Cementing the industry in an environment- friendly way

 

By Rose de la Cruz

 

Where there is sand that is wasted (from volcanic eruptions and coal-fired power plant), Big Boss Cement Inc. will operate.

 

This is how the expansion of BBCI will be in the future, declared Engr. Gilbert S. Cruz, president of Big Boss Cement Inc., which is chaired by Henry Sy Jr.

 

For now, it would operate its first plant in Porac, Pampanga where ash fall and sand from Mt. Pinatubo’s wrath in 1992 continue to lie in abundance and which would be one of the main ingredients of BBCI’s cement products that were launched grandly before a huge crowd of contractors, constructors/builders and property developers as well as government regulators and media at the Esplanade events place in Paranaque. The event was hosted by beauty queen Architect Shamcey Supsup-Lee.

 

By next year it would operate a second plant in Zamboanga Peninsula where Mount Malindang, Mount Dapia (the highest mountain in the Zamboanga Peninsula) and Batorampon Point (the highest mountain of the southernmost end of the peninsula) are located. Mt Pinatubo at one point was considered extinct until it exploded 300 plus years later.

 

The sulfur in the lahar of Mt. Pinatubo, which would be a basic raw material for the Porac plant, “is not as high as some people would think because the product which we will produce (Type 1B) will still have clinker (a material derived from crushing and burning limestone) at very reduced rate,” said Dr. Ishmael Ordonez, administrative head of BBCI.

 

BBCI vows that its cement products in the market would be a lot cheaper because of its low cost of plant. “We don’t have imported kiln which can cost billions of pesos, we don’t need a lot of fuel to produce 1,500° centigrade to fire the kiln but what we need is 300-to-500° only,” he explained.

 

The rated capacity of this all-Filipino, new technology plant would be 100 tons per hour or 1.5 million bags of cement per month. But the clinker to be used here is just half of the current commercial grade cement in the market.

 

Competitive

 

Since Henry “Big Boy” Sy Jr. is the chairman of BBCI “we would like to think that SM is our prime market but we have to be competitive with the others,” he said. (Sy failed to attend the launch as he just flew in from abroad). But Cruz had a more realistic reply with “that’s a given but we have to compete also.”

 

But 1.5 million bags are just 3 percent of the market which is now at 22 to 25 million metric tons (Eagle has 30 percent of that). There is still an unfilled demand that is why there is importation but, Ordonez said as the big cement players are churning out as much cement as they can to be able to grab that market. This is why we came in to fill in that demand, he added.

 

The market is being propelled by both the property development (particularly high-rise multi-use condo towers) and the government’s mega infrastructure program BuildBuildBuild. The growth in property demand was caused by the rapid population growth from 65 million in 1995 to over 105 million now plus the OFWs.

 

He said with the competitive bids, he hopes his company would be able to supply the government’s infrastructure requirements for cement, as needed.

 

Imported clinker

 

Despite the abundance of limestone deposits in the country, clinker is still being imported because there is not enough capacity to crush and burn the limestone into clinker—a basic raw material of commercial grade cement.

 

Type 1 cement (Portland) is the best type of cement that uses 95 percent clinker but for housing, condo and infrastructure Type 1 B (blended cement) or the ordinary cement is used. Ordinary cement comes from mixing Pozzolana cement coming from natural or artificial pozzolana, lime, and water.

 

Since we are not going to have as much clinker, then we are categorized as Type 1B. Clinker mainly comes from China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Japan, Ordonez explained.

 

By March the Porac plant will be in full operation. “We are just grinding lahar and other additives to produce the cement and it aims to sell 3 percent of the 20 to 25 million metric ton market,” he said.

 

Pricing

 

Cruz said the government regulates the price of cement (one of commodities under price control) so we can’t go beyond the ceiling but we can sell below so it has to be balanced with market forces, the law of supply and demand, we can be lower priced.”

 

“Our first plant in Porac may use lahar from Pinatubo (as one ingredient); if we are in Albay we can use Mayon, in Negros we could use Kanlaon and in Davao Mt. Apo. Wherever we go as long as there is sand, not necessarily from a volcano (this country is made of volcanoes) everything is pozzolanic,” Cruz explained.

 

Cruz said the second site is in Zamboanga Peninsula but the other ones we have to wait for our ECC (environmental clearance certificate). ‘We are expanding to meet the exponentially growing needs of our country. Today, we are 22 million metric tons and in five years we will be 40 million metric tons. Therefore, we have a lot of gap to fill in, we should be building more plants and not rely on imports (the missing link).

 

With our first plant we are eyeing 3 percent of the market (1.5 million bags a month) but once second line run we will be five times bigger.

 

“Expansion plans will depend on market forces but in two years’ time BBCI will produce 5- to- 6 million bags of cement whichever place needs cement, we will bring there. Any sand that the government will allow us to use we will use for our raw material, including beach, since sand throughout the country regardless of source is 93 percent the same, so same amount of silicon oxide and magnesium oxide,” he explained.

 

No to quarrying

 

We are against quarrying (for limestone) so we will try to see whichever is considered waste. It could be from coal-fired plants or anything considered waste we will turn into gold, Cruz said.

 

Normally a cement plant would cost $350 million or P70 billion to build “but ours is in the range of P2 to P4 billion only so we are much cheaper and that’s the beauty, aside from being all Filipino company,” he said.

 

The country lacks 18 million metric tons a year so there is a huge gap that we want to fill up, he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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