Germany-based speciality alumina producer Almatis Group is to
sell its US alumina trihydrate business to Huber Specialty
Hydrates, part of JM Huber Corp., following an earlier
tolling agreement between the two parties that was
established in December 2010.
The deal will include the fire retardants section of
Almatis US facilities in Bauxite, Arkansas, as well as
the companys fire retardant product grades under the
Hydral and SpaceRite brands.
Almatis owns and continues to
operate the tabular and calcined alumina plants in Bauxite,
Arkansas, which produces speciality alumina grades primarily
for the refractories and ceramics markets.
Kerry Bertram, general manager of
Hubers industrial mineral section, said that the initial
hydrates tolling arrangement at the Bauxite facility had been
an outstanding success and that the products
acquired from Almatis would continue to be manufactured with
the same specifications.
Almatis said it would dedicate
resources to its core markets and continue to manufacture
calcined and tabular alumina in Arkansas to supply key minerals
from strategically located manufacturing.
Calcined alumina was the first
speciality alumina to be sold for a chemical application and
has been produced by Almatis for over 100 years.
Another of its core products,
tabular alumina, is both a critical refractory aggregate and
matrix component. The refractory, ceramic and polishing markets
are understood to be Almatis key businesses, with Almatis
confirming to IM that the group continues to
invest in manufacturing advancements in Arkansas
and its other plants around the world.
Talk from the Top: Almatis on alumina
Almatis spoke to IM about its decision to sell
the Bauxite hydrates line and its outlook for the future.
What was the driver behind the speciality hydrates
The sale of the speciality hydrate business to Huber allows
Almatis to focus on its major businesses.
With Hubers value addition
and strong market presence, they can leverage the speciality
products into more applications and customers.
The sale was only of the speciality
hydrate products, and tabular and calcined alumina production
in Bauxite, Arkansas continues with the same market commitment
and production excellence.
What is Almatis strategy for the
Almatis strategic focus remains the same and the group
continues to drive growth in the refractory, ceramic, polishing
and investment casting markets. Globally, Almatis has made
recent and substantial investments in manufacturing and
laboratory expansions for these core markets.
In Qingdao, China, a calcined
alumina facility and R&D investment will later this year
bring high quality calcined alumina products and technical
applications support resources to this important market.
In Ludwigshafen, Germany, the
company recently added a new crushing and sizing line to meet
demand for synthetic sintered alumina-based aggregates.
A new state-of-art application
laboratory was just opened in February 2012 at the Falta, India
plant. At the Bauxite, Arkansas facility a new ceramics
application laboratory was opened in mid-2011 to serve
These global laboratory investments
offer enhanced capability to optimise custom solutions with
leading-edge technical support.
Can you expand on the investments in
Together the Arkansas, Leetsdale and Neville operations serve
the refractory, ceramic and polishing markets in the Americas.
The Arkansas operation, over the past six years, has had a very
significant increase in capital investments and also an
increase in employment to near 160 employees.
The Almatis management team has
invested >$30m in capital projects, exhibiting their
commitment to sustaining and growing the Arkansas plant. These
investments have been made in various capacity, quality, lab
equipment, and environmental projects, for example, an improved
bulk loading system, improved screens and magnets, a particle
classification system, the new Ceramics Development lab, and
state-of-the-art environmental and safety systems.
What are the main products supplied from the Arkansas
The Bauxite, AR facility is one of the largest of Almatis
operations, and is the centre of the Americas speciality
alumina production for advanced ceramic, refractory and
Tabular alumina, a major component
of alumina-based refractory applications, is a homogenous, pure
and very dense synthetic refractory material. In coarse sizes
it provides high resistance to thermal shock, and also
corrosion resistance. The addition of fine sized tabular
alumina optimises the refractoriness of the refractory
The groups reactive aluminas
have tailored grain sizes to meet the fired density and
shrinkage requirements for precision ceramics. Almatis has
perfected stringent process control to produce a tightly
In ceramic applications, high
sinter reactivity can be achieved at lower sintering
temperatures and wear resistance is excellent. Equally
excellent is lot-to-lot consistency, producing more reliable
advanced ceramic components. Almatis also invests in technical
product support, offering consulting, troubleshooting and
application assessment to optimise ceramic performance.
What is your outlook for refractory and ceramic
Almatis is cautiously optimistic that global industrial
production will not be impacted further by European sovereign
risks. Steel production is a major driver of the refractory
market and year-to-date global production is up just 0.6%.
Analyst expectations are for the second half of the year to be
Still there are strong markets,
notably the North American market. Automotive production and
gas drilling are strong drivers in the US. The ceramics market
is certainly less volatile and remains strong in most global
regions. Almatis is continually assessing on-going investments
and will react quickly as regional markets increase demand.