France-based Roullier Group focuses on innovation and
development, notably at its Dinard-based Applied Studies
and Research Centre (CERA), which hosts an integrated
pilot plant enabling the manufacture of new formulas to
validated and new processes to be applied
Created in 1959 by self-made
businessman Daniel Roullier, the Roullier Group has steadily
grown from initially trading the local red algae
maerl - produced in the Brittany region - to become
a major plant, animal and human feed manufacturer with a
EUR3.2bn ($4.2bn) cumulated turnover in 2011.
Based in Dinard, France,
family-owned Roullier today owns 14 business lines including
its 100%-owned subsidiary Timab, which manufactures magnesia
and phosphate products for the fertiliser and animal feed
Timab comprises three divisions,
managing phosphates, magnesia, and industrial solutions.
Timab Phosphates is the second
largest producer of phosphates in Europe with one production
plant in Saint-Malo, France, and two in Gabes, Tunisia.
Timab Magnesium, the leading
European producer of magnesia based products for agriculture,
produces a full range of caustic calcined magnesia processed
from magnesite sourced from different regions.
Timab Industrial Solutions supplies
its own products (calcium carbonate) and raw materials from
trade (sodium chloride, sugar cane molasses, urea, protected
fats, sodium bicarbonate, vitamins, trace elements, clays,
Timab Magnesium markets a full range of magnesium products
worldwide for animal feed, fertilisers, and environment.
The company mainly sources its
magnesia from Spain (70-80,000 tpa), Greece, Russia, China,
Brazil and Slovakia, with the magnesia (MgO) content grading
between 65% and 95% depending on its country of origin.
The natural ore is processed at the
Zuburi site of its sister company Magnesitas Navarras SA -
jointly owned by Roullier (60%) since 2000 and Grecian
Magnesite SA (40%) - in the foothills of the Pyrenees in Spain.
The technologies used in the extraction of magnesite include
pre-beneficiation, grinding, calcinations and the screening of
Magnesitas Navarras has
become the mineral resource of the group and a factor of
growth, Timabs Magnesium operation manager Herve
Cospain commented to IM.
Cospain explained that the
development of Magnesitas Navarras is targeting international
markets, as the Spanish steel industry is still impacted by the
global economic malaise.
After extraction, magnesite
(MgCO3) is enriched by washing, heavy media. For
high purity grades, flotation is used. This gives a
concentrated product which is then calcined at temperatures of
900-1,200oC, giving a product that can be
assimilated by animals and plants. Products include magnesium
carbonate (42.5% MgO), magnesium oxide (65-94% MgO), and
magnesium sulphate (27% MgO; 20% sulphate SO3).
Timabs magnesia products are
used in animal feed, for livestock such as cattle and pigs, to
counter diet-change related stress, or grass tetany (metabolic
disorder characterised by low levels of magnesium in the blood
serum of cattle), during the period when cattle are turned out
It is also used in fertilisers as
magnesia contributes to photosynthesis and chlorophyll
formation by plants.
In addition, magnesia is utilised
in environment for different applications such as soil
treatment by neutralising heavy metals - pH stabilisation -
water and smoke gas treatment.
As operation manager Cospain
explained, magnesia prices for animal feed follow the Chinese
market, ranging $250-340/tonne in Europe depending on quality,
and $400/s.ton in the US. According to market players, prices
are expected to get back to the $390/tonne FOB levels of June
2011 for caustic magnesia. But it is very difficult to
anticipate at present as the market is very versatile. It can
change any time, Cospain warned.
Since 2010, Timab started to target
the US market, reaching a 10% share in two years. According to
Cospain, the US market has a 200,000 tpa magnesia capacity for
farming applications in addition to 200,000 tpa for
The US has been our top
priority for the last two years. We are still on it although we
will also start focusing on something else, Cospain
Timab Magnesium, through Magnesitas Navarras, Spain,
produces 150,000 tpa caustic calcined magnesia (CCM)
which is processed in Saint-Malo (picture) for animal
fertiliser, and environment
Van Mannekus acquisition
In January this year, Roullier acquired a 50% stake in Dutch
magnesia processor and distributor Van Mannekus & Co. BV,
which was previously owned by Possehl Erzkontor GmbH.
