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Lime (Calcium oxide)

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NOTE some updating required.

Lime (quicklime, calcium oxide, CaO) in Western Australia (WA) is primarily used as a reactive industrial chemical. Lime is manufactured by roasting naturally occurring calcium carbonate (limestone) in a kiln producing carbon dioxide as waste gas.

Manufacture
About 900 000 tonnes per year of lime is produced by four companies; Cockburn Cement (owned by the British Rugby company) currently supplying about 90 per cent of the market in WA, and with the balance shared by Swan Portland Cement, Westlime and Loongana Lime. Current production is of a low grade form, typically 70 per cent calcium oxide. With plant expansions, a production capacity of 1.2mtpa is anticipated in WA, and with the new Swan plant (see later), producing a 92 per cent grade lime previously unavailable in the state.

In April 1999, Rugby Group of the UK, included Cockburn Cement into AdBri buying minority shareholding by CSR and Pioneer (so that Cockburn and Swan will be 100 per cent owned by AdBri). CSR and Pioneer entered into long term contracts with AdBri. 1. Cockburn Cement has added a 400 000tpa kiln which is believed to one of the world's largest at its site at Munster (near Kwinana 30 km south of Perth). Cockburn cement has been using 1.6 mtpa of shells dredged from the Owen Anchorage in Cockburn Sound off Kwinana with supplies adequate for at least 100 years. It is planning to acquire lime from Exmouth (see also Exmouth).

Cockburn Cement's new lime plant
Cockburn's new lime kiln at Coogee WA

A 100 000 kiln costing $40m is being established at Dongara (north of Perth) using nearby high grade limestone deposits. The operation is being located near Westlime. Given Cockburn's domination of the lime industry in Western Australia, an intense price war may be anticipated.

2. Swan Portland Cement (a division of AdBri [Adelaide Brighton Cement] - Australia's largest producer of cement), supplies about 5 per cent of WA's lime. It is establishing a new 200 000 tpa vertical shaft kiln near Kwinana that will supply a high grade lime using hard rock limestone from Exmouth (200 million tonne deposit). Lime with 92 per cent CaO (and low in magnesia and silica) will be produced which will be the highest grade available in WA.
Exmouth
Exmouth Limestone is a jont venture between Adelaide Brighton Cement and Whitecrest Enterprises with the project managed by Swan Cement. It is a private company that holds a license over a high quality limestone (more than 96 per cent CaCO3) deposit at Exmouth 1300 km north of Perth. About 200 million tonnes of high grade limestone has been confirmed with grades ranging from 97 to 99 per cent. Dolomite limestone will also be available.

The company has agreed to a joint development with Swan Portland Cement to mine the deposit during 1997 and later to establish a 100 000 tpa lime kiln at Exmouth. Production will supply the needs of Swan Portlands new kiln and to replace imports of metallurgical grade limestone with exports of surplus.

Initially limestone will be shipped using two 600 tonne barges supplying ships moored at Exmouth. Permanent ship loading facilities will be built when shipping is in excess of 1 million tonnes pa. The mine is 5 km from the proposed port facility.

The 40-80mm lump has run-of-mine specification of 97.00% CaCO3 (98.90% on production to Sept 1998). Quicklime analysis has averaged 94.33% CaO.

Contact: Don Lewis. Tel 08 9321 2300 Fax 08 9321 2322. Swan Cement, PO Box 79 Burswood, WA 6100. Tel +61 8 9366 2200. Fax +61 8 9361 8515 p>

3. Westlime, owned by Westralian Sands, is establishing a 120 000 tpa kiln at Dongara using a local lime deposit. The plant began production late 1997 with full production to 120 000 tpa anticipated by end 1998. The plant uses gas suspension and fluid bed technology and was expected to cost A$21 million. The lime is around 87 per cent purity.

Update July 2001 - closure.

Iluka announced it will close its operations and with lime to be supplied by Adelaide Brighton (about 30,000 tonnes per annum) for Iluka's own use and enable Westlime to meet its contracted sales commitments. Westlime's operations had been constrained by technical difficulties and declining regional markets (notably gold production use) since production began in 1997.Adelaide Brighton's plant is running at a production rate of some 45,000 tonnes per annum.

4. Loongana Lime is owned by gold miner Amalg Resources (purchased for $4.2 million in 1997). It produces 60 000 tonnes of quicklime, 110 000 tonnes once the upgrade is completed. It has moved its quarry from Loongana (The limestone resource at Loongana is 97.2 per cent calcium carbonate with reserves exceeding 300 million tonnes) 540 km east of Kalgoorlie to the Rawlina quarry some 170 km closer to Kalgoorlie. The lime is 97% calcined calcium carbonate about the same as Loongana.

