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REACH & cement - the last touch?

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June 2009 - Long after the deadline for pre-registration has passed and, therefore, too late to ensure legal certainty, a first draft of the guidelines for the application of Annex V of REACHi has eventually been produced by ECHAi (European Chemicals Agency). It will now have to be approved by CARACALi (Competent Authorities for REACH and CLPi) and will then be officially published by ECHA.

For the European cement industry, this is an important document and an encouraging sign that CEMBUREAU’s perception of the issues at stake in Annex V was correct.

First of all, the guidance document explains which substances are covered by the entry “cement clinker” in Annex V.10, and thus exempt from registration. The text explicitly lists such as examples Portland cement clinker and aluminous cement clinker. The description of Portland cement clinker also covers white cement clinker. Although not explicitly mentioned, and as the examples given in the list are not exhaustive, it may be convincingly argued that sulfo aluminate cement clinker is also exempt from registration.

Second good news: petcoke is also exempt from registration. Petcoke is very widely used in large volumes as a fuel in the cement industry. The exemption is therefore welcomed.

A third and more difficult step has been made in respect of hydrated substances. If the manufacture/importer registered the anhydrous form, the downstream user in the same supply chain can change the hydration level of the substance, without additional registration. This logical solution has prevailed over an earlier internal draft version which would have required registration of hemihydrate calcium sulfate which is produced in the cement manufacturing process as a result of gypsum dehydrating when mixed with hot clinker.

To the European cement industry it looks like REACH is not going to prove an insuperable task. It will, however, remain a complex one, and one which will lead to extra costs and resources as, for example, in the case of registration of cement clinker dust being placed on the market, or to comply with the information exchange requirements which will apply to all cement producers.

The direct burden of REACH will be far greater in other sectors and it is to be hoped that this will not lead to certain productions being discontinued at the risk and the expense of downstreamers such as the cement and concrete industries.

The revision of Annex V of REACH followed by the much needed guidance now in draft form will make REACH a more safe ground to the cement industry. But is it the last touch? The problem with REACH is that each problem seems to lead to a new anticipated difficulty. No doubt more surprises are in store.