Van Mannekus, headquartered in
Schiedam, Rotterdam district, is now jointly owned by Roullier
and Greece-based magnesia producer Grecian Magnesite.
The Roullier Group and Grecian
Magnesite have signed a joint-venture agreement and will
utilise their experience and market expertise to share
responsibilities in Van Mannekus management in order to further
develop the sales of magnesium compounds for the chemical,
industrial, construction and speciality markets worldwide.
With Timab, Magnesitas Navarras and
their partner Grecian Magnesite teaming up, the move allows the
group to create a strong organisation committed to
servicing a wide portfolio of magnesia products tailor-made to
The transaction has enabled
us to create a strong European centre for magnesia. Therefore,
the group will be able to develop itself on industrial
applications such as flame retardants and abrasives,
Our objective is to use the
synergies of these companies in order to become a leader for
caustic industrial applications within the next two years and
confront our competitors, he added.
Spanish MgO expansions
Timabs sister company Magnesitas Navarras - which sells
its refractory coating products to the steel industry under the
brand name Magna - has been working during the last few years
on developing two new mines, Zilbeti and Borobia, in north-east
Spain. Total investment is Û27m ($35.64m)
The move is a bid to extend its
reserves by minimum 30 years as the growth experienced by the
company in recent years resulted in the reserves dwindling at
its Azkarate mine complex at Zubiri, near Pamplona, where it
has more than 10 years years of magnesite remaining at a rate
of 440,000 tpa.
As reported by IM,
Magnesitas Navarras has identified 7m tonnes of magnesite to
initially extract from the Zilbeti mine in the Navarra province
of the country and a minimum of 12m tonnes from the mine of
Borobia located in the Soria province in the Castilla y Leon
The Zilbeti and Borobia mines are
expected to have a combined output of about 360,000 tpa.
The Zilbeti mine, which at time of
press was expected to start production by the end of April, has
7m tonnes magnesite reserves, yielding a grade of >65% MgO,
30% CaO, 3% Fe2O3, and 0.8%
SiO2. Magnesitas Navarras believes that it is the
low silica content of Zilbetis magnesite that is
particularly attractive about its resource.
The Borobia mine hosts 50m tonnes
of magnesite reserves, and would yield a finished product grade
of 88% MgO, 5% CaO, 3% Fe2O3, and 3%
It is not finalised when production
will start at Borobia as the company is still waiting for
mining concession permits, although it started the process a
few years ago. It is a complex and political subject on
which we have been working for a while, Timab
Magnesiums Herve Cospain explained to
It could either take one
month or one year. We do not know yet, he added, however
underlining that it should not take more than two years.
Timab Phosphate, which has a 450,000 tpa capacity, produces
calcium phosphates - dicalcium, mono-dicalcium, and monocalcium
- and magnesium phosphates (Mag 26) at its three plants,
including one in Saint-Malo, in the Brittany region, France,
where the group is headquartered.
The two other plants are based in
Gabes, Tunisia, the seventh largest phosphate producing country
in the world, according to the USGS. The first plant, launched
in 2003, was rapidly coupled with a second one five years later
in order to meet the growing demand.
Timabs phosphate products are
used in the animal feed industry - poultry, aquaculture,
cattle, and swine - in addition to producers of feed and
mineral supplements, pet food and premixes.
Phosphorus is required in animal
feed to optimise healthy growth, bone strength, weight gain and
fertility. It also plays a key role for genetic transmission
and cellular metabolism, bone formation and maintenance, teeth
development, muscle tissue formation, egg and egg shell
quality, and optimum milk secretion.
All of the phosphates produced by
Timab are manufactured using the phosphoric method in which
phosphoric acid is mixed with calcium in order to manufacture
inorganic phosphate. The special granulation process used by
the company enables the phosphate content to be increased from
18% to 23% P2O5.
That was a very innovative
process when we started our operations in Tunisia, as the
Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region was then mainly
dealing with dicalcium phosphate (DCP) at 18%
P2O5, Bruno Vialon, commercial
director at Timab Phosphate, said to IM.
