Post COVID-19: Hydrated Lime Production, Cash Generator Any Day

The hue and cry today within and outside the country is on how to urgently diversify the economy in the face of the dwindling oil revenue. One major area that holds great promise to meet this objective is the extraction of the country’s scarcely exploited huge deposits of solid minerals. One of such minerals that are begging for attention because of its many areas of use is hydrated lime.

Hydrated lime is known variously as caustic lime, calcium hydrate and slaked lime. Chemically it is called calcium hydroxide (Ca (OH)2). A white, soft and crystalline powder, it has slightly bitter alkaline taste and specific gravity of 2.34. It loses water at 580oC. Other properties possessed by hydrated lime include its slight solubility in water, insolubility in alcohol and full solubility in syrup, glycerol and acids. It has the propensity to absorb carbon dioxide from air and of producing a pH of between 12.4 and 25o when dissolved in water.

Hydrated Lime Market
Hydrated lime is used extensively  as an industrial raw material for: removing hairs from hides (as a depilatory), manufacture of white wash and mortars, cements, soil conditioning (fertiliser production), ammonia recovery in gas manufacture, calcium salts, water softening, causticisingsoda, purification of sugar juices, acceleration for low grade rubber compounds etc. 1n petrochemicals, hydrated lime is used as a disinfectant, buffer and neutralising agent and in food industry, it is a food additive and a shell-forming agent in poultry and snail farming. It is also used to produce rayon, calcium hypochlorite bleaches, phosphate chemicals, citric acid, glycerin, polypropylene oxide and for controlling acidity and  in metallurgical industries, hydrated lime finds good and extensive use in the production of non-ferrous metals such as lead, uranium, zinc, silver, copper and gold. In aluminum smelting and production of high-grade steel, hydrated lime also plays an important role as an input.
From the above list it can be seen that the market for hydrated lime is wide, expanding and sustainable. It cuts across industries like building, agriculture, metallurgy, food, chemical and petrochemicals, each of which has high annual national demand while the national supply is low thus leaving a yawning demand-supply gap to be filled by any discerning entrepreneurs who venture into its manufacture at this time.

Raw And Packaging Materials
The major raw material needed to produce hydrated lime is good quality limestone the deposits of which are spread generously over many states of the country. Polypropylene sacks for packaging will  be sourced locally too.

Machinery And Equipment
The various plant and machinery components and accessories needed to establish this plant are rotary or vertical shaft kiln complete with blower, motor and accessories, jaw crusher, tube mill, slaking tank, screen classifier, hydrator, packaging machine, etc. These will be supplied in one lot.

Production Processes
These are summarised as crushing mined limestone, screening and weighing the screened limestone, calcination to obtain quick lime, crushing and slaking the quick lime with the appropriate quantity of water in a slaking tank or hydrator, ageing the final product which is dry powder and bagging and storage of the finished product for sale.

Annual Production Capacity
On a micro scale, a start-off production capacity of 6 MT per day is ideal and should be targeted. This gives 1,500 MT per annum. On a small scale, 10,000 MT or more a year can be obtained. Higher production capacity plants for medium enterprises are available. The scale of production to be embarked upon depends on the financial capability of the investors.

Manpower Needs
Relevant levels and calibres of staff that will cover all the areas of purchasing, production, administration and marketing will be needed for a successful operation of the business. Details and costs will be specified in the business plan.

Estimated project cost
Fixed costs should cover land and land development, construction of building(s) to house the factory, plant and machinery, installation, essential site utilities, miscellaneous fixed assets, contingency, etc. All of these have to be properly costed.

Project Viability
This is a highly profitable project that can be established on micro-, small- and medium scales anywhere in the country and with the guaranteed supply of the major raw and packaging, materials. It has a short payback period and good performance indicators.

This can be sourced from any of the development institutions, a group of retirees, friends, co-operative societies, etc.

The local manufacturing of hydrated lime will promote industrialisation, aid technology acquisition,
promote self-reliance and save the country huge sums of foreign exchange being expended annually on its importation. This presents a huge untapped investment opportunity in this sub-sector of the manufac-turing industry. It is a good economic proposition and therefore is recommended to visionary investors for implementation.

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