Having suffered some input cost pressures in the 2016 financial year, due to foreign exchange losses on dollar loans, the inability to access foreign exchange, the high cost of production as well as prolonged gas shortages, Lafarge Africa, has intensified the adoption of alternative fuel to reduce operational costs and aid profitability.
According to the cement manufacturer, energy costs remain a critical part of its operational challenges and it is being managed through an energy optimization plan that has seen it increase use of Alternative Fuel (AF) to offset gas shortages.
Already, its Ewekoro 1 plant migrated from 100% reliance on gas and LPFO to about 50% use of alternative fuels at the plant, with commitment to ensure that renewable energy use aligns with its sustainability plans.
The Plant Manager, Lafarge Africa, Olusegun Soyoye, during a tour of the cement plant at Ewekoro in Ogun State recently, explained that the firm had already commenced a reforestation initiative to ensure that the environment is restored while exploring partnership with the Ogun State government to drive the waste-to-energy initiative.
Soyoye said that Lafarge Africa's strategic plan was to conduct business with zero harm to people and the environment by developing solutions that optimise natural resources for power generation.
He said that the company had substituted fossil fuel with the use of renewable energy to generate electricity toward mitigating production disruptions arising from unstable power supply and gas shortage to the industrial sector.
For 2017, Lafarge Africa had stated that it expects to return operating EBITDA margin back to historical levels, capital expenditure of N31billion for Nigeria and South Africa operations, mainly to consolidate its energy optimization plan principally for Ashaka coal fired captive power plant, Alternative Fuel in Ewekoro 2 and Coal in Mfamosing as well as the divestment of non-core assets.
"We are using palm kernel shells to produce biomass that fuels our plant and 134 hectares of trees have been planted for this purpose.
"Capabilities of burning industrial waste, residual dry fuel (RDF) from municipal solid waste and use of shredded tyres is proposed for fourth quarter.
"Alternative fuel usage is in place on Kiln one and will be implemented on kiln two by the fourth quarter in 2018.
"We are constantly working to reduce energy consumption and carbon emission at all stages of our production process by improving sourcing of electricity from renewable energy," Soyoye added.
The firm's Communication and States Relations Manager, Mrs Titilope Oguntuga, said that the company had invested in forging strong ties with its host communities through its various Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes.
Oguntuga said that one of such programmes was the Cement Professionals Training Programme (CPTP) that aims at training youths toward bridging skills gap in cement industry and increasing local content of Lafarge operations in Nigeria.
"The three years training programmes, include mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, instrumentation and automation technology, cement manufacturing process and entrepreneurship," she said.
In her remarks, Mrs Olufunke Madojutimi, the Environment Manager, Ewekoro Plant, said that Lafarge Africa's production programmes has contributed to long-term socioeconomic and environmental development of the country.