France-based Kerneos told IM on the
sidelines of the International Conference on Calcium
Aluminates (ICCA) in Avignon that, due to slow refractories
and construction markets, it is looking at new applications
and continuing to develop new products.
Kerneos, which generated a turnover
of Û340m ($466m*) in 2013, is the world leading producer
of calcium aluminates cements (CAC) for the refractory,
construction and other niche markets.
The company has been developing
materials for new applications and has recently opened a second
research and development (R&D) centre next to its
production site in Taijin-Teda in China.
Chris Parr, vice president product
development at Kerneos, told IM that the new
centre in China will focus on the countrys domestic
market specifically it will be developing products with
specific focus on refractory sectors.
Its a mixture of local
capability development and the ability to form a network with
the other R&D centre in Lyon, Parr told
Kerneos was one of the sponsors of
the conference, together with other CAC producers such as
Spain-based Cementos Molins, Poland-based Gorka Cement,
Croatia-based Calucem and Turkey-based Cimsa.
The event, which took place at the
Palais de Papes in Avignon, France, in May, was the fourth of a
sequence of events which started in 1991, and involved 200
scientists from industries and universities around the
A number of speakers discussed the
use of models to understand chemistry and thermodynamics of CAC
You see there has been quite
a lot of development in the last few days, Parr told
IM. One thing to have come out of the
conference is a focus on trying to control these systems better
through modelling, he added.
New products and new
Kerneos has recently manufactured a
series of new focused products, such as amorphous calcium
aluminate for quick-hardening mortars and calcium magnesium
aluminate (CMA-72) for refractory castables.
I think the real question is
what value we bring in, Parr told
Kerneos introduced magnesia
in a new product - the calcium magnesium aluminate - which can
have a certain behaviour of the binder at room temperature and
one at high temperature which results in a more durable
Amorphous CAC, which can reaches
setting times of 3-15 minutes, has been specifically designed
for applications in ultra-fast hardening cements, which can be
presently achieved only by using resin substitutes.
There is also the possibility
to develop new aluminates and introduce new things in the
structure, whether it will be organic, with interesting
behaviour between organic-mineral interfaces, or strontium,
barium, zirconia, magnesia, Parr told
Participants also discussed other
advanced applications such as root dentin material,
phosphorescent glasses (when doped with rare earths),
corrosion-resistant sewers and radiation absorption in the
The fact our name is Kerneos
Aluminates Technologies, while in a previous life we have been
spoken about in terms of calcium aluminates, gives an idea
about how we are open to look at different solutions,
We are always looking into
new industries. Obviously the nuclear industry presents
particular challenges, because here we are speaking about a
lifetime which extends to ten of years, a multiple of what we
are considering today, Parr told IM.
Traditional markets and
CAC is traditionally used as a
binder for the production of castables in refractories it is
also used in construction as a self-levelling mortar tiles
adhesive mortar, technical mortar and as a waterproof product,
owing to its properties of quick-setting, anti-shrinkage
In the refractory market the
majority of CAC products have an alumina
(Al2O3) content between 60% and 70%,
although in steel refractories this can lower to 40%-50%
Al2O3. In construction, most CACs have an
alumina content between 40% and 50%.
The two markets have equal
weight in terms of consumption, Thierry Fradin, executive
vice president sales and marketing at Kerneos, told
Demand in the refractory
market in 2014 will be at the same levels of 2013 (...) We see
now the market coming back slowly, he added.
In construction, the demand
is more resilient, is more linked to renovation, especially in
Europe, Fradin said. The company expects demand will rise
in the second half of this year.
Today we have come back to a
2-3% year increase and there is not a single [geographic] area
pulling the growth, he said.
He told IM that
Kerneos focus is now on India, where the company is
planning to construct a CA plant as it believes the country
could push future demand for CAC.
Bauxite is the main source of
alumina for CAC and its supply security, which was at risk
between 2006 and 2008, is no longer an issue for Kerneos,
according to Fradin.
After acquiring a stake in the
Greek red bauxite producer, Elmin, in 2012, and having set
operations in China, which allow the company to achieve good
visibility among white bauxite suppliers, Kerneos has now
guaranteed long-term supply security, Fradin explained.
He also said that the main costs in
CACs production are related to energy consumption and in
environmental policies, which recently set tighter constraints
on carbon emissions across the world economies, including
We have made, and we still
have to make, significant investments in our plants to be able
to cope with these terms, and this is something impacting
prices in the end, Fradin said.
CAC is currently manufactured via a
fusion and sintering processes of Al2O3
and lime. Alternative lower-energy production routes, which use
spontaneous oxidation as spontaneous combustion, are only at
If you want to take those
methods at the industrial scale, the costs will be several
folds higher, Parr told IM.
*Conversions made in May 2014