7th Global Gypsum Conference 2007
15-16 May, Shanghai, China
The seventh Global Gypsum Conference has successfully taken place in Shanghai, 15-16 May 2007. Around 230 ‘international’ delegates attended, as well as 120 registered Chinese delegates. Approximately 200 Chinese gypsum industry participants additionally visited the event’s exhibition. Delegates attended from 40 different countries, and this was - to the organisers' knowledge - the largest and most international gypsum event ever.
The Conference was organised by Global Gypsum Magazine, and was supported by the China Building Materials Industries Association and the nascent Chinese Gypsum Association. Socom PR Ltd was the local organiser. The conference was sponsored by GEO Specialty Chemicals, Grenzebach, Gypsum Techologies Inc., Knauf, Owens Corning and Johns Manville. One popular innovation was the distribution of the conference powerpoint presentations on memory sticks (sponsored by Grenzebach).
The event started on the evening of Monday 14 May, when the exhibition area was opened to visitors. In all, 19 ‘international’ exhibition stands and 10 Chinese exhibition stands were on display, with the Chinese keen to attract international equipment buyers to take advantage of Chinese prices. Such was the level of interest in international companies at the event that several reported that they had run out of brochures by the end of the evening. Inter-delegate communication was aided by a team of English-Chinese and German-Chinese translators who wee available in the exhibition area throughout the conference.
Conference day one
The first presentation was given by Dr Xu Yongmo, vice president of the China Building Materials Industries Association. Dr Xu gave an overview of the development of the Chinese gypsum industry, suggesting that it has undergone three main stages of development: basic research was undertaken and manual production prevailed until the 1970s. Starting in the 1980s, western plasterboard lines were imported and Chinese equipment companies were soon able to begin production of the components required for modern board lines. Through the 1990s and to today, Chinese companies have installed increasingly sophisticated and higher speed gypsum board lines, and are now in a position to be able to compete with the international firms like Lafarge and Knauf that have made strong early inroads into the Chinese board market.
The second paper was given by Professor Yue Wenhai of the famous Wuhan University of Technology. Speaking in Chinese and with the aid of the conference’s simultaneous translators, he gave an overview of advances in gypsum research and technology in China, affirming Dr Xu’s contention that early development in China’s gypsum sector was relatively slow, but that progress is now rapid.
After the first long coffee break (sponsored by Knauf), Terry Hu of CNBM International Corporation gave a detailed overview of the development of Chinese-made equipment for the gypsum industry. The Hangzhou Design and Research Institute has been responsible for the design of many of the Chinese-built board lines, starting in 1978 with a 4Mm2/year line for the Beijing New Building Materials Company. The institute has recently been responsible for the design of high-capacity, high-speed board lines for the Taihe Group (currently China’s largest domestic board manufacturer) and for Xinwen Mine Group. CNBM International Corporation acts as a central organiser for potential purchases of equipment. Research and design is undertaken by the Hangzhou institute, and the equipment is manufactured by a variety of different Chinese companies. The first three speakers gave different values for the total amount of board manufactured in China, although it is clear that the amount sold is increasing fast. Production was around 300Mm2 in 2003, and 450Mm2 in 2004. Estimates for 2007 are in the order of 800Mm2.
Dr Tao Wang of Grenzebach Machinery (Shanghai) Ltd then gave an enlightening presentation on the travails and pitfalls that await any company wishing to set up a machinery manufacturing business in China. He pointed out that since labour costs are so low (albeit rising) labour-intensive enterprises will have a great competitive advantage over off-shore companies. However, it is clear that it becoming more and more difficult to hire qualified and well-trained employees – and to keep them. Dr Wang’s strongest tip though was that prospective investors need to find a competent and trustworthy partner in China, and that the management should be ‘localised’ as fast as possible.
Dr Bob Bruce of Innogyps then gave a brutally honest paper on ‘survival economics 2008.’ Dr Bruce had correctly forecast the current downturn in US board markets and the upturn in supply, with the resulting crash in board prices being the obvious corollary. Bob pointed out the underlying cost structure of old, new and future board lines. He suggested that many older plants will be forced to close during the current downturn, but that new lines (and future lines) will be very profitable when the price of board next picks up (possibly as far away as the end of 2008 or the start of 2009). It was fascinating to hear Bob speaking about taking cents off the manufacturing cost of board in the cost-focussed and increasingly optimised US, and to compare (and contrast) the economies of scale and technologies being used in North America with the current state of the Chinese gypsum industry.
Abdoulkarim Esmaeili of the Sadaf Gypsum Company then gave a paper on the economics of gypsum production in Iran. In fact, Iran is second only to the US in terms of gypsum production, and there are over 400 gypsum mines in Iran. Knauf was the first manufacturer of board in the country, and dominates the industry. Sadaf Gypsum has recently set up a small plant, and hopes to make inroads into the market, although Mr Esmaeili suggested that profitability of board production is decreasing due to high inflation rates and the high cost of importing machinery into Iran.
Andrey Buyanskiy of the RGRK Holding Company then announced the establishment of a new borogypsum plant in the far east of Russia, and called for interested potential partners to contact him.
Authors from the ‘Energy Saving Equipment in Building Materials Factory’ company in Huangshi City then spoke about the company’s ‘OneStep’ process of calcining phosphogypsum. Michael Gramling of the WTW Group spoke about the company’s abilities to handle sticky bulk materials, including FGD gypsum, and spoke about case studies in China, at National Gypsum’s Tampa plant, and at Knauf’s Lauffen plant in Germany.
