Refractories Market: Overview

Refractories or refractory materials are materials made from thermally stable mineral aggregates, additives, and a binder phase. They are nonmetallic, inorganic, heterogeneous, and porous materials that can withstand high temperatures such as 500°C, 1500°C or even more, without undergoing physicochemical changes while still remaining in contact with metals, gases, and molten slag. ASTM International defines refractories as ‘non-metallic materials having chemical and physical properties that make them applicable for structures or as components of systems that are exposed to environments above 538°C.’ 

Refractories Market: Drivers & Restraints

Refractories are primarily and extensively used in industrial processes, wherein they perform four basic functions. They act as a thermal barrier between a hot medium such as liquid metal, liquid slag, molten salt, or flue gas and walls of the structure containing the medium. They provide strong physical protection and prevent erosion of walls by keeping the hot medium circulated. They offer protection from chemical corrosion. They also act as thermal insulation and ensure heat retention. 

Refractory materials are expensive and if they fail to perform their functions properly, considerable loss of production time can occur. Selection of proper refractories is important, as it influences product quality and energy consumption. Accordingly, the best suited refractory is the one that provides the best balance between installation and maintenance cost. 

Refractories Market: Key Segments

The global refractories market can be segmented based on type, material, alkalinity, end-user industry, and region. In terms of type, the market can be segregated into specialty refractories and monolithic refractories. Specialty refractories are shaped refractory materials. Bricks are the most common specialty refractories. Refractories can be manufactured in interlocking shapes and wedges; molded or pressed to be used in walls and floors; or even curved to fit inside ladles and boilers. Monolithic refractories are unshaped refractory materials. These refractories do not have any definite form and they are given shape only during their application. 

The refractories market can be segmented based on material. A wide range of materials are employed to produce refractories. These include silica, fireclay, magnesia, alumina, dolomite, silicon, zirconia, and carbon. Usually, refractories are tailor-made as per the application. The material is selected depending on several factors such as operating atmosphere, temperature profile, mode of operation, and expected characteristics. 

Alkalinity of refractories is decided on the basis of their reaction with slags. Based on alkalinity, the market can be segmented into basic refractories, acidic refractories, neutral refractories, and special refractories. Basic refractories are non-reactive to alkaline slags and used with them. Similarly, acidic refractories are non-reactive to acidic slags and used with them. On the other hand, neutral refractories remain chemically non-reactive to both acidic and alkaline slags, and are used with both. 

Refractories Market: Regional Outlook

In terms of end-user industry, the refractories market can be segmented into iron & steel, cement, glass, nonferrous metals, and others. Refractories are used most commonly in the iron & steel industry. In terms of region, the global refractories market can be segmented into North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and Middle East & Africa. China is a major consumer of refractories in the world and is expected to maintain its position during the forecast period. 

Refractories Market: Key Players

Some of the leading players in the global refractories market are RHI AG, Saint-Gobain S.A., Vesuvius Plc., and Magnesita Refratarios S.A.

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