MIDLOTHIAN — The Midlothian-based Holcim cement plant has recently adopted new regulation updates to ensure environmental improvements through two of its major units with numbers that look promising.

With regulations set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Midlothian Holcim US Inc. recently upgraded its full-scale Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) unit and Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer (RTO) to cut dangerous emissions.

“Being a leader in the cement industry, we’re not afraid to try new technology,” expressed Dan Carnes, Holcim’s environmental manager of the Midlothian plant. “It was our response to a new federal rule that was put into place specifically on cement plants.”

The combined 28 million dollar projects cover and improve the scale of dangerous emissions when it comes to total hydrocarbons (THC), carbon monoxide (CO), and nitrogen oxide (NOx).

“It’s definitely good because it’s cleaner,” acknowledged Michel Moser, plant manager of the Midlothian location. “We’re talking about a 70 to 75 percent reduction from what we had in 2015. So it’s a huge drop in emissions.”

To put simply, the SCR unit is the equivalent of an industrial-sized version of the catalytic converter in a car, which reduces nitrogen oxide emissions and carbon compounds from cement kilns.

According to TKS Industrial Company, the RTO is a piece of industrial equipment that destroys hazardous air pollutants that are often discharged from industrial or manufacturing processes.

“We do Stack Testing [emission testing] every year, and we have TCEQ [Texas Commission on Environmental Quality] who is looking at all those reports, and we are in full compliance,” Moser assured.

Though the SCR technology is not new to U.S. power plants, Holcim is leading the charge in reducing its harmful emissions from cement kilns that melt down the rock.

“A lot of people tend to equate a power plant and a cement kiln the same because we both burn coal. But the two could not be any more different,” Carnes articulated. “A power plant just burns coal; they burn it to create heat, to make steam, to turn the turbine and make electricity.”

“We burn coal to calcine rock - to basically melt rock. So our inputs are not simply restricted to coal, we have raw materials, and you get out of those raw material inputs what you get in the ground,” he added.

Located on Dove Lane, the RTO was built over a period of nine months, while the SCR took a little more construction, stretching over an 11-month period to full fruition.

Though the EPA set a deadline for the updates in September 2015, Holcim was allowed a one-year extension and testing period with both units currently running smoothly since June 2017.

According to Holcim, both systems performance are in line with the expected guaranteed values and allow compliance with the new regulations:

THC reduction – RTO: greater than 90 percent; SCR: greater than75percent

CO reduction – RTO: greater than 90percent; SCR: greater than 50percent

NOx reduction – RTO: about 25 percent SCR: greater than 70 percent

Thermal efficiency: RTO: about 94 percent; SCR: about 80 percent

With Holcim’s new equipment additions, the cement plant is not only cutting its emissions over the next 15 years but is also leading the way for other plants while doing its part in the community.

“By leading the way, I think we’re showing what’s possible,” encouraged Carnes. “We’re leading in the nation, and there are very few SCR units out there.”

“We’re a really responsible company and want to be a good neighbor for this community,” Moser added.


Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer