What does the refractory industry actually do?

We at pektogram are mainly active in the refractory industry. Don’t know it? You are like many others. But the refractory industry is indispensable for our everyday life. Reason enough to take a closer look at what this special industry does.

As you can imagine, the refractory industry is all about high temperatures – very high temperatures indeed. We’re talking about well over 1,800 degrees Celsius. Refractory materials are the basis for the production of steel, aluminum, copper, glass, lime, cement, ceramics and plastics. So in such important key industries as construction and automotive, nothing works without them, and the chemical industry, environmental technology, energy producers and operators of waste incineration plants also need refractory materials. This makes the refractory industry itself a system-relevant key industry.

 

One of the most important industries in the world

The raw material extracting and processing companies in the refractories industry therefore have enormous economic significance worldwide. According to the World Refractories Association (WRA), the global refractories market was worth around 30 billion USD in 2018. Experts also predict an annual increase of more than 4 percent until 2025. 

For Germany, the German Refractories Industry Association (VDFFI) gives the following key figures:

  • More than 6,300 employees (as of 2020) work in the industry in this country.
  • Annual sales of well over 1.1 billion EUR make the German refractories industry one of the most important in the world.
  • With a production of well over 1.2 million tons, Germany covers almost one third of European refractories production.

By far the biggest customer for refractory products is the steel industry. Around half of the refractory products produced worldwide are used for lining blast furnaces and converters. These would otherwise melt themselves at the high temperatures of steel production. The next largest sales market is the foundry industry.

 

Natural resources are the foundation

The natural foundation for refractory products is mineral raw materials such as bauxite and clay. These are thermally treated. This produces refractory raw materials such as sintered and fused corundum, magnesia and fireclay. In addition, there are synthetically produced refractory raw materials such as high-grade corundum, tabular alumina, silicon carbide, and sintered and fused mullite. At present, the vast majority of Germany’s demand for stoneware earth can be met from domestic sources – for the time being! Because, as with all natural raw materials in the world, resources are finite.

 

Fit for the future through recycling and sustainability

In order to remain fit for the future, the refractory industry must therefore provide answers to the pressing questions of our time, for example in the areas of environmental protection and sustainability. According to the VDFFI, the refractory industry is one of the most energy-intensive sectors, with energy costs accounting for an average of 25 percent of gross value creation. At the same time, recycling must become more important. “In the future, industrial waste such as refractory materials will form a new alternative `mineral resource,'” said IMFORMED – Industrial Mineral Forums & Research director Mike O’Driscoll, speaking to Interceram. And Carol Jackson, until recently president of WRA (World Refractories Association), envisions an “environmentally responsible lifecycle for the refractory industry in 50 years, with the potential to be waste-free from start to finish.”

At pektogram, we set out to accelerate this process. We want to renew the raw materials industry from the inside out. Because in the long run, there will be no society left on the planet if the economy and nature are not in harmony.

PS: Refractories simply explained by the WRA in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGl9FkSYFEs&ab_channel=WorldRefractoriesAssociation

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