All high-temperature industrial operations necessitate the use of refractories.
Every reactor, transport vessel, and kiln is lined with a variety of refractory materials, including bricks, monolithic, and high-temperature insulating wool.
Refractories perform three functions: mechanical strength, corrosion resistance, and thermal insulation. They are fine-tuned and a careful selection of raw materials and processing methods are used to tailor them to each specific use.
Innovative refractory products have been crucial in the development of significant breakthrough processes and provide resource-efficient solutions to downstream sectors.
The steel sector accounts for almost 70% of all refractories sold.
What exactly are refractory materials?
Refractories are technologically advanced heat resistant ceramic materials that can withstand thermal and mechanical abuse as well as chemical corrosion at extremely high temperatures. They get their name from the Latin word “refractarius,” which means “stubborn.” They play an important, although often underappreciated, role in practically every basic sector of finished goods manufacturing. Refractories protect furnaces and other machinery from the inside by safely containing numerous different materials as they are melted, burned, shaped, or bonded. They are available to consumers in powders (monolithic), bricks, custom-shaped or functional products.
What makes the refractory industry so important in today’s society?
Iron and steelmaking, cement production, glass, ceramics, aluminum, and nonferrous metals, paper and pulp, petrochemical processing, power generation, and biomass burning all require refractories. These industries and the products they create would not be possible without refractories.
What is the motive of using refractories?
Refractory materials protect the high-cost factories that produce the metals and materials mentioned above. They also provide a critical safety feature, allowing workers and experts to work in our customers’ factories without being wounded or endangered by the extreme heat.
What is the application of refractory materials?
Refractories are used as a “consumable” in the steel industry, ranging from one-time use to multiple days or weeks of use. Otherwise, continuous steel production will have to be halted.
Refractories are commonly used in most other industries when new plants are being built (in the investment process). Refractories are required on a continuous basis in these industries for repairs, without which these factories would shut down. Steel, cement, glass, metals, pulp, chemicals, trash, and other plants all require a constant supply of refractories.
What industries require refractories, and why are they so important?
When tracking the lifecycle of any of the items listed above, refractories will be discovered early in the manufacturing process. Considering the steel used to make a car or a food container. To line the furnace in which steel is manufactured, about 10-15 kg of refractories are required for every ton of steel produced. The furnace could not contain the molten steel without the protective material qualities of refractories, making raw steel manufacture impossible. Similarly, to line a furnace with one ton of glass, four kilograms of refractories are required. Glass could not be made in any other way without it. Consider a planet devoid of steel or glass: society as we know it would be destroyed.
What role does the refractory industry play in value creation?
Without refractories, none of our customer industries’ products would be able to be manufactured, and the worldwide construction, transportation, packaging, and equipment industries would come to a standstill.
The cost of refractory goods is often less than 3% of the cost of manufacturing these materials. However, the proper use and technological design of refractory materials can reduce our customers’ production costs by up to 20%.
Refractories are non-toxic in both their manufacture and use, and they may be recycled up to 98 percent in a variety of long-term, numerous sustainable applications ranging from re-use as refractories to building materials, processing aids, agricultural nutrients, and other uses.
What is the size of the refractory industry on a global scale?
As per business and industry statistics, the refractories market was worth more than USD 30 billion in 2018 and is predicted to expand by more than 4% annually between 2019 and 2025. Over the next five years, refractories market size is predicted to be driven by strong product demand from the aerospace, electrical, automotive, glass, and cement industries.
Refractories are classified as either consumer items that must be changed on a regular basis (as in steel production) or investment goods, in which the materials are replaced less frequently (as in glass furnaces or reformers for the energy industry). Refractories account for less than 3% of COGS in steelmaking and less than 1% in other applications, despite their importance in manufacturing.
What role do refractories play in global health and security, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic?
During a global pandemic, our consumers in the steel, aluminum, copper, glass, chemicals, energy, waste management, and pulp & paper industries are solely accountable for delivering the raw materials used to manufacture key commodities. Hospital beds, ambulances, respirators, face masks, thermometers, and other medical supplies including sterile instruments, packing, and equipment are just a few instances. Without cement or aluminum poles to support tents, temporary hospital sites could not be built. In many circumstances, the electrical power supplied is generated using refractory requiring combustion operations.
Refractories are essential to our worldwide food supply. All of the containers, bottles, plastics, and paper that we use to package, store, and deliver food come from refractory manufacturing processes.
What safety and health precautions has the refractory industry implemented to safeguard its employees and business partners against COVID-19 virus?
Despite the fact that we must continue producing refractories because they are key components in our clients’ supply chains, the safety and well-being of industry workers is always a primary concern. Our members’ mission is to fulfill customers’ requirements in all industries in the safest, most protected, and compatible manner possible at all times.
WRA member companies throughout the world have taken preemptive measures to help keep employees healthy and reduce the virus’s potential spread since the first worries about the impact of COVID-19. This includes following all World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines and instructions, as well as all national, regional, and local organizations that have released guidelines in accordance to COVID-19.
WRA member firms in Europe, Asia, and the Americas state that they are taking complete and equivalent initiatives within their organizations. These methods closely match the guidelines of the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, in addition to careful adherence to each country’s regulatory standards.
COVID-19 responses from WRA members include, but are not limited to:
Working from Home, Organizing, and Communication
Internal company COVID-19 Task Forces and/or readiness and reaction strategies are being developed and deployed.
Cancellation of business travel and events.
Work from home provisions for all employees who can perform their jobs remotely.
For people who work from home, IT support is available.
Crucial Plant Operations
Employees are encouraged not to come to work if they are sick or believe they may be suffering with COVID-19 symptoms; a call is made to take their temperature at home.
Workers into touch with COVID-19 patients should stay at home.
At factory gates, there are single ports of access and daily temperature measurements.
Visitors are limited, and there are provisions for little involvement during activities like loading.
Truck drivers are subject to strict regulations.
All sanitation and infection control best practices are promoted and implemented (e.g., hand washing, sanitizing surfaces, etc.).
To ensure social separation and/or prevent excessive transportation travelling, on-site personnel are given flex-shifts and/or hours.
For production, warehousing, and other vital tasks, work stations should be at least two meters apart.
Avoiding conferences in groups, and if required, meeting at a two-meter distance; encouraging the use of digital alternatives for conferences.
Sites are sanitized every two hours, with common spaces and entry points scrubbed and disinfected.
Some companies have also enforced the use of face masks by all employees, as well as weekly doctor appointments or telemedicine for consultations and routine checkups, and the installation of physical barriers (such as Plexiglas guards) at important interfaces.
What are the risks of infection at refractory plants? Is it possible to cultivate social distancing?
Given the extensive processes involved in the production of refractories, workplace safety is, and has always been, a high priority. Plant personnel are trained to following the strictest industrial hygiene and safety regulations, as well as wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
The industry is taking the necessary steps to prevent risk and exercise social distance while still distributing the refractory goods that are crucial to the world’s critical infrastructures by implementing the COVID-19-related procedures outlined above.