The outlook for refractories consumption is positive until
at least the end of the current decade, based on projected
increases in steel, cement and glass output, delegates at the
57th International Colloquium on Refractories in
Aachen, Germany, heard in September.
A reduction in specific consumption
of refractories, particularly in the steel industry which is
targeting 5kg/tonne of steel produced as a long-term goal, down
from an average of 15kg/tonne today, will limit volume
increases for these materials, however.
Jessica Roberts, senior analyst at
Roskill Information Service, explained that there has been a
global trend towards using less refractory material in the last
60 years, driven by a need to cut costs and improve
While Japans steel industry
has managed to cut specific consumption of refractories to
around 7kg/tonne, making it the most efficient in the world
ahead of North America and Germany, which both consume
aroundÊ10kg/tonne in steel making, China remains well
above the global average at around 20kg/tonne of steel
China was a relatively late
entrant into the steel production market, Roberts said,
adding that the country has cut its use of refractories in
steel from around 55kg/tonne in the 1980s and is continuing to
reduce its requirements.
Another factor that will negatively
impact future volume growth is the increasing desirability of
wear resistant refractories with longer lifecycles.
Steel and cement kiln operators are
demanding increasingly durable heat resistant materials for
kilns and furnaces in order to reduce downtime and production
interruptions incurred through maintenance stoppages.
According to Hartmut Wuthnow,
manager at the German Institute for Refractories and Ceramics
(DIFK), longevity of refractories is one of the most pressing
issues facing refractories manufacturers.
The main problem people come
to us with is corrosion, Wuthnow told
We have customers who come to
us from all over the world to test their materials (...) Most
want to know how they can make them last longer and perform
better, he added.
Quality and performance
A shift in the steel industry
towards continuous casting as well as pressure from regulators
to reduce sulphur emissions is helping to drive growing demand
for higher quality refractories, Roskills Roberts
There is also a trend in favour of
alternative fuels to power furnaces, which has resulted in
greater variations in temperature, meaning that higher quality
refractory linings are required to cope with the changeable
operating conditions, she added.
This preference for superior
performance is sharpening the focus on raw materials
Dr Christoph Woehrmeyer, who
manages aluminate technologies for Kerneos Inc., said that the
very high purity bauxite and limestone Kerneos needs to make
its high quality monolithic linings can only be sourced from
China at present, adding that another type of block bauxite
required by the company is only available in Greece and
Kerneos has recently invested in a
red bauxite facility in Greece to help meet some of its raw
materials needs and has also opened treatment plants in France
and China to upgrade bauxite fines, helping it to reduce its
dependence on a single type of Chinese bauxite - although
Woehrmeyer admitted that this is a costly alternative.
Berhard Goliasch, head of raw
materials supply at RHI AG, said that the Austrian manufacturer
had recently had to blend up magnesia sourced from
China that failed to meet its quality expectations.
The company has purchased and
developed a number of raw material facilities in recent years,
including plants in Norway, Turkey, Italy and Ireland, as part
of its backward integration strategy.
Roskill predicts that refractories demand will grow by 3.1%
per year to 2020, and Goliasch said that Western producers will
need to invest in captive raw materials sources to ensure that
they have the supply security and quality to meet this