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June 23, 2021

Sweet spot: how Imerys-developed concrete is saving sugar mills from corrosion

Fonducrete® – an engineered calcium aluminate cement – is reducing costly maintenance and repair work in sugar mills.

Sugar mills for construction

Sugar is most commonly known for one thing: being sweet. What it’s less known for, however, is its acidity. 

As a chemical with a very low pH balance, sugar is extremely corrosive. It’s so corrosive, in fact, that many sugar mills – processing the millions of tons of sugar produced each year across the globe – regularly have to stop operations to repair their floors, which have been damaged by a steady stream of sugar effluent. 

Tendayi Kaitano, a Building & Infrastructure expert within Imerys, explains: “Sugar mills typically run for nine months of the year, allowing time to conduct maintenance after each production cycle. 

“It’s not uncommon for the majority of the flooring to be completely corroded by sugar effluents once production ceases, so the maintenance period is spent on those repairs. Over time, this becomes very expensive and unsafe.” 

Imerys’ solution to this ongoing challenge is Fonducrete® – a specially developed calcium aluminate cement (CAC) that protects the floor. Customers have been using the product in sugar mills in Southern Africa to support the region’s thriving sugar market, and the results have been highly successful.  

Fonducrete before after

With its strong resistance to acid corrosion, Fonducrete®, developed using calcium aluminate cement, is protecting sugar mill floors and reducing costly repair work.

A well-established cement product enters the sugar market

 Calcium aluminate binders are naturally resistant to acid corrosion, making Fonducrete® the perfect protection for sugar mills. Despite this, and the fact that it has been part of Imerys’ portfolio for decades, it wasn’t until a few years ago that it was tested in a sugar mill. 

“Our first trial was with a sugar mill in Zambia,” explains Tendayi. “The outcome was better than we could have hoped, and the product was extremely effective in preventing corrosion.”

A major Southern Africa sugar manufacturer then agreed to try the product in its main sugar mill, with positive results – very little, if any, concrete erosion has taken place. The floor is expected to perform well for up to 10 years.  

Fonducrete® is applied over existing Portland Cement concrete flooring with a rough finish, allowing a strong bond to develop with the Fonducrete®, which is poured on top as a finishing layer, leaving little to no space for sugar effluent to get through. 

“The customer has had nothing but positive things to say about our product since day one. They have seen first-hand how effective it is, and how much money they can save using it.”

Eventually, as the intervals of replacement of the products are much longer, Fonducrete® contributes to customers’ reduced CO2 footprint vs traditional solutions like 100% Portland cement-based concrete.

Imerys teams are now considering promoting Fonducrete® to the wine industry in South Africa – as wine is rich in sugar and manufacturers are likely to experience similar issues with flooring – as well as other food processing plants.

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