Demand for cement and concrete additives in the United States is forecast to increase 6.2% per year to $2.3 billion in 2010, outpacing concrete demand and overall construction expenditures. A rebound in the nonresidential construction market, as well as healthy increases in highway spending are some of the factors fueling this demand.
The concrete industry's greater acceptance of mineral additives such as fly ash and blast furnace slag will drive demand for these products as partial substitutions for portland cement. The increase also is a result of higher-value formulations in additives such as water reducers, accelerators, and air entrainers.
Characteristics of concrete enhanced by additives include easier handling, better finishability, higher strength, and increased durability, all of which can permit the use of concrete in extreme environments where such projects have previously been difficult or altogether impractical.
Chemical additives will remain the largest product segment, comprising half of the total market in terms of dollars. Gains will be led by strong demand for water reducers, especially high-range superplasticizer types, which are key components of self-consolidating concrete.
Also, the rise of better-performing polycarboxylate superplasticizers will expand the range of applications for water reducers in concrete. The market for accelerators and air entrainers will be characterized by a trend away from traditional commodity products, although the performance of these alternative formulations remains in question.
The largest market for chemical additives will remain building construction, which is rebounding from significantly depressed nonresidential building levels during the first half of the decade. However, at the same time, demand will be restrained by projected declines in concrete demand for residential construction.
Fly ash increases
Demand for mineral additives will grow almost 7% per year through 2010, with virtually all products posting above average increases. Fly ash and blast furnace slag will benefit from the use as low-cost cementitious materials in concrete mixes. Demand also will be boosted by the positive environmental profile of these additives, both as recycled materials and through their ability to reduce the pollution and energy consumption associated with cement production. Higher value mineral additives such as silica fume and metakaolin will also see increasing use in high-performance concrete applications.
Strong gains will be spread across a range of cement and concrete markets, with the best prospects expected in highway and street construction, which will expand at a rate of more than 8% per year. However, building construction will remain the largest market for minerals in cement and concrete, accounting for more than half of all mineral additives consumed.
Growing demand for fiber additives will be driven by steel and specialty fibers such as cellulose and alkali-resistant glass, which benefit from superior reinforcement and shrinkage control properties. While gains for synthetic fibers will be subpar, good opportunities exist for specialty products such as polypropylene/steel blends, polyethylene/polypropylene blends, and synthetic macrofibers.
Advances will be spurred by the growing acceptance of fiber additives by contractors and regulators based on their performance advantages. Increased construction activity over the next few years, especially the rebound in non-residential building construction, and the trend toward an increased use of concrete in road construction and repairs will help drive the growth of fiber additives. Additionally, increasing demand for nontraditional fiber products in concrete, such as cellulose and glass fibers, will help drive gains.