Cemex’s Balcones Quarry – The Largest Crushed-Stone Plant In The United States By Volume – is a Stone-Producing Juggernaut.
By Mark S. Kuhar
|Buckley Powder handles drilling and blasting and they blast three to four times per week.|
|Conveyors criss-cross the plant moving stone to the secondary crushing and screening operations.|
|The plant is highly automated and production points are monitored by camera.|
This is the second in a three-part series on Cemex’s Balcones Quarry in New Braunfels, Texas. Last month’s article focused on the company’s 50th anniversary. – Ed.
Cemex recently marked the 50th anniversary of its Balcones Quarry in New Braunfels, Texas. In those 50 years, the quarry has grown and prospered. The United States Geological Survey currently ranks the operation as the top crushed stone producer in the nation in terms of volume.
It is said that everything is bigger in Texas, and the vast 2,800-acre quarry site is no exception. The quarry has an additional approximately 50 years of reserves, and will continue to be a key resource supporting development throughout the state of Texas for many years to come. More than 100 people work at the operation.
Equipment is the Key
To produce the huge volume of stone that goes out the gates, exceptional equipment and technology is a must. Balcones Quarry uses some of the best, starting with its drilling and blasting operation.
Drilling and blasting is the critical first step in the production process for any quarry. While some operations are working one or two quarry faces, Balcones works 12.
“We contract it out at Balcones Quarry,” said Lance Griffin, Cemex USA’s director of aggregates – Texas and New Mexico Region. “Buckley Powder handles that for us, and we blast three to four times per week.“
Over the years the quarry has had to adapt its drilling and blasting practices. “Yes, we have changed as technology has evolved, employing the latest tools and technologies to make it less intrusive to our neighbors,” Griffin said.
Loading and Hauling
Working at those 12 quarry faces is an impressive array of heavy iron. Reliable equipment is important at this stage of the operation, given the 1.5- to 2-mile cycle between the face and the primary. The company is a dedicated Caterpillar customer.
“We use three loaders – Cat 992 and Cat 993K models, as well as eight haul trucks, which are Cat 777D, F and G models,” Griffin said. “Cat not only works well in production efficiency but Holt Caterpillar service is second to none. We utilize the Cat Job Site Solutions System to manage the flow of equipment on-site, maximizing efficiency throughout the quarry.”
Griffin said he cannot emphasize enough the importance of a strong dealer relationship. “Holt is a true, strategic partner of the Cemex Balcones Quarry,” he said.
And Caterpillar equipment is also used in other areas around the quarry. “We use a Cat D9 Dozer, 18M Motor Grader, Cat 773 water truck, and 980K, 982M, 988K, 992 and 993K loaders,” Griffin said.
Crushing and Breaking
From the quarry face, material is trucked to the primary crusher, a Hazemag impactor. The heavy-duty crusher has a capacity of approximately 2,500 to 3,000 tph.
“We also use a secondary breaker, a Cat 349 with a Cat hammer, as needed,” Griffin said.
From the primary, the stone is moved to a secondary crusher, which is also a Hazemag impactor. The secondary crusher breaks the stone down to 4.5 in. From there, the secondary crushed stone is conveyed to the fractionated wash plant for cleaning and sizing. Loading happens into either rail cars or trucks.
Our tertiary crushers are manufactured by Sandvik,” Griffin said.
Screening and Sizing
All screens in the plant are supplied by Deister. “We generally dry-screen base stone products at the primary and secondary crushers as well as a 3 x 5-ft. product,” Griffin said. “At the wash plant, we wash and size on both three- and four-deck screens. The screen media is either Tema, Polydeck or Flex Mat.
“We utilize both Schurco and GIW pumps to handle all the slurry pumping,” Griffin added. “The MCC at the wash plant utilizes Square D and Toshiba components. Sandvik 660 crushers operate in the fully automated wash plant.”
|Haul trucks dump into the Hazemag primary crusher.|
|Caterpillar loaders and haul trucks work the muckpile after a blast.|
Dry screening is accomplished on either two- and three-deck Deister screens. The wet screening and washing is done on Deister three- and four-deck screens.
Balcones Quarry makes upwards of 15 different products, both dry screened and washed.
One of the highlights of the Balcones operation is its wash plant, which will be covered in detail in next month’s issue of Rock Products.
