This study analyzes global refractory supply and demand. For this study, refractories are defined according to the ASTM International definition: “nonmetallic minerals having those chemical and physical properties that make them applicable for structures, or as components of systems, that are exposed to environments above 538 degrees Celsius (1,000 degrees Fahrenheit)”. Materials that are resistant to lower temperatures are excluded.
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Refractory demand is broken out by market:
iron and steel production
nonmetallic minerals production, which includes cement, glass, lime, and ceramics
nonferrous metals production, including of primary and secondary aluminum, copper, lead, nickel, silver, titanium, and zinc
other markets include metal fabrication, chemicals, and petroleum refining
Demand is also segmented by form:
refractory bricks and precast (also known as preformed) shapes
monolithic (including castable refractories, insulating castables, ramming mixes, and gunning mixes) and other refractories, including:
ceramic fibers (including alumina-silica and kaoline fibers)
Demand is also segmented by material:
clay refractories, including fireclay, high-alumina, and insulating types
nonclay refractories, including ceramic fibers, dolomite, extra-high-alumina, graphite, magnesia chrome, mullite, silicon carbide, silica, and zircon
Global demand for refractories is forecast to rise 2.2% per year through 2023 to 51.6 million metric tons valued at $53.0 billion. Going forward, market increases will be fueled by:
an acceleration of iron and steel production in developing economies
strong industrial expansion and construction activity in economically developing areas
improved prospects for heavy industry in developed economies
increasing use of monolithics and specialty precast shapes in developing markets to improve performance and reduce long-term costs
However, faster growth will be prevented by market maturity in economically developed areas. In addition, the adoption of higher value, more durable refractories will gradually lengthen average product lifespan and thereby limit volume gains.
Iron & Steel Market Remains Dominant but Will Lose Share
Iron and steel will remain the largest market for refractories and the greatest driver of global demand growth. However, demand for refractories used in iron and steel production will expand less quickly than in other key markets as steel manufacturing is expanding slower than that of other refractory-using materials.
As a result, iron and steel will continue to lose share to faster growing markets, including nonmetallic minerals and nonferrous metals, which will post the quickest gains going forward due to:
strong growth in nonferrous metal production in China, where low manufacturing costs continue to drive the industry
a rapidly growing aluminum industry, which will present market opportunities for ultra-high alumina and other high-value refractory products that can resist the harsh conditions associated with aluminum production
Gains in the nonmetallic mineral market will stem primarily from going production of cement and flat glass, industries that both benefit from rising construction spending.