The history of the Vallejo Marine Terminal dates to the old Sperry Mills plant back in 1869. Image: architects impression
Projected for 2014, the Vallejo Marine Terminal will bring international commerce to South Vallejo. Image: architects impression
The Vallejo Marine Terminal is located at the base of Vallejo, just inside the San Francisco Bay. Image: architects impression
The site of the old General Mills flour mill may soon become an exciting part of California’s green economy future — with a new “green” cement facility and an international shipping hub.
Fewer Greenhouse Gases, More Economic Growth
Orcem California, Inc. is proposing to build and operate a “green” cement facility on a small portion of the old General Mills site — producing an ecological cement ("ecocem") made by milling recycled materials (granulated blast-furnace slag), nearly eliminating the greenhouse gas impact of traditional portland cement.
This "green" cement has many advantages over traditional portland cement:
- 90% less energy to produce
- Near zero CO2 footprint and zero mercury emissions
- Up to 80% reduction in emission of air pollutants such as nitrogen and sulfur oxides
- Conserves natural resources such as limestone and fossil fuels
- More durable, longer lasting concrete, increasing the lifespan of roads, bridges and other infrastructure, improving the value from taxpayer expenditures
- Lighter color concrete, reducing heat island effect, which reduces energy needed for cooling, lowers ozone levels and reduces energy requirements for lighting in enclosed spaces
Establishing Vallejo’s position in international commerce locally owned Vallejo Marine Terminal, LLC (VMT) is proposing to re-purpose the old General Mills site, including an upgrade to its rail infrastructure and waterfront to open an international shipping terminal. The site’s deep water berth, direct connection to the California Northern railroad and proximity to the interstate highway network provide the opportunity to increase the efficiency of northern California’s commercial transportation system, and help establish Vallejo as a center of international trade and commerce. VMT’s plans also include rehabilitating the circa 1917 Sperry Flour administration building and garage for office space and storage.
Investing in Vallejo’s Future
The combined projects would represent nearly $50 million in private investment — creating more than 240,000 hours in union construction-related work during the 15-month construction phase. Once completed, the project will contribute millions of dollars annually to the local economy, while also generating critical tax revenue for the City of Vallejo to help pay for local services, like police and fire protection.
What does Orcem produce?
Orcem California was established to manufacture ground granulated blast furnace slag (“GGBFS”); commonly referred to as green cement, due to its outstanding environmental qualifications. This green cement is used as an enhancement to improve the performance and lower the carbon footprint of concrete by substituting 35%-80% of the ordinary portland cement with Orcem’s green cement.
What is green cement used for?
Orcem's green cement is an enhancement for any concrete, but adds the most value in concrete road pavements, bridges, foundations, dams and other major infrastructure projects where durability and lifespan are critical.
It is often specified for concrete that will be exposed to harsh conditions, such as marine environments, chemical plant infrastructure and wastewater pipes and containment areas.
Orcem's green cement is also used for high performance concrete (HPC), such as the superstructure of high-rise buildings due to its high strength; and in massive concrete pours such as dams and the basements of high-rise buildings because it generates less heat while setting, which reduces the potential for deleterious thermal microcracking.
What are some examples of structures built using green cement?
The new East Span of the (San Francisco-Oakland) Bay Bridge, the 49ers Levi's® Stadium, the new Apple Campus 2, the San Francisco Federal Building and the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center's Patient Care Pavilion in Oakland are just a few significant structures, many award-winning, in the Bay Area that have used this green cement, GGBFS, in their concrete. (Note: images to be added pending resolution of copyright and technical web site matters).
Why is the Orcem Project important to the State of California?
The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (“AB 32”) requires California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. And in April 2015 Governor Brown issued an executive order to establish a new California greenhouse gas reduction target of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
When substituting portland cement’s large carbon footprint with green cement like Orcem's — for example, at a rate of 50% — Orcem’s product can offer a 42-46% reduction in CO2 and other air emissions, helping California meet its clean air goals. Only a very limited amount of GGBFS has been available in California over the last decade, the Orcem Project will enable the annual use of GGBFS to increase by 5-10 times, resulting in additional savings of millions of tons of CO2 emissions.
How will the Orcem Project benefit the City of Vallejo?
Orcem will spend nearly $50 million in private investment on this green business — creating jobs, increasing local tax revenue and boosting the economy. The Project will result in millions in local purchases and tens of thousands of hours in union construction-related work. The VMT project will add another $20 million in investment and an equal amount of union construction activity. Once completed, the project will contribute millions more annually to the local economy, while also generating tax revenue directly to the City of Vallejo to help pay for local services, like police and fire services.
Where is the proposed Orcem facility to be located?
The Orcem facility will be located at the proposed Vallejo Marine Terminal at 800 Derr Street in Vallejo. It is at the end of Lemon Street where it approaches the Mare Island Strait; Derr Street begins where Lemon Street ends and turns left. It is the former site of the General Mills flour mill.
How much of the former General Mills property will the Orcem plant occupy?
Orcem will lease approximately 5 acres of the nearly 40 acres currently owned or controlled by Vallejo Marine Terminal (“VMT”) for its operations, offices and raw material storage.
How will the Orcem raw materials arrive to the facility?
The primary mode of raw material transport will be via ocean going vessels, that is why Orcem selected the VMT site with its deep-water berth. Orcem plans to handle 100% of the incoming GGBFS, which comprises 97% of the raw material requirements for its primary green cement product, in this way. Orcem may also receive its raw materials by rail or truck, which are the likely transport methods for the remaining 3% of the raw material requirements.
How is the production of GGBFS different than traditional portland cement?
