Refractory products have been playing a supportive role in the production cycle. The role is well understood when there is stoppage or breakdown. The inventory carrying cost of refractories is pretty high but can't be avoided, says Vikas Damle.
Refractory products are materials that are hard to work with, and are resistant to heat and pressure. In practical terms, refractories are products used for high temperature insulation and erosion/corrosion. These are made mainly from non-metallic minerals.
With growing infrastructure industry, the demand for refractories will also grow due to their direct usage in cement and steel industry. Emission of particulate matter and volatile organic compounds, use of some carcinogenic compounds have detrimental effect on health. This will slow down the growth for refractories market size for the projected time period.
Based on type, refractory market is segmented into acidic, basic, and neutral. The basic segment for refractories is what is used in cement industry and is anticipated to grow more than 3.5 per cent by 2025. Basic refractories are harmed by acidic slags, but are stable to dusts, fumes, and alkaline slags at an elevated temperature. They are stable with alkaline slags and thus are preferred for furnace linings in alkaline environment.
The challenges faced by the cement producers are manifold today as more and more of alternate fuels are used, inconsistent quality of lime stone and use of mineralisers in the raw meal; large diameter short kilns etc. take heavy toll of refractories. Based on end-user, refractories market is segmented further into iron and steel, non-metallic materials like cement, non-ferrous metals and others. Growing political stability along with massive infrastructure spending in the Middle East and Africa will play a constructive role for the growth of steel industry. This will have a positive impact on the overall refractory market.
Based on manufacturing process, refractories market is segmented into dry press process, fused cast, hand moulded, formed, unformed. This process is usually suitable for formation of simple solid shapes. As dry press process is simple and requires low capital equipment costs for applying the product, whereas for shaped refractories the cost of application is relatively higher.
Unshaped refractories are estimated to be the largest and projected to be the fastest-growing type by form. The segment is also expected to witness the highest growth between 2018 and 2023. The significant properties of these refractories such as their chemical inertness, mechanical integrity, abrasion and thermal shock resistance at high temperatures, and ease of use make it suitable for many applications in the iron and steel, cement, glass, and non-ferrous metal industries. Unshaped refractories are replacing the conventional type of refractories at a much faster rate in many applications that require high-temperature resistance. The following table indicates progress made by unshaped refractories.
Some of the key players across the world in refractories market are RHI Magnesita, Krosaki Harima Corporation, Vesuvius PLC, Shinagawa Refractories Co., Saint-Gobain, Morgan Advanced Materials, CoorsTek Inc, HarbisonWalker International, Imerys, etc. Asia-Pacific region is estimated to be the largest market for refractories. The growth is mainly attributed to the presence of a large number of refractory manufacturers, rising foreign investments, and growing demand for refractories from the iron and steel, glass, non-ferrous metals, and other industries. China leads the market owing to the abundance of raw materials in the country, use of refractories in the iron and steel, glass, non-ferrous metals, and power generation industries, and numerous developmental strategies adopted by the manufacturers. The other country in this region which is second in the race is India. The remaining counties like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam are not too far behind. The growth is mainly due to the increasing demand for cement, iron & steel, cement and glass mainly in construction, automotive and other manufacturing sectors. Europe held the second largest share in the refractories market in 2015 and is estimated to see an upsurge during the forecast period of 2016 to 2021.
China to dominate the market
China dominates the refractories market in terms of consumption and production, due to the local availability of raw materials, such as magnesite and alumni. Additionally, the materials are available at cheaper costs, as compared to other producers. The iron and steel industry consumes the largest portion of refractories, globally. Industrial restructuring and the decreased consumption rate of refractories for per ton of steel have impacted the demand for refractories in China, between 2013-2015. However, the steady growth in the production of iron and steel in the country has been driving the growth of the refractories market, in the recent times.