• Allied Glass Containers Ltd has recently successfully completed a major investment program at its Knottingley site, which involved a complete melter and forehearth rebuild. The project, which started in January has resulted in a larger furnace with increased production capacity and improved environmental performance.
• Saverglass is strengthening its industrial presence worldwide recently by opening in the Middle East its new Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates, a production site. Saverglass, the world specialist in manufacturing and decorating luxury and high-end bottles, inaugurates a furnace to produce more than 150 million bottles peryear, and 120 employees are expected to be running the plant.
• Through the acquisition of Scheuten’s stake in “Moustier4,” AGC Glass Europe has acquired the total share capital of the joint venture that constitutes the Belgium-based float production line located in the AGC Moustier plant.
• Magnezit Group, in the framework of the project for production of magnesia fluxes, has successfully launched a line with annual capacity of 50,000 tons at Panteleymonovka Refractory Plant (settlement Panteleymonovka, town Gorlovka, Ukraine). The production facility was organized from scratch and will reach designed capacity this year.
• Mineral sands miner Iluka Resources cut production by nearly half in the March quarter (compared to March 2012), and will reduce it even more as prices fall. Poor prices and weak demand led to a 21 per cent fall in mineral sands revenue of $139.9 million, from $177.1 million in the same period last year.
• Aruvian Research presents analysis of Asahi Glass Co. A complete and comprehensive analysis of Asahi Glass Company includes an overview of the industry the company operates in, and then moves on to analyzing the company itself.
• Also, beginning May 1, 2013, Asahi Glass Co. will integrate operations at its Kansai plant and Takasago plant, Japan. Both located in the Kansai area, the plants have operated separately for the manufacturing of glass substrates for display devices, specialty glass for display applications and other display glass.
• In May 2012, Glaston Corp. initiated legal proceedings in China against Luoyang North Glass Technologies (Northglass) and Luoyang Land Glass Technologies (Landglass) regarding patent infringement cases. The Patent Reexamination Board in Beijing has now given decisions to invalidate Glaston’s patents in question based on Land Glass’ and North Glass’ invalidation claims filed after the infringement suits. Glaston said it was disappointed by the decisions and will take further action.
• Zimbabwe Glass Industries (Zimglass), the country’s sole glass manufacturer, is still reeling in financial woes seven months after the company resumed operations. The company resumed operations in September last year following a $7 million cash injection after the firm had taken a two-year hiatus, which saw one of the furnaces being renovated.
• SA companies that participated in cartel activity in the glass manufacturing industry face prosecution by the [South African] Competition Tribunal following an investigation by the Competition Commission. The commission’s investigation, which started in 2010, showed that Glass South Africa, National Glass, Northern Hardware and Glass, Furman Glass, McCoy’s Glass, and AF-FSL Glass fixed minimum selling prices.
• At its meeting on April 4, 2013, the RHI Supervisory Board approved the annual financial statements 2012 of RHI AG and the consolidated financial statements 2012. The preliminary results of the RHI Group as published on March 8, 2013, are thus confirmed.
• Alkane Resources has completed a definitive feasibility study (DFS) for its Dubbo Zirconia Project in New South Wales that estimates an initial 20-year life and a net present value of Australian $1.23 billion. The DFS has confirmed a technically and financially robust project which will deliver a total life of mine EBITDA of A $5.23 billion from a 1 million ton per annum operation. The Dubbo Zirconia Project is a strategic and alternate source of zirconium and heavy rare-earth products with a resource capable of very long term supply.
• PPG Industries has been recognized by the Department of Energy for “significant achievements” in advancing organic light-emitting diode lighting technology. The results indicate significant cost and performance advantages over conventional indium tin oxide-coated display-grade glass substrates; PPG’s light-extraction technologies are compatible with the conventional float glass manufacturing process and result in significant enhancement of device efficiencies.
• Taking advantage of the tragic Italian business environment, the Egyptian International Business and Investment Association, “IBIA,” is working on transferring Italian factories to Egypt within this year. Ahmed Galal, president of IBIA had spoken to Al-Ahram newspaper stating that he had suggested to the Italian investors to transfer their factories to Egypt in cooperation with Egyptian investors, definitely including transfer of associated equipments and technologies. This will be a bullish leap in the Egyptian industry and a great loss for the western competitiveness.
• Indiana companies that use discarded glass in their products are urging lawmakers to pass a bill requiring refundable deposits on beverages sold in recyclable bottles and cans. Verallia North America VP Stephen Segebarth told, in a joint meeting of the Indiana House and Senate environmental affairs, that a bill calling for a 5- or 10-cent refundable deposit on recyclable containers would boost job creation by providing glass scraps. Verallia, which makes glass bottles and jars, is in fact constantly searching for cullet.
• Sharp Corp., as part of financial turnaround efforts, is considering selling a Polish factory where it has been assembling LCD televisions for the European market. European sales of Sharp’s LCD TVs stood at 1.4 million units in fiscal 2010 but, hit by the anemic EU economy, the sales fell to some 1 million units in fiscal 2012. Consequently, the operating rate of the Polish plant has dropped, making it unprofitable to run.
