Steel Industry, China Projected to Drive Global Refractories Market

The introduction of new higher quality refractories with longer in-service life cycles is steering the future direction of the global refractories industry, according to a new market report published by Materials Technology Publications, Herts, England. The key driving factor is the steel industry, which is responsible for up to 70% of the total demand for refractories. 
Specifically, the use of longer lasting refractories is leading to reductions in consumption per ton of steel, with the rates varying according to geographic region: North America, Europe and Japan currently consume between 8kg and 10kg of refractories per ton of steel while China’s consumption level is much higher. It is estimated at about 23kg per ton of steel, with other developing economies also using higher levels of refractories. However, according to the report, these high consumption levels are set to drop considerably over the next five years as the steel industries within these developing countries adopt more sophisticated refractory materials and advanced steelmaking practices. 
The profitability of the refractories industry as a whole is strongly influenced by steel production levels and steel plant investments. The new report examines current steel production and forecasts through to 2017 by region/major producing country, predicting an upturn in the second half of 2013, followed by realistic and sustainable growth through to 2017. Refractories specifically tailored for cement, glass, ceramics and nonferrous metals sectors are also examined in detail, including an examination of the trends in refractories usage within these sectors. 
The report’s author is Ted Dickson, a leading consultant in the industrial minerals sector, with extensive knowledge of the refractories industry and its markets. More than 180 companies are profiled.
Total world production of refractories was estimated to be 41.5 million tons in 2012. The largest portion of this came from China, where production is estimated at 29.5 million tons. China is also a significant supplier of raw materials, most notably refractory bauxite, magnesia, graphite, brown fused alumina and silicon carbide, though Chinese export restrictions have reinvigorated development of non-Chinese suppliers of key raw materials, such as magnesia. Trade patterns for both raw materials and finished refractories are analyzed in the report. 
The European Union (EU) is the second largest producing region for refractories, with an estimated production of 4.1 million tons in 2012, followed by North America with 1.4 million tons in 2012. The report forecasts that refractories production worldwide will rise to 46 million tons by 2017. The report breaks down forecasts by region / major producing country. 
The refractories industry has been going through a long period of consolidation, particularly within Western countries. The world’s top 10 multinational refractories companies, which account for about 70% of sales of refractory products, all have operations in China. Developing regions saw numerous opportunities for international refractory companies, particularly through joint ventures.