Built to perform

17 March 2008

Japan' s K-Con has used a Gomaco four-track GT-6300 to pave a new canal at the Omarugawa Power-Elect

Japan' s K-Con has used a Gomaco four-track GT-6300 to pave a new canal at the Omarugawa Power-Electricity Plant on the Omaru River, Kyushu Island, Japan.

Acquisitions in the cement and concrete industry continue to come thick and fast. Following previous years' major deals like Cemex's purchase of RMC and Holcim's acquisition of Aggregate Industries, Ireland's ever-acquisitive CRH has been busy this year.

In March it announced the purchase of Gétaz Romang, a building materials distribution business in Switzerland, for CHF 540 million (US$ 490 million). CRH followed this up in April with the acquisition of a 50% stake in Turkey's Denizli Cement.

France's Lafarge has also been busy this year. In April it announced the acquisition of a 26% stake in Heracles, Greece's largest cement producer, from the National Bank of Greece, for € 322 million (US$ 477 million). The deal increased Lafarge's holding in the company from 52.7% to 78.7%.

But the biggest deal of the year has been Heidelberg Cement's UK£ 8 billion (US$ 16.5 billion) acquisition of Hanson, which was announced in May. Having said that, Heidelberg has off-loaded its 35% stake in France's Vicat group for € 1.4 billion (US$ 2.07 billion) to help fund the Hanson deal.

Outside Europe Cemex has finally reached the close of its US$ 14.2 billion acquisition of Rinker, which is based in Australia, with major operations in the US.

Despite the slow-down in residential construction, the US remains an attractive market for the industry. Last year saw CRH undertake its biggest ever acquisition when it paid US$ 1.3 billion for Ashland Paving and Construction (APAC), and earlier in the year Lafarge spent US$ 3.4 billion acquiring the 46.8% of Lafarge North America it didn't already own.

Downstream

This headline-grabbing consolidation at the big, multi-national end of the industry is clearly reverberating down to smaller companies involved in concrete production and manufacturing equipment for use in the sector. Geographic expansion and strategic mergers continue to take place at all levels of the concrete industry.

In May, for example, Italy's IMER Group, which manufacturers mortar spraying and conveying equipment, concrete truck mixers and batching plants, opened a new production plant in Aksaray, Turkey. Costing € 5 million (US$ 7.4 million), the new plant manufactures truck mixers and covers an area of 35000 m2. Operated by the IMER-L&T joint venture – the IMER Group and Turkish partner Metin Uygur – it employs about 70 people.

IMER Group president Silvano Bencini said the opening of the plant strengthens its penetration of both the Turkish and the wider Middle Eastern and Central Asian markets. Mr Bencini said the Group aimed to increase its export share in Turkey from the current 11% to 15% within three years, by which time the new plant will be manufacturing over 1000 units per year.

The move follows the establishment of a commercial branch in Lebanon, Beirut in 2006, and Mr Bencini said the Group's strategy is now to increase exports to the Middle East to € 10 million (US$ 10.8 million) within two years.

Infrastructure investment

Investing in transport infrastructure is often seen as a way to stimulate trade and economic growth. And concrete continues to play a vital role it this expansion.

In India, just south of Mumbai one of the world's largest cable-stayed bridges is under construction; the Bandra-Worli Sealink project. Part of a 40 km long “urban” motorway, the bridge is being constructed by the Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) and China Harbour Construction Company using Doka formwork.

Like many projects in the region it is designed to aid economic growth and allow free passage of people and freight across the region. (For a full report on the project see iC's Large Structures feature last month.)

Also addressing its infrastructure requirements is Japan. Local contractor K-Con Company recently used a Gomaco four-track GT-6300 to pave a new canal at the Omarugawa Power-Electricity Plant on the Omaru River, Kyushu Island, Japan, for the Kyushu Electric Power Company.

The hydroelectric power plant (HEP) on the Omaru River, in the Miyazaki Prefecture of Kyushu Island, is just southwest of the main island of Japan. The HEP is separated into an upper and lower reservoir.

K-Con's work involved slipforming a 4 m wide canal around the upper reservoir. The new canal will help control water volume in the reservoir; in the event of heavy rains, the excess water will be discharged through the canal to prevent the reservoir from overflowing.

The canal was paved 200 mm thick over continuous steel reinforcing. Concrete slump averaged 35 mm and, according to a spokesman, K-Con worked closely with its concrete supplier to develop a mix design that would work well for slipforming and provide a smooth finish to the canal walls.

Gomaco has also supplied two Japanese contractors with its Commander III slipform paver for tunnel projects on the Meishen Highway in central and western Japan.

Typically, road tunnels are hand formed in Japan and the major concern during construction is to keep one lane open to construction traffic and machinery.

“Half-width slipform paving is gaining popularity though, and the successful completion of these two tunnel projects is helping the process make even more progress,” said a Gomaco spokesman.

The first project, the Suzuka Tunnel Paving Work, Second Meishin Highway Road, is located between Kameyama City, Mie-Ken, and Koga City, Shiga-Ken and is a joint venture between contractors Taisei-Rotec and Fukuda Road.

Taisei-Rotec used its RTP-500 rubber-tracked placer and four-track Commander III to slipform 114000 m3 of new concrete roadway over continuous steel reinforcing. The road was completed in two paving passes, which allowed half of the tunnel's width to remain open to construction traffic at all times.

The second project, the Rittou Tunnel Paving Work, Second Meishin Highway Road, is located near Rittou City, Shiga-Ken and is a joint venture between Nihon Road and Okumura-Gumi Civil Engineering.

Acting as sub-contractor K-Con used the RTP-500 and Commander III to slipform about 52000 m3 of new tunnel roadway over continuous steel reinforcing.

Road maintenance and improving ssafety are also high on the agenda in many countries, including the US. Curbs Etc. has recently slipformed a 1.8 m highway divider with crown and gutters in rehabilitation work on Highway 202 near Wilmington, Delaware, using a Power Curber 5700-B.

The mold attachment on the machine places a 1.22 m wide median with a 304 mm integral gutter on each side, in a single pass, with the crew averaged 13.7 m of concrete divider per delivery (9 m3).

Power Curbers built the mold with the two gutter pans, and Curbs Etc. used 680 kg of counter weight on the machine.

“The only thing holding you back is the supplier of concrete,” said Charlie Ewing of Curbs Etc. “You have to deal with traffic, with the trucks getting to you.”

Most US highway divider applications call for a 610 mm curb, slipformed on both sides of a median and then filled in with concrete to the desired width. The 1.8 m wide divider on Highway 202 is unique.

Curbs Etc slipformed 1.53 km of the 1.8 m divider on adjoining jobs and 6.1 km of 90 mm curb where the divider splits. “It made sense to do it in one pass,” said Mr Ewing. “The state saw how fast it was getting it done.”

Outlook

Concrete will continue to play a vital role in delivering the world's infrastructure. While manufacturers are under increasing pressure to provide equipment that is not only safe and efficient but, allows contractors to bring in projects on time and to budget.

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