I’ve been in Victoria, BC, Canada this week attending Unitecr 2013—the 13th meeting of The Unified International Technical Conference on Refractories. The conference, which occurs biennially, is an international collaboration between refractory organizations in the US, Germany, Japan, and South America. This is its fourth time in North America.

Nearly 650 attendees from every region of the world engaged in manufacturing are here. Reflecting the reality that more than half of all refractories produced are consumed by the global steel industry, about half the technical program relates to steelmaking. There are also sessions on refractories for glass, cementmaking, nonferrous metals, chemical processing, and energy generation, as well as refractory-specific sessions on topics like basic refractories and monolithics.

The mood is upbeat. While some wish business were better, most seem to feel that the 2008-2009 slump is behind the industry. The enormous influence of the Chinese economic engine continues to be an issue for refractory producers and consumers alike. Here’s a selection of photos from the event.

1-Expo-washington mills

Washington Mills representatives meet visitors at the exhibit on Wednesday. (Credit: Frignon; ACerS

1-FIRE Elkem grp

All smiles from Norway’s Elkem delegation attending the FIRE short course on Tuesday before the start of the conference. (Credit: ACerS)


Jeff Smith (far right) leads a meeting of the Unitecr International Executive Board on Wednesday. (Credit: ACerS)

1-Keynote speaker

Remco De Jong opened the conference with the keynote address, “Minerals to materials: The changing face of the global refractory industry.” (Credit: Frignon; ACerS)

1-Keynote audience

De Jong’s keynote speech resonated with the standing-room-only audience. (Credit: Frignon; ACerS)

1-Poster session

About two dozen posters and Canadian beer attracted a large crowd to Wednesday evening’s poster session. (Credit: ACerS)

1-Winning poster

This poster, “Development of measuring method of torpedo car brick thickness using commercial 3D laser scanner,” by R. Otake (Kobe Steel, Japan) won “Best Poster” as well as “People’s Choice” honors. (Credit: ACerS)

1-YP reception

There were plenty of young professionals at Wednesday evening’s reception. (Credit: ACerS)



Victor Pandolfelli asks Tom Vert a question at Thursday’s plenary session. (Credit: Frignon; ACerS)


Dana Goski, technical program chair, presents a gift to Tom Vert after his plenary talk on Thursday, “How do steelmakers pick refractories—Logic, emotion, or dartboard?” (Credit: Frignon; ACerS)

3-Banquet Lou

Lou Trostel, president of Unitecr 2013, welcomes more than 500 delegates to the conference banquet on Thursday evening. (Credit: ACerS)

3-Banquet recognition

One of Jeff Smith’s last duties as chair of the Unitecr Executive Committee was to recognize Robert Crolius of The Refractory Institute and Thomas Vert of ArcelorMittal Dofasco for their service to Unitecr. Nancy Bunt served as mistress of ceremonies for the banquet. (Credit: ACerS)

3-Banquet toast

A toast to the refractories industry from a few of the delegates from the Far East. (Credit: ACerS)