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EP_19.jpg Sept/Oct 2005
Cover Story
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Lafarge Group

Lafarge-Perlmooser, a member of the worldwide Lafarge Group, has established itself as a high quality concrete supplier.


04.jpg Any company offering strength, durability, low maintenance, energy efficiency, special ecological awareness, and the benefits of concrete to the construction industry is fully appreciated by all in the sector.

The use of concrete and concrete solutions has been widespread in construction for over 2000 years, perhaps even dating back to the Romans. Today, many years on, numerous businesses around the world now supply concrete to the construction industry. Based in Wein, Austria, Lafarge-Perlmooser is a prime example of a fast growing business that has been in the concrete industry for many years. Indeed, Lafarge-Perlmooser is the Austrian cement market leader, with a market share of around 30 per cent. However, in a sector, which was once described as cartel-like, Lafarge Perlmooser faces stiff competition from Heidelberger, Holcim and local players such as Wopfing.

However, the industry has not always been so concrete for Lafarge-Perlmooser, as in the mid-nineties, the Austrian construction materials industry was feeling the effects of increasing competition from newly opened European markets. In order to safeguard its future, Perlmooser, as it was then known, increased productivity to a higher scale. This culminated in the reduction of staff and the modernisation of its management, processes, and technology, many of which are still in place today. Alongside these efforts, Perlmooser was taken over by Lafarge, the world’s biggest construction materials manufacturer, creating a new trading entity by the name of Lafarge-Perlmooser.

Specialising in formulation, optimisation, controlling and problem solving for concrete, Lafarge-Perlmooser operates two cement plants in Austria and one in Slovenia. Its Mannersdorf plant is located near Vienna, providing the perfect network to supply the Austrian market. Additionally, the Mannersdorf cement plant, which is the biggest in Austria, utilises a special pre-heater system with calciner, two ball mills and a modern dispatch system. The plant also has excellent quality assurance systems in place such as the acclaimed online gamma metrics system.

Despite being a historically proud organisation, Lafarge-Perlmooser generally takes an open-minded view when it comes to modernisation and advanced technology. For example, its cement production site is the only one of its kind in Europe that is equipped with a flue gas desulphurisation system.

Lafarge-Perlmooser, with the encouragement of the Lafarge group, is aware of the impact the production of concrete has on the environment. Due to its special environmental awareness, the corporation has established a co-operation with the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF). Lafarge has confirmed that it is committed to achieving a 20 per cent reduction over 1990 levels of carbon dioxide emissions per tonne of cements produced by 2010.

Fast Growth
Furthermore, in emerging countries, where the group has a strategy of fast growth, it is further committed to improving the environmental standards of its plants and promoting development of sustainable construction programs. Lafarge also adopts a more systematic approach for the evaluation for potential of so-called persistent pollutants.

Lafarge and WWF are committed to establishing an international reporting system to monitor, evaluate and enhance ecological biodiversity. This methodology developed in Lafarge-Perlmooser’s Mannersdorf plant and currently being tested in France, will be piloted in China and Italy this year. The target is then to deploy this in 25 per cent of the 800 Lafarge group quarries.

Together Lafarge and the WWF are set on becoming the ambassadors of sustainable construction systems and products for all players in the construction industry. This includes limiting the capacity of a building, and hence its materials, to curb its impact on the environment. Both partners seek to continually improve the performance of products to render buildings more energy-efficiently.

It is this, which leads us nicely onto Lafarge-Perlmooser’s Retznei plant in the scenic Styria region of southern Austria. To reduce the production cost of producing 500,000 metric tons of cement per year, Lafarge-Perlmooser decided to increase the proportion of alternative fuels burned by the plant. Part of this strategy involves the use of waste plastics - a solution that delivers environmental benefits, such as reduction of global carbon dioxide emissions by preservation of fossil resources. However, plastics contain significant quantities of chlorine, which is detrimental to the operation of the kiln.

Chlorine System
Lafarge-Perlmooser decided to install a system to extract chlorinated particulates. The system extracts hot gas from the furnace, which is recovered and cooled by the addition of air. The chlorinated particulates are then captured in a bag filter and used as a cement admixture. In addition to its proven effectiveness, this solution has the advantage of low capital and maintenance costs.

This chlorine system, which came into effect in 2001, has accounted for the combustion of 25 per cent of plastic in all energy consumption. The solution offers a number of benefits, such as conservation of fossil fuel resources, enhanced cost effectiveness of the plant, and lower carbon dioxide emissions than with conventional waste treatment. Running parallel to the company’s core competency is Lafarge Beton, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lafarge-Perlmooser. Lafarge Beton is responsible for six ready mix plants and aggregate activities in Austria and Hungary. Additionally, Lafarge-Perlmooser also has a 50 per cent stake in a concrete plant in Kirchdorf, Austria.

As part of the Lafarge group, the company enjoys all the benefits of a huge international organisation such as greater resources, bigger spending power and a larger company network. Lafarge, the giant French construction specialist, is a world leader in building materials such as cement, via Lafarge-Perlmooser, aggregates, roofing, concrete and gypsum. Founded in 1833, the company has a workforce of 83,000 and enjoys an operating income of 2.1 billion euros.

Lafarge-Perlmooser is committed to developing innovative products and new solutions for the entire construction industry. As part of this it utilises the group’s customer-focused research and development program. This has paved the way for the recent launch of innovative group products, such as new types of cement and hydraulic binders, self-placing concrete and ultra high-strength concrete. Furthermore, by identifying the latest trends, the company is able to make huge waves in the construction industry.

Investing in China
To secure a healthy future, Lafarge is planning to increase its investments in China to about $800m over the next couple of years. This doubling of its investment reflects the organisation’s determination to participate in forthcoming privatisations and infrastructure projects. The company is also hoping to increase its share of China’s fragmented cement market, which has been hit by government-led attempts to cool the booming property sector.

As part of this move to break into Asia, the Lafarge group has announced a joint venture partnership to merge Shui On Construction and Materials Limited (SOCAM) with its own cement operations in China. This strategic alliance will establish the new cement leader in South West China, creating one of the largest and fastest growing businesses in Asia. The joint venture, to be named Lafarge Shui On Cement, will be 55 per cent owned by Lafarge and 45 per cent owned by SOCAM.

This new Chinese venture will combine Lafarge’s cement operations in the Chinese Mainland, located in Sichuan, Chongqing and Beijing, with SOCAM’s cement operations in Chongqing and Sichuan, its larger plants in Guizhou, and the prospective acquisition of several important plants in Yunnan, which is awaiting approval from the Central Government authorities. The total capacity of the joint venture will be 17.4 million tonnes per annum by the end of 2005 including Yunnan. CT-E

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