At Parkeston 4 km east of Kalgoorlie has a capacity of 33 000 tpa at 90 per cent CaO using fluidised bed technology.

Two new shaft kilns are being constructed each with a 55 000 tonne capacity.

Lime is suppled to the 250 000 tpa market for gold and nickel production in the Goldfields (worth $150 per tonne).

The company has set a target of collecting 18 000 tonnes of waste oil as fuel for the kilns.

Loongana Lime Pty Ltd
PO Box 808, Kalgoorlie
Western Australia 6430
Tel: 61 8 9021 8055
Fax: 61 8 9021 8726
E-mail: LoonganaLime@bigpond.com

Price
Lime typically sells for A$100 to A$120 per tonne implying a total value of production of $80m. Import competition largely decides the price of lime. Users claim Western Australian lime to be about 10 to 20 per cent more expensive than in other developed countries - the difference attributable to international transport costs. However as an industrial chemical, the price is determined by the calcium oxide content with some allowance for inconvenience (eg. for the impact and disposal cost of waste silicates and magnesium oxide, and for the required control systems to manage any variance in purity).

Transport can increase the cost of the lime in remote locations in Western Australia by 40 to 60 per cent above prices closer to Perth. There is evidence of some transport cost absorption by the lime manufacturers as the into-store cost approaches that of imports. The high cost of transport has promoted Loongana Lime as a regional manufacturer producing 30 000 tonnes of lime (being expanded to about 120 000 tonnes and at higher purity than produced near Perth). It operates a kiln at Loogana about 400 kilometres east of Kalgoorlie (some 600 kilometres east of Perth) using transported coke for energy.

Quality
The purity of the lime is dependent on the quality of the calcium carbonate raw material. Therefore as lime is a low value product, the choice of raw material is very sensitive to the cost of transport to the lime kiln promoting the use of low grades.

Produced in the Perth region, lime is of low purity typically containing only about 75 per cent CaO compared with generally over 90 per cent in other developed countries. The purity of lime reflects that Western Australian manufacturers generally use a lower quality limestone raw material with higher levels of impurities. The lime is priced according to the lime (CaO) content.

With the development of the use of limestone from Exmouth, a higher grade of lime will be available from Swan Portland Cement.

Use (WA)





In the alumina industry, lime is used to recover caustic soda from the red mud waste by-product. Alcoa uses about 420 000 tonnes of lime (at 77 per cent CaO) supplied by Cockburn Cement on a long term contract (believed to be about $35 million per year or about $100 per tonne at 100 per cent CaO). Alcoa therefore represents over half the market for lime in Western Australia. With the cost of lime (to large volume users) at about the same price as caustic soda, on a basis of one tonne of lime (as 100 per cent CaO) recovering about 1.4 tonnes of caustic soda, lime is cost effective and reduces the caustic soda content in the red mud (waste from bauxite). Obviously, at higher caustic soda prices, lime-based recovery becomes more economic.

bullet500 000 tonnes of lime is used by the alumina industry (primarily to regenerate caustic soda and to control the acidity and alkalinity, ie. pH). Increased alumina production will therefore directly reflect in the demand for lime.
bullet240 000 tonnes by the gold industry (to control acidity, improve settlement and protect cyanides from cyanicides - cyanide destroying chemicals present in the minerals). Increased gold production will be expanding demand.
bullet50 000 tonnes for production of synthetic rutile (titanium dioxide) to neutralise hydrochloric acid. Again like other applications of lime, increased demand is projected.
bullet50 000 tonnes for building purposes.
 

Outlook
The lime industry is a captive industry to Western Australia. Lime producers are competitive through ready access to limestone, cheap energy, economies of scale and in particular by international freight that acts as a barrier to trade in both directions for this low value product. Though import competition serves mainly to determine local prices, it is possible if not probable, that the quality of lime produced in Western Australia will increase with increasing demand from resource companies especially those close to north western ports where import competition is inevitably greatest and with the future supply of higher grade lime from Swan Portland Cement.

Cement notes

Cement is produced by mixing calcium carbonate, silica, alumina, iron oxide and gypsum which is fired and ground to form cement. (Cement is mixed with aggregate and water to produce concrete).

The cement industry has four major producers: Queensland Cement Ltd owned by Swiss cement giant Holderbank; Cement Holdings controlled equally by CSR and Pioneer and Adelaide Brighton. Adelaide Brighton merged with Rugby of the UK which also merged Cockburn in Western Australia with Adelaide Brighton that owned Swan Cement in Western Australia. Total cement capacity in Australia is 8.2 million tonnes with demand in mid 1999 at around 7.2 million tonnes. Rationalisation is underway.

The four major sites are Berrima, Birkinhead (capacity 1.3 million tonnes) at Port Adelaide, Railton and Gladstone.

 

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