Production underway at FCKS cement plant in Angola
Paul Dreyer looks back at the commissioning of the new Angolan cement production plant Fabrica de Cimento Do Kwanza-Sul S.A. (FCKS) with satisfaction. It was a difficult project with many obstacles, but despite the difficulties, we managed to commission the cement plant in the best possible way,” says the FCKS technical administrator. “From the crushers to the raw mill to the kiln and packaging plant, we managed to commission, start up and conduct successful performance tests the first try every time. Nothing failed; all key equipment behaved as it should. I have not experienced this before and it was beyond our expectations.”
The commissioning was all the more impressive considering the plant’s unique challenges. FCKS is located in a remote area near the town of Sumbe in the Kwanza Sul province, about 300 km south of Angola’s capital, Luanda. Even though Angola has vast mineral resources and a fast-growing economy, its cement industry is underdeveloped and the country possesses very limited specialist cement expertise. As one of Angola’s newest and most modern cement plants, FCKS represents a significant step in the development of the country’s growing cement industry. “That is why it was important to work with a reputable, experienced partner. This is how we saw FLSmidth,” says Paul Dreyer.
To complete the plant FCKS entered into an EPC contract with ETA Star International from Dubai. FLSmidth supplied all the design and all mechanical, electrical and automation equipment for the cement plant.
Knowledge transfer for sustainable operations
FCKS has chosen to continue its close relationship with FLSmidth Group through an operation and maintenance (O&M) contract over the next five years. The contract sees NLSupervision – part of the FLSmidth Group employing all the necessary plant operators and maintenance personnel. It also includes sourcing and inventory control of cement spare parts and lubricants. The plant is run by the local recruitment and training divison with local personnel under the supervision of key NLSupervision staff – backed by the knowledge center of FLSmidth Group.
Paul Dreyer explains the reasons for outsourcing O&M: “Since the level of expertise and resources in the cement industry in Angola is still very limited, and because FCKS is relatively new to the cement industry, it makes sense to be assisted by people who are highly experienced in cement plant operations.
It brings us a lot of benefits for FLSmidth Group to operate and maintain the plant, not just because we have FLSmidth equipment, but also because they can easily source spare parts and provide the right technical support.”
All equipment knowledge and many of the supervisors involved with the plant’s construction and commissioning have now moved into the O&M team. Simon Lindberg, Project Manager says, “This will bring valuable experience and knowledge to the O&M team, which ensures the plant can continue full production during the transition period from commissioning to handover to O&M.”
But Paul Dreyer observes that even the most experienced O&M teams can run into challenges, particularly in a developing nation such as Angola. “There are hiccups with any new plant and it has taken time for the operations and maintenance team to find its feet, but the issues are being ironed out and we can see improvements daily. One key issue was the need for a huge expatriate workforce in the beginning. As a foreign company in Angola, it takes time and is not easy to recruit the right workforce and then build and manage a cohesive team.”
He adds: “My experience with FLSmidth is that they do not walk away from or try to hide a problem. In the event that an equipment problem arises, they take responsibility for rectifying it. This is a strong quality and is obviously part of the FLSmidth culture.”
In addition to operating the plant, the transfer of knowledge in efficient and cost-effective production methods to the local workforce is an equally important part of the O&M agreement and a central reason for FCKS continuing to working with FLSmidth. In collaboration with the Angolan educational authorities, NLSupervision is setting up a training centre where courses will be offered in mechanical, electrical, process and safety skills.
Paul Dreyer says, “FLSmidth’s training division is very strong and we want to benefit from that as much as possible so we can become sufficiently skilled in cement plant operations. The ability to train our nationals is just as important as the production goals.”
The training centre will be operated by NLS Supervision, Angola, and helps to qualify local workers not only for the cement plant at Sumbe, but also more generally for the industrial environment of any state-of-the-art, modern plant. This involvement in the local community is a significant contribution to the development of the Angolan nation and is an example of both FCKS’ and FLSmidth Group’s commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility.
When the agreement for the 4,200 tpa plant was signed in 2008, FLSmidth’s project scope was the engineering, and the design and supply of all mechanical, electrical and automation equipment. All the machinery, from crushers to kiln and mill to packers, including automated control systems, were designed and supplied by FLSmidth to ETA Star International LLC of Dubai, who was responsible for the plant’s construction.
“The reputation and quality of FLSmidth’s equipment was a key factor in FCKS’ decision,” explains Paul Dreyer, emphasising the specialist skills FLSmidth brought to the project. Simon Lindberg, Project Manager discusses the challenges of working in a remote location: “The site is located about 30km away from the nearest large town, Sumbe, in an area with no existing facilities. There were many different parties involved and everyone lived in a compound just beside the plant. It was essential that the different teams could function well together and to help make this happen, recreational facilities, an organised office and a camp area was established.”
It was a complex project lasting from 2009 to 2013. Completing the plant successfully required a lot of hard work, dedication and good communication by all parties. “We managed to overcome the challenges through numerous design meetings, close cooperation, and the expertise and experience of many solution-oriented people, working together as a team. We felt like we were one big family that had been through a lot together”, says Simon Lindberg.
Paul Dreyer believes the contribution from the FLSmidth team was a key factor: “The coorporation with FLSmidth and ETA played a huge role in the success of the commissioning and start-up of the plant, during which everything went to schedule.”
"It brings us a lot of benefits for FLSmidth Group to operate and maintain the plant, not just because we have FLSmidth equipment, but also because they can easily source spare parts and provide the right technical support.” - Paul Dreyer, Technical Adminstrator, FCKS