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Report - Lafarge Blue Circle Cement, Westbury - 30/05/2010

Discussion in 'Industrial Sites' started by clebby, May 31, 2010.

  1. clebby

    clebby ( . Y . )
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    Lafarge Blue Circle Cement Works, Westbury

    Mmmmmm, cement.

    Cement is one of the oldest building materials in the world. It has been utilised in one form or another for over 2,600 years. The Egyptians used a mixture of clay, lime sand and water in some of their ancient constructions, and the Romans added volcanic soil from the Pozzuoli Region which allowed it to set underwater. However it was not until 1817 that cement as we know it today was discovered by French Engineer Louis Vicat, who managed to develop a setting and binding mixture and blah blah BLAH.

    We don't really give a crap about that do we ? All we're interested in are the rotting industrial beasts left behind when cement isn't being made anymore. :gay

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    And Westbury certainly has a very fine specimen when it comes to that!

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    I guess there's some anoraks out there who might be interested to know the history of the Westbury Cement Works (and a clebby report wouldn't be complete without one) so this is for you.

    :rolleyes:

    Blue Circle opened the cement works in Westbury in 1962, as it was in close proximity to the necessary raw materials (clay, chalk etc), it had excellent road and rail access and there was a large and committed workforce nearby. The works originally only had one kiln, but demand soon rose and a second one was added in 1965. By the early 1990s, the factory was very outdated, so Blue Circle spent £21 million building a central control building (which is sadly sealed) and improving safety, efficiency and making the plant more environmentally friendly.

    In January 2001, Blue Circle merged with French materials group Lafarge in a deal worth £3.1 billion. The group became the largest cement manufacturer in the world. However, in September 2008 Lafarge axed 65 jobs at the Westbury works due to the increasing operational costs of the plant, and the downturn in the building market. The plant made the news again in December that year, when it had to recall 2,500 tonnes of cement due to high levels of Chromium VI, which causes skin inflammation and has been linked to dermatitis.

    On February 5th, 2009, Lafarge announced it was going to mothball the works in April of the same year. The site is still being used as a distribution centre, but the kilns have been shut down and quarrying operations suspended. An advantage of it being mothballed as opposed to outright closed is that it is utterly intact. The lights are still on, some control panels are lit up and it looks like it could fire up at the push of a button. Lush. :cool:

    I don't know much about the cement making process but in true clebby style I'm going to try my best to explain the different parts, starting at the plants large clay quarry. This is one of the reasons it was located here; it sits on a huge clay deposit. In the 1990s, a fossilised Jurassic Pilosaur was found here in the quarry and excavated by Bristol University and Bristol Museum.

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    ImmortalOwl was telling me how he had recently written an article for the newspaper about the dangers of playing in quarries, and here we were, playing in a quarry! :p

    Once the different raw materials had been gathered, they were crushed separately in the crushing mill to chunks about 1.5 inches in size. We didn't visit the crushing mill, but once crushed they were transported by conveyor to the prehomogenization building, which is basically a huuuuge hangar-like building where the different raw materials would be piled up before mixing. It's an amazing space. The roof must be 20m high - you can't really get an idea of size from my pictures.

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    You can what kind of size the crushed chalk was in this picture:

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    This place is like one great big playground! ^_^

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    Anyway, the raw materials would be taken up out of the prehomogenization building by a giant screw, and transported by conveyor to the raw material mill, where the correct proportions of different materials would be mixed. (No photos of this - revisit needed me thinks!) The mix would then be whisked across the site and loaded into some huge silos, for the calcination process. Talk to any explorer about cement, and the first thing they'll think of is those huge rotary kilns. Calcination is where the rotary kilns come into play. And ooooh la la, they're so epic they could make even the biggest industry hater squeal with joy! :gay

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    The rotary kilns are vast - probably 150m long each, and at a 3 degree angle meaning it's a very tall building. The raw material would be fed into the upper end of each kiln here: (This is the No.1 Rotary, most of my pics are from No.2 because the colours were prettier. :rolleyes:)

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    Then, as the kiln spun, the raw material would have travelled down the tube, where it would be heated at 1,400 degrees C and transformed into clinker: small, dark grey nodules about 1.5 inches in diameter.

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    Hopefully this will give you some idea of the size - bear in mind I'm jumping in the air with glee in this pic!

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    The lower end of the kiln was the hottest end, where the burner blasted hot up the kiln. At this end, there are some massive exhausters on the kiln that would have recycled the heat from the now finished clinker, in an attempt to save energy and lower costs:

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    The clinker would then fall out of the kiln into a cooling chamber, where more heat would be recycled. Above the chamber is a complex tangle of pipes, fans and blowers.

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    The No.2 Hot Air Blaster is still connected to the kiln, unlike the No.1 Blaster. It's a lot bigger than this picture makes it look.

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    And the exhaust gases would drift back up the kiln to the top. I can only imagine the gases were pretty noxious. Because the chimney needed to vent them is stupendous.

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    Il est énorme!

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    More pictures below.

     
    #1 clebby, May 31, 2010
    Last edited: May 31, 2010

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  2. clebby

    clebby ( . Y . )
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    Once the clinker had cooled, it would be taken by conveyor (lights on ftw):

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    To the Cement Mill. This is where cement as we know it , aka a fine powder, is formed. The conveyor in the above photo is rising up to a hopper. The clinker (which can be seen on the conveyor) would then be fed from the bottom of the hopper into some huge steel drums:

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    There's four in total - two for each totary kiln. Inside these drums, there are two sections - one with lots of fairly large steel balls for grinding the clinker down, and the other with thousands of tiny steel balls that would refine it. The entire drum would spin, and the rolling movement of the balls would grind the clinker into a powder so fine it could easily pass through a mesh that can hold water.

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    Gypsum was also added in the Cement Mill, which extended the cement's setting time.

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    Each of the four drums was powered by it's own huge motor. The control panels were still illuminated, so it looked like they could be fired up at the touch of a button.

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    The powder then went off to be packaged and bagged. We didn't see the packaging plant itself... revisit ?

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    The Cement Mill also had it's own control room, which was a bit of a bonus. The lights were on in here too, but remember they've been burning away non-stop since February of last year, so they're a bit knackered. Enjoy your electricity bill Lafarge! :p

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    We climbed the silos, by a very steep staircase, but it was quite hard to photograph up there. I got one nice one though:

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    The views were pretty stunning though.

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    Ooooft that's a nice chimney!

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    And finally, a cheeky shot of the Westbury White Horse:

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    What. A. Place.

    Get down there ASAP. It's huge, epic, intact, unchavved and to top it all off it's practically a walk in.

    Big thanks has to go to ImmortalOwl for driving, and Collingwood for the intel. Couldn't have done it without you mate.

    (Well, that's a lie, we'd have found the access no trouble, but it's nice to be polite. :p)

    G.

     
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