Blast furnace cement, the staple diet of The Netherlands construction industry, is in short supply following the closure and/or temporary shutdown of the regional steel production base and the consequent loss of slag output.
Holland has three producers, all owned by HeidelbergCement who are all dependent upon slag to produce the requisite blast furnace grade of cement. The Ijmuiden grinding facility situated close to the Corus steel works depends on this plant for slag but with this steel producer stopping one of its three blast furnaces and slowing down production from the other two units, slag is now in short supply.
In Rotterdam, the Rozenburg grinding unit is also facing slag shortages with the Ghent steelworks in Belgium, apparently on restricted output, while HeidelbergCement’s main Maastricht works, still a fully integrated plant, but in the process of a phased closure of its clinker production line, now finds that its traditional slag supplier in Liege, Belgium, has now shut down its steelworks, leaving a substantial gap in its own slag supplies. Adding to the overall supply difficulties, with the two Dutch grinding units now switching to producing standard OPC grade cement, much to the dismay of the traditional Dutch customer base who prefer blast furnace cement for much of their activities, the Maastricht plant is now unable to keep pace with higher clinker supplies, and as a result, HeidelbergCement is now shipping in clinker from its Swedish Slite works in order to provide continuity of supply.
More alarmingly, in terms of finding more slag, HeidelbergCement has reportedly bought a 70,000t slag shipment which is now en-route from China to Rotterdam/Amsterdam as a stop gap measure, but clearly at quite an expense.
For the time being, the independent slag supplier Orcem which operates a 0.3Mta slag grinding operation in Moerdijk port, Holland has enough stockpiles of slag to keep its customers happy, buying slag for processing from German steel producers, but with more customers looking for slag it may too face difficulties in keeping pace with such higher demand levels as the year progresses.