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U.S. demand for refractory products is forecast to advance 8% annually to $3.0 billion in 2014, reflecting a rebound in steel manufacturing from dismal 2009 levels, according to Refractories, a new study from the Freedonia Group Inc. Of the nearly $1 billion total gain in refractory demand by value between 2009 and 2014, the metals industry will account for more than 75%. Total market demand by tonnage for the same period is forecast to climb 6.1% per year to 2.7 million tons in 2014. This level of consumption, though comparable to 2004 levels, still falls short of the 3.5 million tons consumed in 1999.
Although a recovery in U.S. steel production, as well as other economic sectors, will bode well for refractory demand growth through 2014, this growth is best considered in the context of improving refractory technologies. These technologies have, in effect, lowered refractory consumption per unit of output in virtually all refractory-consuming industries, but especially in steel. This trend had limited tonnage gains while supporting value gains through higher prices.
Among refractory forms, demand for preformed shapes and certain monolithics will mirror shipments and see the strongest gains, because of their ease of use and versatility, respectively. From a materials perspective, demand growth for nonclay materials will outpace that for clay materials. The switch to better-performing products will continue, with the best opportunities expected for silicon carbide, extra-high-alumina, and zircon and zirconia refractories among nonclay products, and high-alumina clays in that segment.
Among the various nonmetallic refractory markets, the best growth opportunities will be found in the nonmetallic minerals market (cement, glass and ceramics) due to economic recovery. and In nonmanufacturing markets, opportunities will come through less traditional end uses such as waste-to-energy generation and restaurants with in-house bakeries and stone ovens. However, while providing new opportunities, the small size of these markets means that their impact on aggregate refractory demand will be minimal.
For additional details, call (440) 684-9600 or visit www.freedoniagroup.com.