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World Cement Industry 1.

History of Cement

History of Cement
Concrete, or artificial stone, is used more than any other man-made material in the world. As
of 2006, about 7.5 billion cubic metres of concrete are made each year, more than one cubic
metre for every person on Earth1. The development of modern infrastructure of housing,
buildings, roads and airports is reliant on the use of concrete. Cement is the most important
component in concrete. Cement powder is mixed with fine and coarse aggregates and water
to produce concrete. The cement reacts with the water gradually stiffening the mixture until
the concrete sets. Strength then increases until the hardened concrete becomes artificial

Before the invention of modern Portland cement in the 18th

and 19th centuries most construction was dependent on
stone masonry with the blocks of stone or bricks being laid
dry or with a mortar based on lime. The Romans did
recognise the pozzolanic properties of some volcanic rocks
and some of their cisterns were made with concrete based
on such pozzolanic materials. The most notable concrete
structure from the Roman period being the Pantheon in

These mortars and concretes based on lime and

pozzolanic materials were not the same as modern
Portland cements. The development of Portland
cements dates back to the research work of John
Smeaton in England in the 18th century. In 1756
Smeaton was awarded a contract to reconstruct the
Eddystone lighthouse close to Plymouth off the south
coast of England. In researching the best materials for
such a demanding task he found that the best
materials for use as a mortar exposed to seawater were a mixture of slaked lime and Dutch
Tarras. Smeaton then investigated the effectiveness of limes produced from different
limestone deposits and found that the limes from the Aberthaw limestone in South Wales
were the most effective due to their high clay content. Smeaton’s lighthouse stood until 1877
when it was dismantled and rebuilt on Plymouth Hoe and was replaced on the Eddystone
Rock with today’s lighthouse.

In the 1790s it was discovered that calcining argillaceous limestone lead to quick-setting
cement and this product grew in popularity until the 1850s when it was superceded by
Portland cement. L.J. Vicat continued investigations with hydraulic lime and calcined an
intimate mixture of chalk and clay ground together in a wet mill. This is regarded as the
forerunner of Portland cement and the first such factory was constructed at Swanscombe
beside the Thames in England by James Frost in 1811.


World Cement Industry 1. History of Cement

In 1824 a Leeds bricklayer, Joseph Aspdin, patented a

Portland cement based on calcined limestone,
reground with clay in a wet mill, nodulised and reburnt
in a shaft furnace, setting up his first factory at
Wakefield in Yorkshire. His son, William Aspdin,
subsequently set up factories at Gateshead and on the
Thames. Joseph named the product "Portland" cement
because the concrete produced from the cement
resembled stone quarried on the Isle of Portland off
the south coast of England.

From those early beginnings cement manufacture has spread to virtually all countries of the
world. World consumption of cement in 2010 reached 3.294 billion tonnes. In the years since
1990 consumption of cement has tripled with a compound annual increase in consumption of
5.67% over these 20 years. Production is 1.5% higher than consumption as small
inventories of cement are held on cement factories and at depots and concrete plants
around the world. In the years since 2000 the rate of cement consumption has accelerated
with a compound annual increase in world consumption of 7.25%.

The largest cement market in the world is China with consumption in 2010 of 1.851 billion
tonnes, or 56% of total world consumption of cement. Cement consumption in China has
increased by nine times over the years 1990 to 2010, representing a compound annual
increase in consumption of 11.67%. In the years since 2000 the rate of cement consumption
in China has accelerated with a compound annual increase consumption of 12.21%.

That China is the largest cement market in the world is no surprise. China is also the most
populous country with a population of 1.33 billion people in 2009 which is increasing at
0.52% per year. It is people who consume cement, or more correctly it is the buildings, cities

World Cement Industry 1. History of Cement

and roads constructed for the use of people which

consume cement. In China the annual per capita
consumption of cement in 2010 was therefore
1,383 kg/person/year. This is among the highest
annual per capita consumptions of cement in the
world as urbanisation in China is progressing
rapidly. The total land area of China is 9,596,960
km2, with a population density of 139 people/km2
and 46% urbanisation.

In 1990 the gross domestic product, GDP, of China was 357 billion US$ compared with 4.99
trillion US$ in 2009, an increase of 14 times. The increase is cement consumption in China
over 20 years has therefore been similar to the increase in the GDP. GDP per capita in 2009
was US$3,744.

The above illustrate the key drivers of cement consumption and cement consumption

1. A high and rising population demanding more housing and infrastructure.

2. A rising GDP making improved housing affordable.
3. Increasing urbanisation of the population.

Cement demand in different countries of the world is explained in these terms with reference
to a chart of annual per capita cement consumption against GDP per capita.

World Cement Industry 1. History of Cement

The average cement content of concrete is ~400 kg/m3 therefore the 3.294 billion tonnes of
cement consumed in 2010 translates into 8.235 billion cubic metres of concrete. The world
record for the largest concrete pour in a single project is the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei
Province, China by the Three Gorges Corporation2. The amount of concrete used in the
construction of the dam is estimated at 16 million cubic metres over 17 years. The previous
record was 3.2 million cubic metres held by Itaipu hydropower station in Brazil.

There is no substitute for concrete in infrastructural development. Cement is the most

important component in concrete because it is the binder causing the setting and strength
development of the concrete.