Breaker and crusher market renaissance in GCC

PMV explores how the makers of breakers are working to crush the surrounding competition

Demolition-grade machinery from Atlas Copco works overnight.
Demolition-grade machinery from Atlas Copco works overnight.
A bucket screener from Italy’s MB Crusher sorts loose aggregates through its rotating drum equipped with a mesh size optimised for the task at hand.
A bucket screener from Italy’s MB Crusher sorts loose aggregates through its rotating drum equipped with a mesh size optimised for the task at hand.

The breaker and crusher segment is experiencing a renaissance in the Gulf under the current regime of projects in the GCC countries, and particularly Qatar and Saudi Arabia — fuelling demand for the equipment at both aggregate quarries and, increasingly, for the processing of material at the project sites.

In Damman, Doha, Salalah and Ras Al Khaimah, limestone is processed with impact crushers; on the gabbro of Fujairah, Jeddah and Sohar, jaw crushers are put to work.

However, a second emerging trend is the rising volume of demolition work and the use of breakers and crushers to recycle the resulting of demolition and construction waste.

Charlie Eastwood, GM of the Doha-based Aggregate Processing & Recycling (Agg-Pro), which has been selling Gipo and McCloskey mobile crushing and screening equipment for the past eight years, notes that there are currently two busy sectors for his equipment.

“There are many demolition projects in Doha and older parts of Dubai, so rock hammers and specially designed long-reach excavators with concrete muncher attachments are being used by European contractors like Gulf Earth Moving and Detecsa,” he explains.

“The knock-on effect of these regeneration projects is to open the door for the recycling of all the construction and demolition waste. So far we have supplied recycling plants across the region to process this waste and provide contractors with a new source of aggregates.

“There are also large-scale infrastructure projects across the region. In Qatar there are pipelines contracts to connect the reservoirs, as well as the 180km Orbital Highway project and the new Hamad sea port. In KSA there are new cities being built and the new sea port in Jazan.

“In both Oman and the UAE, there are many ongoing road projects similar to the recently completed road connecting Oman to KSA through the Empty Quarter on which hundreds of excavators with rock hammers are assisting the mass excavation. The excavated material is then processed through mobile impact crushers and screening plants on site to produce a variety of aggregate products.”

Volvo Construction Equipment recently secured a large order in Qatar for 178 of its brand new line of heavy breakers — a first for the company — for use in the mass excavation of road projects and building sites in Doha.

Olle Watz, attachments manager at Volvo CE, notes: “They have solid limestone and they have decided to build a virgin city for the FIFA World Cup coming up. So after scraping off the overburden, they have got to take off 10m or 20m of solid limestone that they’re not allowed to blast due to the regulations. The result is that they’re using breakers to loosen the material. And they have pretty much the same material underneath the entire country.”

This is creating a market for on-site crushing and screening functions, and is the latest battleground between bucket crushers and screeners, which are an up-and-coming technology, and their forebears — mobile crushers and screeners.

BUCKET LINE

Alexander Hartl, a third-generation Austrian crushing expert and CEO of Hartl Crusher, a producer of mobile crushers and screeners, comments: “On-site processing is the ideal application of the bucket crusher, because it is saving a lot on the transportation and handling of the material, and it is a very economical way to manufacture aggregates that you can use directly on the jobsite.

“It is a competitive market, but we see more and more customers looking to the total cost of ownership, and making calculations based on the cost per crushed tonne. An advantage of our product — the bucket crushers and screeners — is that the total cost of ownership is very low.”

A key factor in the decision making is also the saving ensured though the use of a bucket attachment on an excavator on its own versus the use of an excavator to load a mobile or stationary plant setup.

Hartl continues: “In many cases you have lower costs compared to a traditional way of crushing, but it is always a case-to-case study — and that is why we are also consulting the customers and helping them to make their calculations in the right way.

“That’s why we also think it is very important to have well-trained dealers and have good customer support before the decision to buy and afterwards. With FAMCO as our dealer we have one of the best setups in the region, with experienced engineers trained by us.”

Despite only appointing FAMCO as its distributor for the region in mid-2015, Hartl Crusher’s products have been well received — with the first units delivered to a company operating out of Dammam last October.

Italy’s MB Crusher, which was ostensibly the first bucket crusher and screener manufacturer to enter the Middle East market eight years ago, has also already delivered its products for work on various projects in connection with Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Regional manager Najmeddine Sahraoui notes: “Crusher buckets are cost-effective, viable and increasingly popular in the Middle East. Even if our product is a novel concept, those who encounter it are quick to understand the advantages, and there is also growing demand for carrying out recycling on-site.”

For 2016, MB Crusher has launched its overhauled third-series BF90.3 crusher bucket suitable for use on excavators of up to 21t in weight and capable of achieving a production capacity of 41m3 per hour.

According to Sahraoui, this crusher is particularly suitable for recycling operations involving demolition waste or any other any type of inert material. In all, the company produces 12 bucket crushers for excavators ranging from compact up to the 70t class, and a further four sizes of bucket screener.

The main challenge in the bucket crusher segment appears to be a lack of awareness of the product, either in terms of how it works, the efficiencies and in some cases, misconceptions about its abilities.

PMV Middle East recently spoke to one quarry operator who did not believe that bucket crushers could handle hard rock, specifically gabbro, but they can.

Once the disbelief or misconceptions are cleared up, Hartl notes that the company’s Middle East customers by and large go straight for the machines at the larger end of its range, “like the 950 and the 1250 on the crushers, and the 1600 and the 2000 on our bucket screeners”.

He adds: “By using our biggest model, the 1250 on at least a 35t excavator, when you are going up against limestone or concrete waste, you will make about 100t in an hour — an incredible amount.”