In Tunisia, Timab buys its
phosphoric acid from state-owned Groupe Chimique Tunisien
(GCT). As reported by IM, the country,
dramatically impacted by social unrest since January 2011, has
run at an average 25-30% of production capacity since then.
However, Vialon confirmed that the
situation has improved in the country. As a result of the
end of the strikes, raw material supply and shipping of feed
phosphate came back to normal in January 2012, Vialon
As far as development is concerned,
Timab is already selling in 70 countries worldwide but nowadays
focusing more and more on sales in Asia and Central and South
America, from Mexico to Argentina.
With no surprise, the Roullier Group plans to continue its
innovation and development strategy steadily applied during the
last 53 years.
We are at present working on
about 15 projects and the group has a very clear strategy to
focus on international development through consolidation,
Cospain revealed to IM, underlining that the
group is focusing on international acquisitions in order to
boost its potential.
We are proceeding step by
step, he added.
In addition to its two projects in
Spain, Roullier is also working on developing three more mining
projects for magnesia. The targeted capacities and locations
are not disclosed yet.
It is too early to say where
but I can tell you it will not be in Russia as we do not want
to compete with our Russian partners [Magnezit Group],
Cospain highlighted, however pointing out that the Spanish
projects are the top priority for now.
In terms of regions, Roullier first
focused on Europe, notably for fertilisers, before expanding to
growing Brazil about ten years ago as it is
where the main activity for fertilisers is.
Today, the group targets the US and
Asia, principally North-America and Asia, to sell innovative
solutions. We believe that, one day, China will become a
significant consumer of value-added products. So we are getting
ready for that, Cospain told IM.
Our development strategy is
to produce worldwide in order to be able to market new regions.
That will also help us to get access to new sources of raw
materials at local and therefore cheaper prices, he
The company, which has constantly
invested in innovation and R&D during the last 53 years, is
working on developing a world-class R&D centre in
Saint-Malo, which will gather together all its research teams
in order to generate more emulation between the
It will also include
Roulliers existing Applied Studies and Research Centre
(CERA), based in Dinard. CERA hosts an integrated pilot plant
enabling the manufacture of new formulas to be validated and
new processes to be applied; and an analysis laboratory
equipped with the latest technology.
It will have high-performance
greenhouses in order to test in situ the raw material
of the group and to make more innovating fertilisers,
The 17,000m2 centre,
expected to be launched in 2014 with a workforce of 350 people,
will also regroup different fields including a laboratory
dedicated on marine technology, pilot plants to manufacture
algae used in biotechnology, and research on nutrition.
Cospain believes that the present
consolidation trend in the industry is going to continue
further, with more acquisitions to be expected.
The industry has changed
dramatically since the financial crisis of 2008-09, notably for
fertiliser production. As a result, we have to be more flexible
in order to be able to quickly meet the demand. Cospain
The world has changed. Now you have to get access to
raw material faster, in order of produce faster and supply your
customers faster. Thats the new challenge, he
Roullier Group at a glance
- Family-owned group created in 1959 by
Daniel Roullier in Brittany, France, starting with the
trading of maerl, a coralline red algae which produces
- Today focuses on
plant nutrition, animal and human feed;
- 14 business lines
among three main divisions;
agro-supplies, professional hygiene, mineral and
industrial products, magnesite, plastics, garden
products, food phosphates, marine biotechnologies,
operation and transformation of seaweed, naval
equipment, pastries, cooked meats, energy and
- 6,000 employees in
40 countries and three continents (North America, South
3.2bn in 2011 (cumulated);
- 51% revenue
- 800,000-1m tpa raw
- Three business
lines: Timab Phosphate, Timab Magnesium, Timab
- Timab Phosphate: one
plant in Saint-Malo, France; two plants in Gabs,
Tunisia; total capacity: 450,000 tpa calcium phosphate,
animal feed standards ;
- Timab Magnesium:
150,000 tpa caustic calcined magnesia (CCM); natural
ore sourced in Spain, Greece, Russia, China, and
Slovakia; processed at Magnesitas Navarras Zubiri
site in the foothills of the Pyrenees in Spain; used in
animal feed, fertilisers, and environment;
- Timab Industrial Products: various products
including calcium carbonates, sodium chlorides (salts)