Ceramic Industry

Refractories Review: UNITECR'05

April 1, 2006
The world refractories community convened in Orlando, Fla., at the Rosen Centre Hotel, November 8-11, 2005, for the 9th biennial gathering of the Unified International Technical Conference on Refractories (UNITECR). The UNITECR'05 Proceedings was provided to each registrant and includes 226 papers. Steel industry topics make up 44% of the papers, and 30% deal with monolithic refractories.

The world refractories community convened in Orlando, Fla., at the Rosen Centre Hotel, November 8-11, 2005, for the 9th biennial gathering of the Unified International Technical Conference on Refractories (UNITECR). Attendance was about 775, including companions, from more than 36 countries. The meeting included an exposition, with more than 40 exhibitors promoting literature, testing, raw materials, equipment, refractories and more.

The UNITECR'05 Proceedings was provided to each registrant and includes 226 papers. Steel industry topics make up 44% of the papers, and 30% deal with monolithic refractories.

Refractories and NASA

John Turner, president of UNITECR'05, opened the meeting and introduced the plenary speaker, Jack Fox, deputy director of the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA). Fox reviewed the activities of NASA since being founded in 1958. Since 1981, there have been 114 NASA space missions.

Each NASA space shuttle has 24,000 custom-fitted refractory ceramic tiles, which are essential for the thermal and physical conditions that the shuttle must endure during each mission. In addition, each launch pad has refractory protection (bricks and concrete), to resist the heat, shock, erosion and abrasion of the rocket engine exhaust.

Steel Industry Topics

Sessions on steel industry topics included secondary metallurgy (ladles, Ruhrstahl Heraeus degassers, etc.), carbon-bonded refractories, continuous casting, blast furnaces and coke ovens. The program attracted roughly 30 attendees from the steel industry, which is the largest number at a U.S. refractories meeting in many years.

T. Vert of Dofasco Inc. discussed the "Future Role of Steelmaking Refractories." He noted that the ability of the refractory lining to help clean molten steel of impurities will become imperative, and that refractory usage will continue to decline in basic oxygen converters and electric arc furnaces. Shotcasting repair of ladles will accelerate in the coming years, he said; the steel industry is awaiting the development of a stable basic shotcast product that will actively contribute to the cleaning of molten steel. Vert predicted that:

  • Refractories' rate of consumption of will continue to decline from the current 8-10 kg of refractory/ton of steel to 5 kg/t by 2015.
  • The challenges for the refractories industry will continue to be intense, with declining product volume, increased demands for value, and continued pressure on prices.
  • The industry will see increased use of monolithic refractories vs. bricks/shapes.
  • There will be no refractory brick plants in the developed world by 2015.
While refractories are not a large cost to steel companies(~ 2-3% of the price of steel per ton), they are a controllable cost, and thus will always be subject to intense scrutiny.

Advances in Monolithics

Sessions on monolithic refractories included the consideration of properties, installation, additives, cement/bonding, carbon-containing castables, curing/dewatering, testing and fracture. Spinel-forming and spinel-containing castables were discussed in at least 12 papers because of their ongoing field successes.

R. Krebs, Plibrico-Lafarge, Germany, reminded attendees that the technology and use of monolithic refractories began in the U.S., in 1914. Concerning the future, he noted that the real advances in carbon-containing castables are still to be made, and smaller shotcasting units are needed for smaller jobs to further enhance the use of the technique.

R. Johnson, U.S. consultant, predicted that shotcasting of castables will allow for the elimination of all bricks in many hydrocarbon/gasifier applications in five years.

M. Sugawara, Krosaki-Harima, Japan, noted the need for the development of reline/repair methods for renewing partially worn castable linings (e.g., steel ladles) before a complete tearout and replacement is needed, to minimize the amount of spent refractories for disposal and the negative environmental effect(s).

Materials, Education and More

Based on the critical importance of raw materials to the refractories industry, a "blue ribbon" panel of 11 corporate executives/managers addressed the many global issues and concerns, and participated in an active discussion with the audience. The status of refractories education around the world was reviewed with 12 papers in the R. E. Moore Memorial Symposium. The worldwide situation ranges from China, where 600-900 refractory technologists graduate each year, to less than 10 per year in the U.S. Many other refractory topics and applications were also discussed, including basic science, testing, molten liquid interactions, environmental issues, aluminum, glass, cement, foundries and hydrocarbon processing.

To obtain the UNITECR'05 Proceedings, visit www.unitecr.org. UNITECR'07 will be held in Dresden, Germany. The deadline for the submission of abstracts is December 30, 2006, and additional information can be obtained by e-mailing info@unitecr.de.

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