Hartl’s ace in the pack, however, is a special jaw design and movement that results in cube-shaped aggregate — an ability unique to Hartl Crusher and important to customers.

This feature was first developed by Hartl’s father and uncle on mobile crushers, and was subsequently adapted for mobile crushers by Hartl and his brother.

Industry giant Atlas Copco has also invested heavily in research and development, and recently launched two new bucket crushers — the BC 2500 and BC 3700 — designed for excavators between 22t and 38t, and delivering outputs up to 80% higher than Atlas Copco’s previous models —crushing up to 110t/hour.

Fiaz Ghani, regional manager for the construction tools line of the industry giant, details: “These are packed with features to ensure stable productivity, like an automatic anti-lock mechanism which continuously repositions material to ensure large pieces are guided in the direction of the crushing jaw.

“If a jam occurs the reversing function enables the operator to change the rotation direction, push the material back into the inlet and thus easily remove the blockage.”

BREAKING BACK

Many hydraulic breaker manufacturers faced tough set of conditions after the 2008 global economic crisis. In the face of declining sales in China, many industry players, but especially those from South Korea and other Asian markets, dropped their prices significantly to undercut the competition and retain business. However, the result was also the long-term depression of margins in hydraulic breakers.

Atlas Copco’s Ghani continues: “The hydraulic breaker market is now significantly dominated by price-focused suppliers offering low-technology but cheaply-priced products that have attained a fair degree of acceptance in the general construction market.

“This consumes a major portion of medium-size breakers (between 1.5t to 2t), where the contractors are more concerned about the initial capital investment cost rather than higher productivity from the breaker-excavator package. The margins achieved in this market segment are indeed low.

However, when it comes to heavier breakers, which are normally considered as ‘production’ breakers, he posits: “The end consumer is conscious of the high investment involved in going for a bigger excavator and will certainly weigh up the pros and cons of employing a cheaper, lower productivity breaker — but most likely they will choose a quality breaker that delivers higher productivity from the same excavator–breaker package.

“Atlas Copco, as a supplier of reliable, high-quality, high-productivity hydraulic breakers, always attempts to educate the potential buyer about the ‘total cost of ownership’ concept when selecting his breakers — meaning we could be a little more expensive while purchasing but our products by virtue of their reliability, higher productivity, higher quality, will offer much better long-term value.”

A more common problem in the Gulf is not the quality of the breaker, but the quality of their operators, according to Volvo CE’s Watz.

He notes: “It is very much dependent on how skilled the operator is. You can have an operator that has been using breakers for 10 years and claims to be an expert, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee he is operating in the optimal way. If you have a good operator, a single chisel can last for months; if you have got a bad operator, you can snap it in a day.

“It is a piece of steel, and if you fix it to the ground, bend the boom of the excavator and create a lateral pressure that the chisel is not designed for, then it snaps off like a carrot.”

More often than not, the operator will blame the chisel, but Watz has proof that this is not the case with Volvo CE — which screens every single chisel on the production line with ultrasound to check for fatigue in the material.

WASTE NOT; WANT NOT

By and large, the gradual increase in awareness among end users in the Gulf about the benefits of using breakers and crushers on sites well beyond the walls of a quarry mirrors a process that is already well underway in Europe and other developed markets.

Agg-Pro’s Eastwood notes: “The re-use of the excavated material on site, as opposed to transporting new aggregate from surrounding quarries, is not a new concept, but more contractors are seeing its financial sense.

“This concept is very common in other parts of the world and it would help to reduce the need for new quarries to meet the ever growing aggregate demands across the Middle East.”

When projects are being tendered, contractors in the region are now considering buying mobile crushing and screening equipment or using an on-site crushing and screening contractor, according to Eastwood, who notes that on short-term jobs, mobile crushers and screening plants make sense.

Eastwood adds: “These recycling facilities will reduce the size of the existing landfills and also prevent the need to open new landfills.

“Hopefully, with the support of local GCC government support these recycling facilities will multiply and decision-makers will come to insist on the use of recycled aggregate on all future construction projects.”

Coincidentally, Abu Dhabi has indeed outlined its intention to set a benchmark for debris reduction in the GCC region.

Tadweer, the Abu Dhabi-based Centre of Waste Management, is planning regional standards for the reduction of construction and demolition waste in the Emirate as part of a waste management master plan.

In December, Eisa Saif Al Qubaisi, GM of Tadweer, highlighted the need for “robust strategies to minimise the negative impact of large amounts of construction and demolition waste”, and indicated that the Emirate will soon be targeting lower waste levels.

A caveat to this optimism is that since the falling of the oil price, Agg-Pro in particular has noticed a huge slow-down in the speed of payment over the last six months, with many of its customers working on large government projects experiencing payment delays of as much as six months.

GOING FOR BROKE

Looking forward, Eastwood notes: “2016 onwards will be difficult financially for both contractors and suppliers, and as long as governments continue to delay payments on their countries’ development projects I cannot see any change — if anything, 2016 could see foreign companies retract from this region.”

Equally, however, the efficiencies of mobile crushers are such that the company has seen an increase in the use of the machinery in quarry locations around the region, as operators look to cut down on the costs of running costly dump trucks — and from 2014 to 2016 the company has supplied 11 large crushers with outputs of between 900t and 1,000t per hour.

Eastwood concludes: “During the booming years availability was the main factor in purchasing. Recently, the large amount of mega construction projects in recent years has attracted worldwide suppliers of construction equipment to the region, created huge competition for business and resulted in much lower margins and sometimes monthly payment plans for equipment purchase.

“However, while price will always be a major factor, we pride ourselves in offering an excellent parts and service back up. This has proved helpful in building solid relationships with our customers, and in the last four years we have seen aftersales support and good advice become the main reason for our customers to deal with us.”

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