The new, fully-automated water recycling system uses and recycles 12,000 gal.-per-min. of water to separate aggregate sand fines, which are then reclaimed from the water stream as useable sand product. The water recycling system decreases the need for additional local water and adds efficiency to wash plant operations.
“Our wash plant water at Balcones is supplied from our water recycling and sand plant,” Griffin said. “The water recycling and sand plant utilizes Schurco Pumps, Abresist and Krebs Cyslones, McLanahan twin 42-in. screws and both an Azfab thickener and McLanahan thickener. The recycling plant is fully automated and connected via fiber optic to the main Balcones plant automation system.”
The plant automation system is expansive. A tower adjacent to the primary crusher is the center of control for the plant.
Conveying and Material Handling
The conveying and material handling aspect of the plant has evolved over many years.
“Our stackers are Mesaba and Thor,” Griffin said. “Other manufacturers have constructed conveyors in the past. RMS Engineering designed all the wash plant conveyors, and the wash plant utilizes Van der Graaf (VDG) motorized pulleys.”
The VDG motorized pulleys have helped the wash plant keep its electrical efficiency up, due to the lack of drive belts and transmission losses,” Griffin said. “They’ve also made safety simpler because less guarding is needed.”
Stockpiling and Loadout
Cemex materials are shipped by both truck and rail. “We ship a unit train to our Houston terminals almost every day and run high-truck volume to the booming South Central Texas Market,” Griffin said. “Along with supplying the aggregate market, the Balcones Quarry also supplies the neighboring Cemex Balcones Cement Plant with its raw material.”
In keeping with the strategy of employing the latest technology to benefit plant operations, Balcones Quarry is using drones for stockpile measurements to keep track of inventory.”
“The drones are used in mine planning and surveying, as well as inventory,” Griffin said.
Balcones Quarry is a shining example of what an operation can be when it is fully integrated into a community. It not only supports the region with high-quality aggregates, but exemplifies what Cemex strives to do in every community in which it operates.
Next month, in the third part of this three-part feature, read about how Balcones Quarry uses a state-of-the-art water-recycling system to decrease the company’s environmental impact and reliance on water pulled from nearby sources.
|More than 100 people work at Cemex’s Balcones plant.|
Cemex USA Highlights Ongoing Dedication to Zero4Life
Cemex USA continued its dedication to improving workplace safety and employee health by starting the new year with Safety Week 2019, an annual company-wide initiative focused on achieving Zero4Life at its hundreds of facilities across the United States.
To begin the annual event, operations at Cemex USA plants and facilities, including Balcones Quarry, stopped for 60 to 90 minutes on Monday, Jan. 7, so employees could participate in safety stand downs. During the stand downs, employees reviewed safety initiatives from 2018 and discussed potential improvements. The stand downs each year are intended to help workers refocus and recommit to working safely.
“At Cemex, our commitment to safety is rooted in everything we do, every single day,” said Cemex USA President Ignacio Madridejos. “We are relentless in our goal to achieve Zero4Life – zero recordable injuries, job-related illnesses, preventable vehicle accidents and environmental events. Safety is everyone’s responsibility, and Safety Week encourages all our employees to take action to make our work environments safer.”
During this year’s safety stand downs, Cemex employees were encouraged to become safety experts using the tools provided in Cemex Health and Safety Management System – a program based on 14 different elements including leadership, audits and inspections, safe operative practices and risk analysis.
The theme of 2019 Safety Week extends Cemex’s previous initiative of Action-Based Safety, which encourages employees to act when they see opportunities for safety improvements in their work environments.
“Our Health and Safety Management System is designed to give our employees what they need to spot potential hazards, then make changes that benefit them and their colleagues,” said Guillermo Martinez, Cemex USA’s executive vice president, human resources and communications. “We want our employees to master the tools provided, so an active safety dialogue continues, and they all go home safe.”
Throughout the week, in addition to the safety stand-downs, Cemex USA operations held various activities, including specialized trainings, to increase safety awareness.
“Employees need to take action to make sure they stay safe, analyzing every situation and taking proper precautions,” Alan MacVicar, Cemex USA’s vice president of health and safety said. “By using tools they already know and becoming experts, potential safety risks can be fixed as soon as they are identified.”