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Project - Data science

Real-time estimation of the decarbonation rate

The challenge

Cement production is quite complex and difficult due to the variability of raw materials, the different chemical reactions that occur, plus factors such as equipment inactivity (precalciner, rotary kiln and cooling system).

The basic component of cement is clinker. Clinker is produced from limestone and other mineral components such as silicates, aluminates, and more. One of the first steps is the transformation of limestone into lime, which is called decarbonation. It starts with the preheating process and ends in the kiln. As the kiln has a slow momentum, the stone must be properly prepped beforehand to avoid unnecessary adjustments. Therefore, preheating must be carefully conducted and achieve a specific decarbonation target. The latter is evaluated very few times a day, which does not help the operator in charge of production. In addition, the preheating system burns alternative fuels that are cheaper than fuels dedicated to the kiln, therefore it is better to make greater use of the precalciner and save the fuel used for the kiln.

The solution

By developing a mixture of physical balances and statistical modelling and using high-frequency online measurements, the decarbonation step can be estimated proactively. And this software sensor suggests to the operator the amount of energy needed to achieve optimal decarbonation. Which means that this quality KPI is online and helps the operator in their decision making.

The potential gain

This software sensor provides the operator with the right amount of energy to ideally decarbonate the limestone before entering the kiln.

This finer decarbonation avoids the need for any tricky adjustments to the kiln, saving time and kiln energy and results in a stable quality for the clinker. The energy savings and the increase in production time sharply improve the KPI yield (margin in euros/tonne produced).

This type of innovation is also essential to maintain business in Europe by ensuring competitive production. As a reminder, this is one of the foundations of Industry 4.0.


Client activity

  • Extractive industry
  • Cement/Lime Production
  • Limestone decarbonation

Solution Brand

  • Siemens
  • PCS7
  • PX-Trend
  • IBM
  • Watson
  • Maximo
  • Python

Nature of the work carried out



  • Decision support tool
  • Software sensors

Notre ThinManager-Integrator Certified

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