The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, October 27, 2006

High scrap iron prices create new value for old cement kiln

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

It's a sign of the times when the high price of scrap metal contributes to employment in the building trades.

St. Mary's Cement is sponsoring a project to dismantle a 40-year-old cement kiln on its property in Southwest Detroit. The motivation for the demolition project is the high cost of scrap - and when the crew of iron workers and operating engineers finish the project, more than five million pounds of iron will be placed on the recycled metals market.

"Cleaning up Detroit is what you call this, and I imagine St. Mary's Cement will make a few bucks off the scrap, too," said Eric Hutchinson, who is the superintendent of the project for the Local 25 iron workers on the project. They were working for K & K Recycling. The 10-week demolition project was expected to wrap up toward the end of this month.

St. Mary's continues to operate a cement manufacturing plant at the site, but the cement kiln under demolition on the property next to I-75 hasn't been operable for 15 years. The site is dominated by a 650-foot-long, 16-foot-diameter cylindrical kiln, whose exterior is made of iron. Resting on a 50-foot tall platform, motors rotated the kiln, mixing the cement products. Concrete and brick that lined the kiln had been taken out before the demolition process.

The kiln and motors were dismantled using propane torches. The cut-up iron kiln sections were as much as four inches thick and weighed up to 290,000 lbs. The sections were rigged for the cranes and their trip to the ground using existing rigging points on the kiln, or through the use of Kevlar slings, which saddled the sections.

"There are a couple of ways to rig the sections, but the slings take the guesswork out of it," Hutchinson said. "The most important part of our job is to get the pieces safely to the ground."

GETTING READY to torch, rig and remove a motor that used to rotate the tube-like kiln at St. Mary's Cement in Detroit are crew Foreman Bill Perry, left, and Supt. Eric Hutchinson of Iron Workers Local 25, working for K & K Recycling.
SOME OF THE KILN sections - and one is at left - weigh nearly 300,000 lbs. Doing some of the heavy lifting is Aaron Parsons of Operating Engineers Local 324.