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  • Co-processing cashews

    May 13th, 2015

    Written by Amy Saunders, Global Cement

    At the 24th AFCM Technical Symposium in April 2015, Nguyen Quoc Thang, plant manager at Vicem's Binh Phuoc cement plant, delivered an outstanding presentation. He explained the sourcing and processing methods for using cashew nut shells as an alternative fuel to replace coal at the plant.Around 300,000t/yr of cashews are grown and harvested in the south-east of Vietnam, the equivalent of about 130,000t/yr of cashew nut shell, 85% of which remains after processing. According to Nguyen Quoc Thang, the plant uses cashew nut shells to replace 35% of its fuel and has significantly reduced its CO2 emissions and fuel costs by doing so.

    Cashew nuts are grown in large quantities in Brazil, India, Nigeria, Vietnam, the Ivory Coast, Pakistan and Indonesia, among others. In 2012, some 4.15Mt of cashew nuts were grown. Cashew nut demand has risen greatly in both the long-term and the more recent past. New (and delicious) products are being designed to meet the demands of health-conscious people and vegans, including cashew nut butters, cashew milks, cashew cream, cashew ice cream, cashew cheese and cashew cooking sauces. All at premium prices, of course, and all driving cashew nut demand ever-higher.

    Cashew nuts are always sold pre-shelled, as the shell is toxic if consumed. Their growing production volumes and the necessity that they always be pre-shelled for sale or further processing makes cashew nuts an ideal alternative fuel for cement production, with reliable supplies guaranteed for the foreseeable future, subject to good crop yields. Moreover, cashew nuts are mainly grown in regions that currently have low cement plant alternative fuel substitution rates, providing an instant solution to some of the cement industry's environmental challenges.Cement producers in cashew nut-growing (and other types of nut) countries would do well to note the example that Vicem's Binh Phuoc cement plant has presented. In addition to saving costs and tackling environmental restrictions, the highly-profitable nut industries could provide extra economic value to their home countries through partnership with local cement plants.