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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Industrial Hose Maker Delivers Fluid Handling Solution for Cement Transport

Around 3.4 billion metric tons of cement was produced globally in 2011. This represented a huge mass of particles that required bulk transport that in turn required huge energy consumption. The working environment for cement production and transportation is also inevitably dusty, causing atmospheric pollution that affects industrial components such as electrical motors and fans used in screw, belt and air slide systems – the commonly used traditional methods of transporting powders.

For Spanish cement producer Grupo Puma, it had to figure out an advanced, efficient method of bulk powder handling, facing tough European environmental regulations. The company tapped Trelleborg AB, the industrial rubber and industrial hose manufacturer based in Sweden, to install an innovative flexible hose conveying system that uses fluidization principles, employing pressurized air to transport cement mortars in a fluid-like state and thereby using less than 15 percent of the energy consumed by traditional transport systems. The system has found successful installations at Grupo Puma’s Spain plants.

Air flow through breathing cloth membrane fluidizes solids for bulk transport with minimal energy requirement. Credit: Trelleborg

The Scirocco ll system is radically different from the bulky, rigid screw conveyors and rigid air slides. Both of these need electric motors, one to operate the screw and the other to power an internal air fan. In Trelleborg’s approach, this is not necessary, as it uses a fluidization process based on gravity flow, in which a granular material is converted from a static solid-like state to a dynamic fluid-like state when a gas is passed up and through the granular material at pressures between 0.15 and 0.30 bars.

The fluidization system in Scirocco II is vulcanized into the lower wall of the rubber hose. It incorporates air supply ducts from which small openings lead into chambers covered with a breathing cloth membrane. Hoses are installed at angles from 3 to 10 degrees to ensure proper flow.

“The three or five air channels inside the hose are supplied with air via an air control that we provide,” said Ludovic Dumoulin, Trelleborg’s industrial hose product manager in Clermont-Ferrand, France. The end-user connects this air control comprising a pressure regulator and tubing that connects to the hose via multiple inlet nipples, to its current compressed air supply system. Compressed air demand is said to be minimal due to the low pressure requirements. “Styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) is employed as the hose material in order to ensure good weather resistance properties,” Dumoulin added.

Flexible hose systems by Sweden-based industrial hose maker Trelleborg can be easily retrofitted to existing powder handling plants.

Due to the design of the hose, air flow is equally distributed over the full length of the hose. A precise arithmetic relationship between the inner diameter of the feeder line channel, the choke inlet diameter and the size of the expansion cell means that the entire cross-section of the hose can be utilized for bulk transport. By optimizing fluidization, minimal compressed air is required for transportation, consequentially yielding substantial operational savings, Trelleborg relayed. Further, the entire system is completely sealed, preventing dust pollution, and is said to require minimal maintenance.

For Groupo Puma, it can transport 60 tons of cement per hour using just 170 liters of air per minute through a 6-meter (20-foot) hose that is 100 mm (4 inches) in diameter. In energy terms, this equates to the amount of power required to light an 8-watt lightbulb over the same period of time.

“Our system needs only a small amount of air pressure to fluidize the product, as the design of the hose ensures that air flow is consistent through the entire length of the hose,” Dumoulin said. “Gravity does the rest.”

Grupo Puma’s initial installation in Seville, Spain, was so successful that the company now uses the Trelleborg system in its two other major manufacturing facilities in Valencia and Madrid.

Moreover, Oscar Sanchez, Grupo Puma’s director of technical and quality services, sees the flexibility of the hose system as a particular advantage. “It allows us to upgrade older plants really easily,” he said. “The hoses can simply be threaded by hand through the forest of other pipes and supports in an older plant.”

Indeed, due to the flexibility from the SBR material as well as its small-cross section, the hose can be installed in and around existing equipment. For instance, the hose can be mounted around a pillar or passed through openings where a straight screw conveyor cannot be installed. Often, no equipment is required for installation, according to Trelleborg, and the hose can be mounted into place by hand, reducing upfront engineering and installation costs in new systems and allowing retrofits even into confined spaces.

These factors translate to lower investment costs compared with other conveyor systems, according to the supplier. Trelleborg estimates that a Scirocco II installation costs virtually half that for a belt, spiral or screw conveyor system and around the same or slightly less than that for a Gatty, fluid or pneumatic system.

As far as applications for Scirocco II, the grain diameters of suitable bulk products range from 15 to 200 micrometers, with volume weights between 0.8 to 2 tons per cubic meter and densities between 2 and 4 tons per cubic meter. In addition, it can also be used for fluidizable mixes containing a minimum 15 percent fines below 20 micrometers with the maximum grain size not exceeding 1 to 2 millimeters.

Trelleborg manufactures Scirocco II in lengths of up to 10 meters (33 feet). Longer lengths can be created by joining hoses with flanges. Supplied diameters range from 76 to 250 millimeters (3 to 10 inches). Trelleborg supplies industrial hoses to the chemical and petrochemical, construction, food and agriculture and industrial maintenance sectors.


Energy Requirements to Move Powder in Various Conveyor Systems (in kWh/ton)


10-m/33-ft distance

20-m/66-ft distance

Scirocco II Fluid Hose



Conventional gravity and belt conveyor



Spiral conveyor



Screw conveyor

0.3 – 0.44

0.5 – 0.9

Gatty and fluid systems

0.4 – 0.8

0.4 – 0.8

Pneumatic systems

0.8 – 1.5

0.8 – 1.5




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