Portland cement in another phase of major maintenance shutdown

East African Portland Cement Managing Director Oliver Kirubai, Right makes a point as Board Chairman Retired Brigadier Richard Mbithi, Centre and company head of Finance Mohamed Osman listens during a tour of the plant. [File, Standard]

East African Portland Cement last week started the second phase of upgrading its Athi River-based plant in a plan that is expected to increase its cement production capacity to one million tonnes annually in the next two years. 

The cement firm on March 13 commenced a major turnaround shutdown, which it said is a pivotal step in its journey towards realising its ambitious goals and solidifying its position as a regional leader in the cement industry.

East African Portland Cement’s Managing Director Oliver Kirubai said the 25-day maintenance shutdown is not just about routine maintenance but growing the capacity, efficiency and reputation of the firm as it seeks to reclaim its glory of yester years. 

“Our machines have run for many years with upgrades in between and lack of maintenance, which has depreciated our capacity. For now we are doing the second phase of our machine upgrades and this is targeting to increase our capacity and output. Our target is that by June 2026, is to produce one million tonnes of cement,” he said.

It is the second major refurbishment of the plant that it is undertaking. The initial phase involved the replacement of the kiln shell which was completed in September 2022, which led to improved clinker and cement production and resulted in a 38 percent increase in revenues.

“We had the first phase in 2022, now we are doing the second phase and three more phases will follow and the entire process will be complete by June 2026 and by then, we will be able to attain the target of one million tonnes of cement that can be produced annually at this plant,” he said. 

“We are also doing a technical audit for all our processes and equipment as we gear up for the next upgrades.”

According to the firm, the key objectives of the shutdown include boosting capacity through strategic maintenance initiatives that include replacement of bag filters, refractory bricks and refurbishment of the grate cooler system. 

“We have what we call the critical path and we are targeting four major items. One of them is Environment, Social and Governance (ESG). We are working on our bag filter, which captures odourless dust. When we resume production after this shutdown, you will not see our chimes emitting those heavy emissions,” said Kirubai.

“So, other than boosting our production of cement, some of the activities are aimed at making sure that we have a clean environment and we can also be able to conserve the environment through our process.”

The firm is also looking at further upgrading its clinker production process. Local production of clinker, a critical ingredient in cement production, is yet to meet demand by Kenya’s cement industry and players usually import in a bid to meet their production requirements. Imported clinker was however slapped with higher import duty by the Finance Act 2023. Imported clinker attracted imported duty at 10 per cent but this rose to 37.5 per cent with the implementation of the Act.

“The other area where we will be making continuous improvement is our kiln, which is the main equipment for the production of clinker. The government introduced duty on imported clinker and because of that we need to upgrade our kiln to produce optimally,” said Kirubai, adding that the upgrade process will enable the firm to tap into the growing market for cement. 

“We are positioning ourselves to meet growing market demand effectively. There is a lot of demand for cement coming through from projects such as affordable housing, government infrastructure projects as well as individual Kenyans putting up their houses. These initiatives underscore our commitment to deliver high-quality products consistently.

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