With events moving fast in Europe with regard to the on-going health crisis, here are a few threads to consider from the cement industry news this week.
Firstly, there have been two solar power stories over the last week in North America. Grupo Argos said that it had installed a 10.6MW solar power plant at Cementos Argos’ Piedras Azules cement plant in Comayagua. Then US-based Alamo Cement Company was reported to have signed a contract with Renergetica to build a solar power plant at its integrated plant in San Antonio, Texas. Global Cement has looked at this topic on and off over the years from the steady addition of photovoltaic (PV) solar plants around the world to supply electricity to cement plants to more ambitious plans such as research into using concentrated solar power to start powering creating clinker directly. These two latest PV stories follow projects in El Salvador and Cyprus so far this year. We’re not going to comment now on the overall progress the cement industry is making towards moving away from fossil fuels but the general trend is encouraging.
Next, there are on-going investments and upgrade projects being announced. Germany’s KHD revealed on 17 March 2020 that is building a new raw mill and pyroprocessing line for an ACC plant in India. FCT combustion recently announced that it has won a deal to supply Titan Cement in the US with an upgrade to a kiln line to natural gas. Buzzi Unicem’s SLK Cement in Russia has agreed to co-process solid municipal waste at its Sukholozhskcement plant. South Africa’s PPC has invested in a pneumatic offloading facility and a silo for its George Depot cement terminal in the Western Cape. These will have likely been agreed before the global coronavirus outbreak but they are reminders that some level of capital expenditure by cement companies is happening.
In China the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said this week that the domestic cement sector’s net profit grew by 20% year-on-year to US$26.6bn in 2019. With this in mind the first quarter results for 2020 from cement producers in China will make essential reading for producers from elsewhere around the world wondering what to expect. However, a recent interview with the president of Huaxin Cement, a company based in Hubei province at the epicentre of the outbreak, revealed that despite the short term economic disruption from the quarantine the company was expecting a rapid economic rebound after April 2020 provided that there is a suitable government stewardship. He also mentioned the key role the company was playing in disposing of clinical waste. As such it was hoping for tax breaks to support continuing incineration and the advancement of co-processing in general.
Finally, also on the health crisis, many cement industry events have been cancelled or postponed as work practices change including those organised by Global Cement. We’re taking our events online in the short term as virtual conferences with opportunities for information exchange and networking. We encourage as many of you as possible to register.