to older plants.  The actual fuel energy use for different kiln systems is in the following ranges (MJ/tonne clinker):

  • 3,000 – 3,800 for dry process, multi-stage (3 – 6 stages) cyclone preheater and precalcining kilns,
  • 3,100 – 4,200 for dry process rotary kilns equipped with cyclone preheaters,
  • 3,300 – 4,500 for semi-dry/semi-wet processes (e.g. Lepol-kilns),
  • Up to 5,000 for dry process long kilns,
  • 5,000 – 6,000 for wet process long kilns and
  • 3,100–6,500 for shaft kilns.

Energy Efficiency in Cement Industry

With new built, state-of-the-art cement plants, usually all technical measures seem to be implemented towards low energy consumption. So, how to reduce it further? Energy efficiency is based on the following three pillars

  • Technical optimization
  • Alternative raw materials for cement and clinker production
  • Alternative fuels

In Europe, the new energy efficiency directive from 2011 intends to reduce the energy consumption of the overall industry by 20%, achieving savings of 200 billion Euros at the energy bill and with the goal to create 2 million new jobs within Europe. This approach will have a significant influence also on the cement industry. Saving 20% of the energy consumption is a challenging goal, especially for plants with state-of-the-art technology.

In older plants modernization in the fields of grinding, process control and process prediction can, if properly planned and installed, reduce the electricity consumption – sometimes in a two digit number.

Alternative Fuels

Alternative fuels, such as waste-derived fuels or RDF, bear further energy saving potential. The substitution of fossil fuel by alternative sources of energy is common practice in the European cement industry.The German cement industry, for example, substitutes approximately 61% of their fossil fuel demand. The European cement industry reaches an overall substitution rate of at least ca. 20%.

Reduction of clinker portion can be an attractive route to reduce energy consumption in cement industry

Typical “alternative fuels” available in Saudi Arabia are municipal solid wastes, agro-industrial wastes, industrial wastes and some amount of crop residues. To use alternative or waste-derived fuels, such as municipal solid wastes, dried sewage sludge, drilling wastes etc., a regulatory base has to be developed which sets

  • Types of wastes/alternative fuels,
  • Standards for the production of waste-derived fuels,
  • Emission standards and control mechanism while using alternative fuels and
  • Standards for permitting procedures.

Alternative Raw Materials

The reduction of clinker portion in cement affords another route to reduce energy consumption. In particular, granulated blast furnace slags or even limestone have proven themselves as substitutes in cement production, thus reducing the overall energy consumption.

To force the use of alternative raw materials within the cement industry, also – and again –standards have to be set, where

  • Types of wastes, by-products and other secondary raw materials are defined,
  • Standards for the substitution are set,
  • Guidelines for processing are developed,
  • Control mechanisms are defined.


To reduce the energy consumption, an energy efficiency program, focusing on “production-related energy efficiency” has to be developed. Substantial potential for energy efficiency improvement exists in the cement industry and in individual plants.

A portion of this potential will be achieved as part of (natural) modernization and expansion of existing facilities, as well as construction of new plants in particular regions. Still, a relatively large potential for improved energy management practices exists and can be exhausted by determined approaches.

About Dirk Lechtenberg

Dirk Lechtenberg is a pioneer in the production and use of alternative fuels. He is the founder and Managing Director of the consulting company MVW Lechtenberg & Partner (Germany). He is the recipient of the Global Fuel award 2012 by the Cement & Lime Magazine.
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6 Responses to Energy Efficiency in Saudi Cement Industry

  1. Peter Leewis says:

    Looking at the environmental footprint of cement production I find it surprising that cement producers world wide have not picked up on the possibility to improve their image by investing in the production of cement applications that are sustainable and green. It takes just a fraction of their daily production but boosts puplic acceptance and provides building materials that are very suitable for well insulated and thus energy saving housing.
    For hot climates like in the Middle East prefab walls with an R-value of 7,9 are possibel at relative low cost to produce. They also reduce the need for air conditionang substantially. In less warm climates the same cement based materials enable construction of passive buildings.
    The material? Wood Wool Cement which is 2/3 Portland cement and 1/3 industrail grown wood.
    Certainly a material that gives synergy to th good quality of cementand wood and is in fact a Cradle to Cradle material as, when returned to the cement producer after a life cycle of several hundred years, the wood burns and saves fossil fuel while the pure cement falls back to components that react to water again, reducing the need for quarried materials and less CO2 emission. During the lifetime the combined wood and cement material is a CO2 container that can be recycled endlesly.

  2. Mohamed Saad Abouel Magd says:

    GBFS is a waste and side product of Iron & Steel industry, as an alternative raw materials to produce cementious materials: GGBFS (Ground Granulated Blast Furnace Slag) considered as a best alternative of cement, this substitution is not only saving fuel and electric energy as well as reducing CO2 emission but as well saving natural resources and give as a finish product better characteristics in long term compared with OPC cement

  3. Pingback: Energy Efficiency Perspectives for Saudi Cement Industry « Cleantech Solutions

  4. Rashid Jamal says:

    Dear Experts,
    Another interesting thing is calcium fluoride (Mineralizer) for reducing clinker production temperature. With the use of 0.5%CaF2 C3S formation at low temperatures even at 1250c is reported resulting in saving fossil feul.

  5. Pingback: Drilling Waste Management and Cement Industry | EcoMENA

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