Nonclay Refractories

SIC 3297

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing refractories and crucibles made of materials other than clay. This industry also includes establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing all graphite refractories, whether of carbon bond or ceramic bond. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing clay refractories are classified in SIC 3255: Clay Refractories.

A refractory is a product, such as brick, that is resistant to intense heat. Some of the main uses of refractories are to create fire-resistant construction materials for industrial buildings and to create crucibles. Crucibles are vessels made of a substance that will withstand extreme heat and are used for melting metals or minerals. Another use of refractories is to create furnaces and other devices. While those are the biggest divisions within the industry, refractories are used for a wide variety of industries, from boiler combustion chambers and incinerators to rotary kilns and mine ore dryers. Generally, refractory products are needed where commercial production processes exceed temperatures of 700 degrees Fahrenheit.

This industry includes establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing all graphite refractories, whether of carbon or ceramic bond. Products produced by the nonclay refractories industry include alumina-fused refractories; bauxite, carbon, and refractory brick; nonclay castable refractories; high-temperature cement; magnesia cement; crucibles made of graphite, chrome, silica, or other nonclay materials; dolomite brick; nonclay gunning mixes; nonclay plastics refractories; nonclay refractory cement; and pyrolytic graphite.

The value of shipments in this industry grew significantly through most of the 1980s, climbing from $691 million in 1982 to $954.5 million in 1987 and $1.1 billion 1989. By 1997 the industry's shipment values had increased to an estimated $1.4 billion, recovering from a U.S. recession in the early 1990s that hurt overall sales. Shipments continued to fluctuate throughout the remainder of the decade, falling to $1.3 billion in 2000 and to $989 million in 2002 as the U.S. economy weakened. Shipments reached $1.9 billion in 2004, but were down to just over $1 billion by 2008. The iron and steel industry accounted for about half of the U.S. refractory market, as steel and refractory production paralleled each other. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the total value of shipments from nonclay refractories was $1.3 billion in 2010.

The cost of materials for the combined clay and nonclay refractories industry was $898.8 million in 2004. By 2009 this figure had risen to $1 billion. In 2000 when the U.S. Census Bureau recorded the two refractories segments separately, the cost of materials for the nonclay refractories segment was $668.5 million. Ingredients, containers, and supplies were undoubtedly the largest category of materials consumed. The next highest categories were clay, ceramic, and refractory minerals; dead-burned magnesia or magnesite; clay or nonclay refractories; and miscellaneous products, components, ingredients, parts, containers, and supplies.

Monolithic refractories, which do not have to be fired, accounted for about 50 percent of the market. Castables, plastics, and gunning mixes are the most popular of the nonfiring refractories, with new mixes, such as alumina-carbon and alumina-silica, creating stronger and longer lasting refractories. All refractories have to be replaced eventually, but because of industry improvements, the rate at which they are replaced has been diminishing. In addition, as the steel industry continues to evolve, refractory manufacturers must constantly adapt.

Despite the sharp decrease in demand for U.S. refractory products from 2001 through 2006, demand for refractory products was lower in the early 2010s due to the effects of the economic recession at the end of the first decade of the 2000s. Production of nonmetallic mineral products, especially cement, was spurred by nonresidential construction and was expected to drive the industry, while demand for bricks and shapes was projected to outpace monolithics.

According to Dun & Bradstreet, 203 nonclay refractories were operating in the United States in 2010. These firms generated a combined $416 million in sales and employed 7,662 people. Major categories within the industry in terms of employment were alumina-fused refractories, graphite refractories, and those producing heat-resistant mixtures. A majority of the industry's revenues came from general nonclay refractories, alumina-fused refractories, and brick refractories. States with the highest concentration of employees were Pennsylvania (21 percent), New York (15 percent), and Ohio (12 percent).

Industry Leaders

In the early 2010s, one of the leading companies in the industry was LWB Refractories Co. of York, Pennsylvania. LWB also had operations in France and Germany. In 2008 LWB was acquired by its Brazilian competitor Magnesita Refratarios.

Another leader was Minteq International Inc. of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a subsidiary of Minerals Technologies Inc. In 2001 Minteq acquired the refractories business division of Martin Marietta Magnesia Specialties Inc. for $34 million. Another industry leader in the early 2010s was C-E Minerals Inc., of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, a subsidiary of the French company Imerys. C-E Minerals operated in the United States, Asia, and South America and recorded sales of $150 million in 2010.

Workforce

Unlike many other U.S. industries, the nonclay refractories industry recorded an increase in employment during the 1980s, growing from 6,800 workers in 1982 to 8,500 in 1989. In 1997, however, the workforce dropped to only 8,322 employees, and by 2008 industry employment remained flat at 8,026 workers. Dun & Bradstreet reported 2010 employment at nonclay refractories to be 7,662 workers. All occupations within the industry, from laborer to top executive, were expected to continue to decline, with extruding and forming machine positions projected to have the steepest drop. Only hand painting, coating, and decorating positions were expected to increase.

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