Technical, Economical and Environmental Benefits of Blast Furnace Cement
Blast furnace cement (BFC) is created through the addition of granulated blast furnace slag with Portland cement clinker and gypsum. Three types are available, namely A, B and C class, which meets Standard EN 197-1:2000.
Technical benefits of using BFC
BFC is used to make durable concrete structures around the world. BFC has been widely used in Europe and increasingly in the US and in Asia (particularly in Japan and Singapore), extending the lifespan of buildings from 50 years to 100 years.
Concrete containing BFC is less permeable, has lower hydration, higher ultimate compressive strengths, is resistant to sulfate-acid attack and aggressive chemicals, resistant to many forms of deleterious attack, to alkali-silica reaction and has better workability and finish ability than normal concrete.
Concrete made with BFC sets more slowly than concrete made with ordinary Portland cement, depending on the amount of GGBS in the cement, but also continues to gain strength over a longer period in production conditions. This results in lower heat of hydration and lower temperature rises, and makes avoiding cold joints easier, but also means that quick setting is required.
The use of BFC significantly reduces the risk of damage caused by alkali-silica reaction (ASR), provides higher resistance to chloride ingress, reducing the risk of reinforcement corrosion, and provides higher resistance to attacks by sulfate and other chemicals.
BFC has now effectively replaced sulfate resistant cement (SRC) because of its superior performance and greatly reduced cost compared to SRC. BFC is more resistant against sulfate attack than Portland cement (OPC) and sulfate resistant cement (SRC) according to tests performed by Quality Control Laboratory of Turkish Cement Manufacturers’ Association (TCMA).
28-day strength loss due to the effects of sulfate was observed at 30% for OPC, at 20% for SRC and at just 18% for BFC.
Instances of chloride attack occur in reinforced concrete in marine environments and in road bridges where the concrete is exposed to splashing from road deicing salts. In most projects BFC is now specified in structural concrete for bridge piers and abutments for protection against chloride attack.
Test results of pressure strength, chloride and water penetration (for 28-day aged concrete)
2 day strength
7 day strength
28 day strength
BFC is also routinely used to limit the temperature rise in large concrete pours. The more gradual hydration of BFC generates both lower peak and less total heat than Portland cement. This reduces thermal gradients in the concrete, which prevents the occurrence of micro cracking. This can weaken the concrete and reduce its durability.
In contrast to the grey stone color of concrete made with Portland cement, the whitish color of BFC permits architects to achieve a lighter appearance for exposed fair-faced concrete finishes, at no extra cost. BFC also produces a smoother, more defect free surface due to the fineness of the GGBS particles. Dirt does not adhere to GGBS concrete as easily as concrete made with Portland cement, reducing maintenance costs. BFC prevents the occurrence of efflorescence, the staining of concrete surfaces by calcium carbonate deposits. Due to its much lower lime content and lower permeability, GGBS is effective in preventing efflorescence when used at replacement levels of 50% to 60%.
Concrete containing BFC has a higher ultimate strength than concrete made with Portland cement. It has a higher proportion of the strength-enhancing calcium silicate hydrates (CSH) than concrete made with Portland cement only, and a reduced content of free lime, which does not contribute to concrete strength. Concrete made with BFC continues to gain strength over time, and has been shown to double its 28-day strength.
Economical and environmental benefits
In recent years, there has been a significant growth in the production and sale of BFC. The manufacture of BFC requires 75% less energy than that needed for the production of OPC, making it cheaper to produce and a more viable option in a downturn economy.
A comparison of OPC and BFC savings is shown in the following tables.
Annual consumption for PC (tpa)
Annual consumption for BFC (tpa)
1 900 000
1 063 000
1 100 000
-1 100 000
2 000 000
2 000 000
Annual consumption difference (tpa)
Local unit cost
1 063 000
27 256 410
-1 100 000
-19 743 590
7 919 441
CO2 Emission Tax
4 252 000
2 000 000
12 171 441
Reducing cement’s clinker content by replacing with blast furnace slag is one way to reduce cement’s environmental footprint and therefore meet increasingly stringent regulations.