National Cement begins massive Expansion

A new material storage silo soars high above National Cement’s Ragland, Alabama operation, just one phase of a $250-million modernization project well underway at the company’s longtime production facility. 

The monolithic concrete structure, which topped out in mid-July, stands some 256-feet high and was built using vertical slip form construction. That process, in which concrete is poured into a continuously moving form, required 12 days of round-the-clock ready mix deliveries to complete. Kansas-based contractor Borton LC placed the material.

“The slip-form portion of the project took months of preparation and we went through a variety of mix designs,” says Rick Passey, General Manager, Kirkpatrick Concrete, Central Division. “Given the time of year the pour happened [mid-July 2020], we had a lot of variations in ambient temperatures, and since it was 24-hour a day continual pour, we had to constantly maintain ideal temperatures using ice as well as up to four different admixtures in the concrete.”

Passey notes they used typical water reducers, as well as a product called RECOVER, which is a hydration stabilizer that helps the concrete temperature maintain at a consistent level during transit. In addition, there were several different dosage rates worked with for air entraining based on the time of the day, ambient temperatures, and concrete temperatures.

“It was all hands on deck for this project,” says Passey. “We ran two shifts for drivers, two shifts for production personnel and two shifts for quality control people. It was very intense project that required a lot of planning and was quite a ballet to bring together.”

Foundation Pours

In addition to the slip-form portion of the project, two large foundations pours were made earlier in the year. The first was a mud mat to provide a foundation for a large mat pour. The large mat pour was over 1600 yards placed all at one time. Three different Kirkpatrick plants supplied material for that phase; Gadsden, Pell City and Talladega. Contractors required 150 to 200 cubic yards an hour, which was achievable using the three plants.

Major Investment

The National Cement Company of Alabama, Inc. embarked on the ambitious two-year expansion project to bring a new high-tech kiln line to their southeastern operation earlier this year.

Much of the site work presently underway is to the support massive equipment slated to be installed including a new roller mill, preheater, rotary kiln and clinker cooler. An additional phase will be construction of a new clay crusher and storage operation.

When operational in the first quarter of 2022, company leaders say the new production line will provide the capability to efficiently produce an additional 2-million tons of cement each year. The kiln has been specially designed to operate on 100% alternative fuels, allowing National to provide customers with cement that has an optimized carbon footprint.

Continual Improvements 

Cement has been produced at the rural St. Clair County site since 1910. France-based Vicat SA has made continual updates to the plant since it was first acquired by the group in 1974, but this modernization is the one of the biggest investments in many years.

“We are thrilled to have National Cement continue to invest in our community. They have always been a fantastic corporate citizen that is a great community partner,” Ragland Mayor Richard Bunt said.

In addition to the Ragland plant, National Cement’s southeastern operation includes distribution facilities in metro-Atlanta and South Carolina. The company serves a diverse customer base across Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi and the Florida panhandle.

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