Construction chemical manufacturers are working to support concrete users
Chemicals manufacturers are preparing their product strategies with the aim of increasing efficiencies in the concrete segment, regional experts tell Neha Bhatia
Led by Gulf governments’ diversification investments, construction activity has steadily grown in the Middle East this year. This uptick is, in turn, supporting the region’s concrete and admixtures sector as well.
The GCC has 22,680 active construction projects worth $2.43tn, figures revealed by a report this November show. BNC Network’s GCC Construction Analytics report states that the urban construction sector has the highest number of projects (17,912), with their value estimated at $1.21tn.
Global admixture manufacturers, especially those with operations in the Middle East, appear keen to capitalise on this growth. This November, Sika announced that it had started producing high-performance concrete reinforcing fibres for clients in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region, at its manufacturing facility in Troisdorf, Germany, where a new production line was commissioned.
Made of a thermoplastic material (polypropylene), the fibres will increase the structural strength of concrete, and the new production line is expected to support Sika’s ambitions to expand its range of concrete additives.
Macro fibres such as Sika’s newly developed product line, SikaFiber Force-60, are typically used instead of steel reinforcements for strengthening concrete or shotcreted structures for activities such as tunnelling and mining, and in components such as precast concrete elements and industrial floors, as well as foundations and ground slabs.
Commenting on the development, Paul Schuler, chief executive officer of Sika, said: “With our synthetic macro fibres, we want to offer customers new technologies in the area of structural reinforcement. We are [making] a targeted investment in the build-up of production in EMEA.”
Indeed, product innovation is being adopted as a key expansion strategy by concrete manufacturers in a bid to mitigate the impact of sustained market challenges. Wicus van Wyk, admixture systems sales manager for BASF’s operations in the Gulf States, says that, backed by an increased emphasis on product options, this year has been “excellent” for his team, which posted record sales for two simultaneous months.
“Even if cash flow remains an issue, we have been able to improve our position in the market, introduce new technologies, and, most importantly, maintain our reputation among our customers as a transparent and trustworthy business partner,” van Wyk says.
“We have remained strong in the Middle East, highlighting the success of our work in the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. In the wider territory, we [have noted] steady development and growth across the African continent and the Russian Federation.”
GCP Applied Technologies has had a similarly successful year, Laith Haboubi, the company’s regional business director for the Middle East, Turkey, Africa, and India, reveals. GCP’s manufacturing facility in the UAE supplies to key regional markets such as Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman, in addition to Dubai and the country’s Northern and Eastern emirates.
Despite mixed market conditions in the Middle East, demand for GCP’s products “remains positive in the region”, Haboubi says, adding: “Primary demand is for our mid- to high-performance based concrete superplasticers, though it is worth noting that we have seen significant growth in our cement additives business due to the efficiencies that our grinding aids and quality improvers have contributed to the cement production industry.
“We’re getting ready to launch two cement additives in the region – the Opteva HE quality improvers and the Tavero VM grinding aids. These products meet the demands of modern cement plants with solutions that [support] more sustainable [...] production, with enhanced quality and improved cost efficiency.
“We are seeing positive demand for a number of our products in the region, including our Pieri architectural concrete products, particularly in the precast sector. The ability to provide colour, shape, and form options to designers and concrete producers has generated a high level of interest,” Haboubi explains.
GCP’s range of Clarena admixtures, a clay mitigation option, have received “great interest in the region from ready-mix concrete producers where high clay contents limit concrete quality”, he adds. Clarena admixtures offer materials flexibility and remove variations during production, making them ideal for use with a wide range of concrete slumps. GCP offers regional customisations to address material deficiencies, Haboubi says.
Meanwhile, BASF’s van Wyk points to the company’s MasterGlenium range of hyper plasticisers, which are currently being used to strengthen the foundations of Dubai Creek Tower. MasterEase rheology enhancers are also being used for the superstructure of the Dubai project, as well as the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, due to their “pumping and placement properties, which are highly valued by the contractors”.
Van Wyk adds: “As a strong indication of future trends in the market, very large quantities our dual-action, pore-blocking, and migratory-corrosion inhibiting admixture, MasterLife CI 222, are being used in the Kuwait Airport project, enhancing the durability of its concrete.
“A part of our waterproofing portfolio, MasterSeal 345 has also been applied extensively in the Khorfakkan Tunnels in the Northern Emirates. The sprayable membrane is used in underground concrete structures to create a fully bonded composite shell lining.”
These products – in addition to its range of environmentally friendly Green Sense concrete, chemically bonded fibres, and antimicrobial admixtures – will be BASF’s regional business priorities for 2018, van Wyk says, adding: “Our guiding principle is to offer solutions for a sustainable future, helping concrete producers and their customers to be more successful.”
According to Haboubi, GCP is also focussed on supporting increased efficiencies within the concrete manufacturing sector: “The Middle East is one of the more demanding markets, and we believe this to be the future of the industry. We are grateful for the trusted relationships we have built over many years [...] in the region.”