Iron-clad interest: will chemical admixtures become completely Russian

Iron-clad interest: will chemical admixtures become completely Russian
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What is the condition of the market of chemical admixtures

The crisis phenomena on the market of construction materials concerned all sectors, including the market of chemical admixtures. The experts of the industry agree that the condition is not the best one. 

The traditional indicator of growth or a fall in the market is the consumption of cement and the prognosis of the custom concrete market’s dynamics forecast. According to reputable researchers, in 2016 the consumption of cement in Russia decreased by 11.6% when compared with 2015. A similar fall likewise happened in the market of admixtures. Thus, the consumption of admixtures was about 226 m tons in 2016. The capacity of the admixtures market approached 5.6 bln roubles. 


The market became harder 

What are the problem trends of the market? According to Dmitry Ryzhov, Head of  the Concrete admixtures department in the North-Western Administrative District of the BASF company, the low market price of concrete mixture makes the producers seek out increasingly cheaper raw materials and admixture producers, in order to follow the trend and offer a more budget-oriented product. 

— Unfortunately, many admixture producers have turned away from modern, third generation, admixtures (which are based on polycarboxylate) to cheaper lignosulfonates (which were invented in the 1930s), or rarefy their admixtures several times to get a cheaper product instead of offering constructors new developments, the specialist states. 

The crisis has tempered producers: the market has become harder and more demanding. There are fewer large-scale projects and the competition has increased. The situation is hardly likely to change in 2017. The construction industry is reviving a little after 2015 and 2016, and the consumption of admixtures is expected to grow by 2—3% in 2017, in accordance with the industry as a whole. 

As far as imported products are concerned, the number of imported admixtures has decreased during the last few years. 

Iron-clad interest: will chemical admixtures become completely Russian

— I suppose, the volume of the imported admixtures does not exceed 10—15% of the total market, — Maxim Mazurik, Sales Director of Concrete Department of Sika Russia, said. — On the one hand, it was impacted by the rouble’s devaluation, and on the other hand, by foreign brands’ activity at production localisation. The final product is, as a rule, produced on the territory of Russia, but this cannot be said about the raw materials from which the admixtures are made.


Fine line 

It should be mentioned that all Russian experts agree there is a very delicate balance in the correlation of foreign and domestic products. Large European producers have got localised production plants and offices in Russia and position themselves as Russian companies. 

Meanwhile, the majority of Russian producers stock up with modern raw materials for third generation admixtures in Korea, China and Europe. The 1st and the 2nd generation admixtures, inherited from the Soviet times (lignosulfonate and naphthalene formaldehyde), are mainly produced in Russia.   Nevertheless, some producers have started synthesising polycarboxethyl esters in Russia. 

In other words, the market of admixtures has been formed, and the Russian producers of concretes and concrete goods trust domestic producers who have occupied about 70% of the Russian market of chemical admixtures. The remainder is the minimum, which is difficult to overcome. 

Iron-clad interest: will chemical admixtures become completely Russian

— Many Russian producers of concretes and concrete goods like that they output their products with branded foreign admixtures, believes Dmitry Plotskykh, Head of Marketing Department of the Polyplast Novomoskovsk LLC. — And our foreign colleagues also develop their production and retailing, have their offices in Russia and call themselves Russian companies. More than that, they have their own plants on the territory of Russia: thus, the companies are Russian de jure, they have local production and use domestic primary materials. 

According to the expert, Russian quality has become equal to European, and sometimes surpasses it. The line of admixtures and bases has long been the same. So, it is up to a customer to choose. 

Actually, a customer is more likely to buy a nicely packed product with a known bright name than a sack with vague inscription. Concrete producers are also sometimes pleased when there is a branded compound in their product. 


On localisation and polarisation 

One way or another, a producer must move on. What is expected in 2017? How will the situation develop? 

— This year the trend for localisation will be retained, Maxim Mazurik thinks. — If a company wants to retain the pre-crisis share of the market, it has no other way. 

According to the expert, few manufacturers will say that their products consist of 100% Russian components. This is connected with the fact that Russia does not produce the full range of primary products used in the recipes of many admixtures. That’s why, following the plants which actually make solutions of the imported concentrate, producers will start working on the localisation of key primary materials’ production. 

From Dmitry Plotskikh’s point of view, this year the admixtures’ polarisation regarding their price categories will continue. The interest in separating the introduction of admixtures will increase, and the transition from admixtures for cold-weather concrete to admixtures for hot concrete alongside with the strive to minimise their expenditure for antifreeze admixtures will occur. 

— Regarding polarisation, we mean the increase of the market share of cheap admixtures simultaneous with the growth of the use of expensive synthetis superplasticisers, the specialist explains. 

According to him, the cheapening of admixtures may be achieved in three different ways: increasing the concentration of lignosulfonates in previously developed compositions; using less efficient but cheaper technogenic waste; or using cheap components containing chlorides. 

The sector of expensive synthetic superplasticisers is developing due to the offer of more efficient polycarboxylates (adapted to Russian materials, which is important) and due to the appearance of new classes of admixtures (including so-called polyarylates). 

Iron-clad interest: will chemical admixtures become completely Russian


The future belongs to innovations 

…And still, how will the market of admixtures develop further? Of course, it must be based on innovation developments (low-viscosity and high-performance concrete), as the volume of concrete admixtures’ use is being reduced and the producers are trying to economise. The application of modern admixtures to the production of high-performance concrete is to bring profit to constructors and increase the quality of concrete structures. 

Additionally, there is an interesting trend concerning the use of cement-replacing materials such as slag or fly ash. The use of such materials requires additional attention to the proportioning of concrete, as the micro-components may be responsive to the type of admixture used. This makes producers of concrete and of admixtures work together and search for new solutions to achieve an optimal result. 

The condition of the concrete production sector is aggravating, but the experts of the market are sure that manufacturers may both produce quality products and economise at the expense of innovation solutions.