This year’s annual meeting of the German, Austrian and Swiss lime industry took place in Berlin.
Outgoing President Dr. Thomas Stumpf, managerial board member at Fels-Werke GmbH in Goslar, called to mind the first independent forms of associative organization in the German lime industry, which date back 125 years, and gave a retrospective on sectoral developments since then. He also outlined the emerging challenges of the clean energy transition and described the potential risks in connection with the expansion of renewable energy sources, e.g., ‘decarbonisation’ of the industry. In addition, he elucidated the anticipated post-2020 dynamics of the emissions trading system and advocated raw material securance within Germany. He sees opportunities to be seized in the development of such new sales markets as the desulfurization of ocean vessel exhaust, the recovery of phosphate from waste water treatment plants, the use of slaked lime for extending the useful life of asphalt pavement and the application of special lime products in sustainable agriculture. Stumpf presented some initial lines of research concerning the precipitation of CO2 from flue gases (= carbon capture) and emphasized the need for technically and economically viable ways of capturing and recycling CO2.
The German Lime Industry Association (BVK) represents some 50 companies with nearly 100 plants and approximately 3000 employees. BVK accounts for roughly 15 % of the German lime industry in terms of unburnt products and nearly 100 % with regard to burnt products.
Unburnt lime products with declining earnings
Physical turnover of unburnt lime products in 2016, at a good 18 million tons, was down about 1.5 % compared to the previous year.
Supplies destined for environmental protection applications reportedly declined by 4.7 %, while the supply of unburnt products for industrial use, at about 4.3 mln tons, fell to 3 % below the 2015 figure.
The same trend was observed in the building materials industry, where the downturn came to 4.2 %. By contrast, the consumption of unburnt lime products in the construction sector actually increased markedly, i.e., by 5.7 %. Most of that gain was attributable to significant gains in sales for general construction and civil engineering projects.
Downturn for burnt products
The German lime industry was only able to sell approx. 6.3 mln tons worth of burnt products last year. That figures to a downturn of 2.6 %.
One of the sector’s main customers – the iron and steel industry – registered a 2.3 % decline in physical turnover, to just below 2.2 mln tons. Industrial sales in general deteriorated conspicuously year-on-year (-4.3%).
Lime industry sales to the building materials sector, however, were satisfactory. All in all, a 5 % gain was achieved. That corresponds to a delivered volume of approx. 900 000 tons, the lion’s share of which was used for the production of wall building material. The sale of burnt lime products for use in roads and highways was disproportionately positive. The sold volume of 350 000 tons for that range figures to a gain of 6 %.
Supplies intended for environmental protection applications remained significantly depressed, with the overall sales volume for that consumption segment coming to only 1.3 mln tons (down 4%). All BVK members together were only able to supply 840 000 tons for clean air purposes. That amounted to a decline of 2.9 %. This was mainly attributable to a combination of more low-sulphur lignite for power plants and a decline in lignite-based power generation. As the clean energy transition progresses, that trend is sure to continue, hence reinforcing the systematic development of renewables.
For the year 2017, the chairman expects the market to stay in line with the macroeconomic situation, meaning market recovery in the most important areas, for a gain of 2 % in the sale of burnt products. That would at least bring the branch back up to its 2015 year-end results.
Occupational safety as a “permanent objective”
For the 30th time now, BVK awarded its annual occupational safety prizes. At all its annual meetings since 1987, the association has honoured companies and plants with particularly low occupational accident rates and accordingly high safety ratings.
Of course, zero accidents at work will surely remain a very difficult-to-achieve goal – not only in Dr. Kai Schaefer’s opinion. Nevertheless, he says, aiming for such an ambitious goal is the right thing to do. That is why BVK supports the “Vision Zero – Zero Accidents – Work Healthily!” accident prevention strategy pursued by the German Raw Materials and Chemical Industry Employers’ Liability Insurance Association - BG RCI. In September 2016, BVK became one of the first associations in the non-metallic minerals industry to conclude a cooperation agreement with BG RCI.
“Occupational safety,” Dr. Schaefer says, “is not a one-shot business goal, but a permanent objective”. This year’s golden award certificate goes to the Flandersbach Plant operated by Lhoist Germany Rheinkalk GmbH.
Dr. Kai Schaefer – new BVK president
Dr. Kai Schaefer was unanimously elected as the new president of the German Lime Industry Association – BVK. His new deputy president is Dr. Burkhard Naffin, CEO at Fels-Werke GmbH in Goslar.
The association’s Chief Executive Officer Martin Ogilvie subsequently elucidated the core fields of BVK activities: active involvement in Berlin and Brussels, revision of emissions trading, implementation of the Climate Protection Plan, hardship provisions in the Renewable Energy Act – EEG, the German Accounting Directive Implementation Act, a new set of Technical Instructions on Air Quality Control, standardization, and activities in the road building, agricultural and forestry sectors.
The ceremonial address was delivered by European parlamentarian Herbert Reul, CDU/CSU Group Chairman in the European Parliament on the subject of “Industrial Policy Challenges in Germany and Europe”.