Pleasing trend in the German lime ­industry, despite major challenges

The annual meeting of the German, Austrian and Swiss lime industries was held this year in Heidelberg/Germany.

In his opening address, Chairman Dr. Thomas Stumpf, Member of the Board of Management at Fels-Werke GmbH in Goslar/Germany made clear that the protection of the industrial base, of industrial value chains and of the industry-orientated service sector are, and will remain, the essential preconditions for Germany’s continued success as an industrial nation, and thus for the material wellbeing of all Germans. The federal government, he noted, assumes that German industry is on a stable course to recovery in 2014, and in its annual economic report anticipates growth of 1.8 % in gross domestic product (GDP). According to Stumpf, however, this forecast presupposes no upsets on financial markets, which the Chairman of the Federal Association of the German Lime Industry (BVK) continues to view as unstable. Also not to be forgotten is the extremely unsettling situation on the boundaries of the EU, in Ukraine, and its economic implications.

As Stumpf further commented, the conse-quences of the social and political “good deeds” initiated by Germany’s grand coalition government are also largely being overlooked. “Good intentions do not necessarily produce good results!” he affirmed, before examinating current lime industry figures, which have, on the whole, undergone a pleasing revival:

Market sales of unburnt products amounted to approx. 18.7 million tonnes in 2013, an increase of nearly 6 % over the previous year. German lime industry plants, organised in the BVK, which account for around 15 % of unburnt products in Germany, last year supplied 7.2 million tonnes to the construction sector, a plus of 8 %. Deliveries for environmental protection applications also rose compared to the preceding year, to practically 2.3 million tonnes. Sales of unburnt products for industry also grew significantly. Particularly pleasing in this context is the fact that supplies to the iron and steel industry increased by 9 %, to nearly 3.3 million tonnes.

Even more satisfactory is the trend in burnt products, whose producers are to an amount of 99 % organised in the BVK. Following declining sales of burnt products in 2012, burnt lime sales rose in 2013 to above 6.5 million tonnes, almost 4 % above the figure for the previous year.

Lime sales to industrial users were kept almost stable during 2013. A slight decrease in supplies to the iron and steel industry, of - 1 %, must be set against a significant expansion of the use of lime in the chemicals industry and increased sales here of 7.6 %.

Supply volumes to the environmental sector continued to develop pleasingly, with deliveries of nearly 930 000 tonnes of burnt products for clean-air applications alone, representing another significant increase, of 7.8 % in this case.

Supplies to the building material industry also rose. With sales of 450 000 tonnes, 9 % more lime was supplied to the sand-lime brick industry than in the preceding year. Deliveries to the aerated concrete industry also followed an upward trend (+ 2.2 %). Lime sales for road construction and pavement also developed extremely positively, with the ultimate result of almost 440 000 tonnes bettering that for 2012 by more than 30 %.

Despite this gratifying trend, it has still not proven possible to regain the pre-crisis burnt lime sales level of 7 million tonnes.

The first quarter of 2014 also progressed pleasingly. This year’s mild winter resulted in an overall rise of 27.3 % in sales of unburnt products compared to the previous year. Sales of burnt lime increased in the January-to-March period of 2014 by 6.1 % compared to the same period of the preceding year. The association anticipates an overall positive trend across the year as a whole.

Of the many and diverse challenges facing the association, the Chairman focused in particular on the exemption provisions for energy-intensive industries under the Renewable Energy Sources Act (RESA), which are of paramount importance for the viability of the lime industry. Joaquín A­lmunia, the responsible EU Competition Commissioner, had initiated a formal unfair state-aided competition investigation into the exemption provisions for energy-intensive industries for the years 2013 and 2014, with the potential consequences not only of the loss of the exemption provisions, but also that the lime plants would have had to reimburse the exemptions granted for 2013 and 2014. This would have jeopardised not only the lime industry, but also the energy-intensive industry as a whole, and thus Germany as an industrial location.

In unison with the German Cement Works Association, the German Building Materials Association, the German Energy Intensive Industries and the Federation of German Industries, the BVK has drafted responses and held a range of talks with the federal government, the various fractions within the German Federal Parliament, individual state governments, members of the central EU Parliament, and with the Commission of the EU. It was thus ultimately possible to avert the danger to the very existence of the lime industry by including it in the finalised list of industrial sectors eligible for exemption.

Martin Ogilvie, the Federal Association’s General Manager, then submitted the 2013/2014 annual report to the annual general meeting, and discussed the association’s core activities: RESA and exemption provisions for energy-intensive industries, emissions trading, the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), the Energy and Electricity Tax, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) directive, standardisation, etc.

He also reported on visits by members of the Federal Parliament, the European Parliament, state parliaments and governments to various lime plants. “There is no better setting for advocacy for our industry than at the member plants. Every visitor left the particular plant impressed - impressed by our products and their many and diverse applications, and more often than not by the biodiversity witnessed at first hand in our quarries”, Ogilvie concluded.

Dr. Peter Liese, Member of the European Parliament (MEP), then gave the celebratory address on the topical theme of “Europe after the EU elections”.

The next general meeting of the BVK will take place on 18./19.06.2015 at the Fuschlsee near Salzburg/Austria.

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