• Infab Refractories says it is excelling in a hot market. Infab is a descendant of Eastern Refractories Co, which opened a branch office in Lewiston, Maine, in the 1940s. The Lewiston satellite was located strategically with a rail siding, for delivery of the refractory firebricks needed to service the boilers of various power plants, paper mills and manufacturing plants. The company was sold to a national contractor in the late ’90s and was soon re-sold, becoming employee owned in 2004. David Collins, the principle owner of Infab Refractories, is the grandson of the first regional manager of Eastern Refractories, Ted Collins. Infab Refractories has expanded its client base through the manufacture of custom-made, removable insulation blankets and various other high-temperature products under the direction of owner Jean (John) Bergeron and former owner Dick Marston at their current location on the corner of Whipple and Summer streets in Lewiston.
• The economic conditions allowed the Vetropack Group to increase its turnover by 2.5 percent. However, the price adjustments that were needed because of rising costs could only be implemented to a limited extent. Profit margins are therefore lower but still at a good level. The sale of two sites in Switzerland that were no longer needed for production led to an increase in profits by 42 percent.
• Photovoltaics manufacturer and project developer Centrosolar plans to dispose of its solar glass operations due to falling market prices and sales volumes. The main determining factor for such final decision was the fall in revenue, down €2.2 million in the previous year to negative €12.6 million ($16 million) in 2012.
• Float glass manufacturer, Saint Gobain Glass India, said it would invest Rs 1,000 crore in various projects over the next two years; while Rs 800 crore would be invested in their new facility coming up in Bhiwadi in Rajasthan, and Rs 100 crore each would be pumped into the company’s existing facility in Chennai and the newly acquired Sezal Glass’ float glass plant in Gujarat.
• Reflecting the European auto glass business constriction, Saint-Gobain is closing a Belgium-based windscreen factory, impacting 263 jobs. Auto sales, upon which the auto glass unit is dependent, have continued to decline as the European market continues to deal with the fallout of the debt crisis.
• With a reduction in glass production during the October-December quarter 2012, soda ash producers of India are witnessing a fall in demand and are now operating at lower capacities. Soda ash is a prime requirement in glass making. Demand from the glass industry has declined mainly on account of slackness in the real estate and automobile sectors.
• ThyssenKrupp Polysius has won a contract from PT Holcim Indonesia Tbk., Jakarta, to build a second cement plant near the town of Tuban on the northern coast of the island of Java. The contract is worth around $250 million and the plant is scheduled to start production in 2015.
• With effect from Feb. 26, 2013, Allegra Capital GmbH of Munich, Germany, has taken over the shares of the Vesuvius Group in Vesuvius VGT-DYKO. This assures that the company can continue its 125-year business.
I just got back from the 49th Annual Symposium on Refractories that was held Wednesday and Thursday at the combined St. Louis Section and Refractory Ceramics Division meeting. The theme of this year’s meeting was “Refractory Challenges in the Chemical and Petro-Chemical Industries.”
To open the symposium, Ed Linck (Linck Refractory Services) provided an overview of refractories challenges and technologies in the refining industry, particularly as they are used in fluid catalytic cracking units (FCCUs). In the 1950s when he began working in the industry, FCCUs ran 6-9 months before needing repair. Today, FCCUs run five years continuously, and new technologies are driving the life cycle toward seven years.
Linck noted that good materials are important, but installation is critical. “You can have the best material in the world, but if you don’t put it in right, it won’t work right,” he says. Downtime costs a refiner about $1 million per day, according to another speaker, Richard Parkinson of UOP LLC/Honeywell. Even though it takes about 100-150 tons of refractory material to line a FCCU, the refining industry accounts for only about 5-10 percent of the overall refractories market, with the majority of refractories going to the steel, metals, glass, and cements industries.
According to Parkinson, there are about 500 FCCUs worldwide that account for about 40 percent of the global gasoline production. A FCCU can process 20,000-200,000 barrels of oil per day. The catalytic cracking reaction occurs at about 500-550°C, and the catalysts are primarily zeolite and aluminosilicate fine powders. Consequently, many of the talks discussed challenges relating to corrosion, heat, and abrasion.
John Hellman, from Pennsylvania State University, is working on proppant technology, which are at the vortex of current events relating to hydrofracturing. He says that the Marcellus Shale reserve alone has enough natural gas reserves to supply the US energy needs for the next 150 years, which he describes as “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas.”
“This is an industry that is going to be large,” Hellman says, “and we have to do it right.” According to him, an important part of “doing it right” is advancing the proppant technology. The numbers are compelling. Each lateral well (12-20 come off each vertical wellhead) calls for 3,000 tons of proppant. The present market is in the neighborhood of 100 billion tons per year, up from 12 billion tons only seven years ago. At those volumes, proppants need to be available locally and cheap. His group is looking at ways to use discarded materials—such as glass cullet, slags, wrong-size roofing shingle minerals, and even the drill cuttings pulled from the wells—to make high-quality, inexpensive proppants, while solving some other industrial disposal problems. He also offered some intriguing ideas for “smart proppants” based on magnetic particles with piezoelectric outer shells that could provide in situ monitoring of the wells.
The RCD regulars like to characterize themselves as a “family.” To my delight, this family welcomed me into the clan by singing “Happy Birthday” to me yesterday to celebrate my Nth 39th birthday!