Lime industry’s economic mood restrained

The BVK’s annual meeting of members was held, as an industry forum for the German, Austrian and Swiss lime industries, in Bremen/Germany on 17.06.2016. President Dr. Thomas Stumpf, a member of the board of Fels-Werke GmbH, ­Goslar/Germany, discussed the year’s motto ­chosen for the 2015 Quarry Open Day, “The Lime Industry - ­Industry in your Region”. He emphasised in his ­address not only the value chain, and the importance of jobs and training for the particular region, but also the diverse social and cultural commitment shown by local lime producers.

In addition to major international challenges, Stumpf also examined German domestic issues, and the Parliament-backed energy turnaround, in particular, which continues to lag well behind its targets in terms of assuredness of supply and of affordability, in particular. As he affirmed, industry in Germany, much more than in other comparable countries, provides the basis for growth, prosperity, jobs, social security and education. All the more alarming, then, the “creeping de-industrialisation” resulting from rising energy costs, lack of planning certainty, and the world’s highest labour costs. As Stumpf noted, electricity costs for industry are no less than 26 % higher than the EU average, and are now 150 % higher than in the USA. Energy-intensive sectors are therefore continuously diverting investments to other countries, resulting in the successive shrinkage of Germany’s industrial core.

The association’s president expressly welcomed the founding of the “Future of Industry” alliance by the federal economics and energy ministry, the Federation of German Industry and the unions, and emphasised the importance of a clear policy on industry, which must have equivalent ranking with climate policy and strengthen the country as an industrial location. He called on the audience to intensify the fight for acceptance of industry in politics and in civil society.

Stumpf affirmed that there had been strong economic growth in Germany since the start of 2016, with an overall picture dominated by falls in demand and dumping imports from China affecting the lime industry’s most important customer, the steel industry, however. The chemicals industry, another customer for lime products, was also viewing 2016 significantly more reservedly than the overall economic situation would lead one to expect.

Stumpf then discussed the lime industry’s latest figures. Sales of uncalcined lime products in 2015 were a good 18 million t, a decline of 3.5 % compared to the previous year, whereas there was good cause for satisfaction in the case of calcined products, with a rise of 1.7 %, to 6.5 million t. In the case of uncalcined products, the BVK represents around 15 % of the German lime industry, and nearly 100 % in the case of calcined products.

Deliveries of uncalcined lime products for environmental applications fell by 2 %; sales to this segment, at 2.2 million t, were only at the level of sales to the building materials industry. Supplies of uncalcined products to this industry were also 2.2 % less than in 2014, at just on 4.5 million t.

Deliveries of calcined products to the iron and steel industry increased by 3.5 %, to a total of 2.3 million t.

Sales to the environmental protection sector continued a negative trend, however, and were, again, 5.4 % below the figure for 2014. Only 863 thousand tonnes were sold for anti-air pollution applications, a significant fall, of 5.6 %. There was greater satisfaction with supplies to the building materials industry, with an increase of 5 % recorded.

Contrary to the positive overall economic trend, a downturn of 5 % in calcined products, to only 6.2 million t, is expected for 2016 when the poor figures for the steel industry are taken into account. Nor is any improvement in the field of environmental applications at present discernible.

The BVK president emphasised that the furthering of research, development and innovation is absolutely vital. Here, he stated, joint research by the German lime producers is showing the way, with more ongoing research projects than for many years. The president also welcomed the new “Innovations” workgroup of the European Lime Association (EuLA), with its focus, inter alia, on the topics of the circular economy and the storage and/or utilisation of CO2.

In conclusion, Stumpf expressed particular gratitude to Moritz Iseke, of Kalkwerke H. Oetels­hofen GmbH & Co. KG, Wuppertal/Germany, who had provided active support as deputy president of the BVK since 2009 and had now decided not to stand again for election.

Deputy President Moritz Iseke examined the “Vision Zero. Zero accidents – work safely!” accident prevention strategy set up by the RCI minerals and chemicals professional association, and announced that the board of the BVK had just resolved upon a cooperation agreement with the RCI, in order to make its contribution to the success of this strategy and to the further improvement of industrial safety in the lime industry’s plants and facilities. Iseke pointed out that the BVK has kept accident statistics for forty-six years now, and that the association has organised an annual industrial-safety competition since 1986. The presentation of the awards to the winners of this competition then followed, the Gold Certificate going to Lhoist ­Germany’s Hönnetal plant.

Dr. Kai Schaefer, of Schaefer Kalk GmbH & Co., Diez/Germany, was elected as the new deputy president, since Moritz Iseke will, at his own wish, not be standing again for this office.

Martin Ogilvie, CEO of the German association, then presented the 2014/2015 Annual Report to the meeting of members and discussed the current core focuses of the association’s activities: political work in Berlin and Brussels, emissions trading, the climate protection plan, the Energy Services Act, the Technical Instructions on Air Quality Control, standardisation, highway construction activities, agriculture and forestry, etc.. Ogilvie examined, in particular, the German lime industry’s knowledge network, which had been unveiled to all German plants and started operations in October 2015. The industry’s basic and further training had thus taken a successful leap into Web 2.0. On-line courses, reference works and group work functions are now available on a joint Internet platform. “Qualifications” alone contains 80 hours of basic and further training, covering the entire production chain, while the “Reference” section provides a central reference facility on the topic of “lime” at a level of complexity never before available to the industry. More than 1000 pages of expert knowledge on the subject of lime have been incorporated into the “Lime Knowledge” data-base.

Closing the meeting, Markus Gürne, of the ARD TV channel’s Frankfurt financial reporting team, gave a celebratory address entitled “Withstanding maximum pressure – and functioning nonetheless”.

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