Traditional portland cement is produced in an industrial process where a chemically adjusted mixture of raw materials (commonly 80% limestone, 18% clay, 2% sand) is finely ground, then calcined and reacted in a rotary kiln reaching a molten state at 2500F, when it then quickly air quenched. That intermediate product is finely ground again to form ordinary portland cement. This process requires approximately 1.5 tons of these raw materials to produce 1 ton of cement. In addition it consumes a significant amount of fuel (typically coal) to maintain the 2500F temperature in the rotary kiln.
Alternatively, GGBFS is produced by milling GBFS, the byproduct of iron ore processing, which is purchased from steel manufacturers. GBFS is a recycled raw material, and the thermal energy requirement (for drying the damp GBFS) is approximately 1/10 of the thermal energy requirement to produce ordinary portland cement, and the fuel used for GGBFS is typically natural gas.
As a consequence, while ordinary portland cement production is one of California’s and the world's largest industrial emitters of greenhouse gases (producing 80-90 tons of CO2 for every 100 tons of portland cement); GGBFS produces much less than 1 ton of CO2 for every 100 tons of GGBFS.
Is Orcem proposing to build a “cement plant” in Vallejo?
No. The term “cement plant” is used to describe a facility that converts raw materials such as limestone, clay and sand into portland cement clinker by reacting them at 2500 F in a large, energy intensive, rotary kiln. Most cement plants are located at the source of limestone and incorporate the limestone mining operation, called a quarry. After these molten raw materials are reacted in the rotary kiln they are quickly air quenched, forming hail sized balls of “clinker”. This clinker is then ground in a “finishing mill” along with small amounts of gypsum and limestone into a powder known as portland cement.
Orcem is not proposing a cement plant for Vallejo, but rather a finishing mill, where the imported raw materials will be dried, milled and blended to produce green cement products. A video tour of an operation in the south of France with the identical mill process to the one proposed for Vallejo, and owned by Orcem’s parent company, is available for viewing at www.orcem.com/process.html It should be noted that video of Ecocem France’s operation shows delivery of GBFS by truck. The proposed Orcem facility in Vallejo includes a substantial investment in belt conveyors and stackers to eliminate trucking the GBFS to the storage area.
There are only two remaining cement plants in Northern California. They are located at 24001 Stevens Creek Blvd. Cupertino, CA 95014 and 15390 Wonderland Blvd, Redding, CA 96003. A third cement plant at 700 Highway 1, Davenport, CA 95017 (Santa Cruz) was closed permanently in 2009. Viewed with satellite imagery via the internet it can be seen that these facilities are located on hundreds of acres of land, primarily due to requirements of their quarrying activities. In contrast, Orcem’s entire facility will require much less than 5 acres, not include a quarry or a kiln system, and yet have roughly the same annual production capacity as the recently closed cement plant in Davenport, California.
Is Orcem’s green cement better for the environment?
Yes, Orcem’s green cement — as you might guess from its name — has significant environmental benefits over traditional cement, including:
- a carbon footprint reduced to nearly zero
- conservation of limestone deposits and fossil fuels (requires ~90% less thermal energy to produce than ordinary portland cement)
- improved lifespans of roads, bridges and other structures, conserving materials and reducing demolition wastes over the long term (while improving the return on investment for public and private infrastructure)
- reduced energy requirements for cooling and lighting when used in concrete pavements, parking lots and roof tiles due to its lighter color reflecting a greater portion of the sun’s radiation, reducing the urban heat-island effect
Is calling Orcem’s product "green" cement just “greenwashing”?
“Greenwashing” is commonly used to describe a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization's products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly. "Green" cement refers to cements that have been produced with minimal energy input and have a positive impact on the environment. GGBFS is arguably THE greenest cement product in existence. It not only produces better concrete performance, but since it is derived from recycled byproduct materials, it offers a very significant reduction in the emissions of greenhouse gases and other gaseous combustion products attributed to ordinary portland cement production.
The CO2 emission reductions associated with incorporating GGBFS into cement products are widely documented by authorities in many countries around the world and the emission credits for these reductions have been sold for 100s of millions of dollars in the European Union’s cap-and-trade exchange, and as certified emission reductions ( “CERs”) in the United Nation’s CDM program.
In 2007 California’s cement industry was designated for a study by CalEPA’s ARB in it’s Early Action program to achieve the goals of AB 32. That study specifically identified GGBFS as a potential enabler for the cement industry to lower CO2 emissions and contribute to California’s achievement of its AB 32 targets.
The green credentials of Orcem’s GGBFS are very real.
What is granulated blast furnace slag, GBFS?
GBFS is a recycled byproduct from a blast furnace. A blast furnace is the process equipment most commonly used to convert iron ore to metallic iron. The blast furnace inputs are iron ore, charcoal and limestone. There are three blast furnace outputs: 1) molten metallic iron (“pig iron” or “hot metal”), 2) gaseous combustion products and particulate matter which flow to the steel mill’s pollution control equipment, and 3) the molten remains of the limestone and dirt in the iron ore and charcoal. This molten material floats on top of the molten iron in the blast furnace and is called “blast furnace slag”. If it is discharged and allowed to cool slowly, it forms a rock similar in chemical composition to many natural limestones. In that form it has a modest commercial value, and if it is produced, it is typically crushed and screened just like natural limestone for use as aggregate in road construction. However, if the molten blast furnace slag is quickly quenched with water (“granulated”) it forms small glass-like granules. These granules are called granulated blast furnace slag or GBFS, and have a much greater value than limestone aggregate because they can be used as a substitute for portland cement.