The Global Gypsum Conference gala dinner on the evening of the first day of the conference took place at the National Theatre in People’s Square, in the very heart of futuristic Shanghai. Delegates were treated to a sumptuous Chinese-style banquet, while being entertained by the athletic performers of the Shanghai Opera. The dinner was sponsored by GEO Specialty Chemicals.
Conference day two
Daniel Du of GE Energy started off the second day of the conference with an intruigingly titled presentation, ‘Meeting today’s production requirements with yesterday’s dust collection equipment.’ His conclusion was that it can be done, particularly with the use of pleated filter elements, and the use of spun-bonded filter media, such as BHA-Tex (ePTFE) membranes.
Ryan Holbird of Grenzebach Corporation (right) then gave a fascinating presentation entitled ‘If aerospace companies designed dryers.’ He pointed out that these high-tech companies commonly use computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to simulate the airflows involved in flight, and gave a number of examples of where his company had used the technique to optimise air flows in its products.
Henrik Lund-Nielsen of Gypsum Recycling International then spoke about his company’s experiences in trying to set up recycling schemes around the world. Although successful, the company has come to realise that there are both strong drivers and barriers to growth. It is clear that high landfill taxes and other ‘environmental’ regulations give impetus to recycling, but Lund-Nielsen also points out that board manufacturers should have a positive and cooperative approach to recycling, otherwise the schemes may fail. He points out that, no matter how ‘green-looking’ your company may become by recycling, if the economics of the project are not right, then it will not happen.
Wang Yongchang of Shangxi Northern Gypsum Company Ltd then gave an interesting talk on his company’s technology for the continuous manufacture of alpha-gypsum.
Dr Lance Wang of Johns Manville proceeded to give a brilliant presentation on failure mechanisms in the ASTM nail pull test in glass reinforced gypsum drywall, using both physical models and computer models. Strength was shown to be strongly anisotropic, varying between machine direction and cross machine direction, and with the paper having a surprisingly important role in the process of failure. Dr Wang concluded – among other points - that the orientation of glass fibres in the gypsum core is of critical importance to final board strength.
Per Nissen of conference new-comers Seelen A/S then gave a presentation on the company’s ‘EasyOn’ stretch hooding equipment for gypsum boards, while Christer Oloffsson of Limab AB detailed his company’s measurement tools to detect various types of flaws in gypsum boards, including its new Falcon Eye surface inspection system.
Li Yushan of Pingyi Kaiyuan New Building Materials Co. then gave details of the development of a multi-chamber fluidised calcination technology for a variety of different gypsum types. The penultimate presentation was given by Cui Xia of Rapid Building Systems, and detailed the company’s low-cost plaster and glass fibre load-bearing prefabricated walling system. Cui suggested that the system has one of the lowest embodied energies of all known comparable walling products, and she showed a wide variety of reference projects illustrating this remarkably cost-efficient product. She finished her presentation with a call for Chinese and other international partners for the system.
The final presentation at the conference was co-authored by Marc Potin and Sylvain Vieujot of Platre.com. They detailed a sprayable plaster system for high-specification projects, including outside use. The use of the system on outside walls gave rise to some heated discussion, with the suggestion that the gypsum will not last on exterior projects being strongly refuted by the presenters.
Farewell party and presentations
Following the close of the conference technical programme, delegates boarded buses to be transported through Shanghai to a luxury dining yacht on the Huang Po River, flowing through Shanghai. Onboard the vessel, delegates could continue to make contacts, pick-up news on the industry and discuss the latest developments, or just simply relax and watch the stunning cityscape of Shanghai and Pudong floating past while enjoying a beer.
A number of presentations were made during the cruise. The award for best exhibition stand went to Johns Manville. Delegates voted for the best presentations, and results were normalised to the number of delegates present in each session. Dr Xu Yongmo took thrid place with his study of the development of the Chinese gypsum industry. Two authors tied for first place: Ryan Holbird of Grenzebach for his presentation on CFD in dryer design, and Dr Bob Bruce for his presentation on the economics of US board production.
Post conference tours
A group of 34 delegates decided to make the most of the opportunity afforded by the event, and undertook a tour of China after the conference. One group visited Beijing, while another continued on to Xi’an and Guilin.
Global Gypsum Awards 2007
The second Global Gypsum Awards were presented at the conference gala dinner. The award for ‘gypsum product of the year’ was presented to Johns Manville’s DuraCore SF Plus, with the judges particularly citing the product’s customer-centric wallboard performance-enhancing properties. Global Gypsum ‘supplier of the year’ was awarded to Sweden’s Limab (seen right): judges were impressed with the company’s innovation and its high standards of customer service. Global Gypsum ‘personality of the year’ was awarded to Dr Bob Bruce of Innogyps Inc, for his many contributions to the industry over more than 30 years, and for his company’s continuing role in aiding the industry in terms of forecasting and technological advancement.
The Global Gypsum ‘company of the year’ award was presented to Knauf. The company has taken a very different path to its gypsum industry peers, and has concentrated its development activities in Eastern Europe, Russia, Middle Asia and in a number of other higher-risk areas, while at the same time competing effectively in mature markets with its peers. Serge Azais of Knauf Belgium picked up the award on behalf of Knauf, and gave a gracious acceptance speech (left).
Nominations for the third Global Gypsum Awards are now open, with details at www.propubs.com/GGA.
Delegates were asked to fill in questionnaires at the conference, and the results suggest that this was the best ever Global Gypsum event, with record high satisfaction scores in every category. As one delegate commented to the organisers at the end of the conference, “We should do this every six months.” Nice thought, but, sorry, you will have to wait a full year!
Delegates at the Shanghai Global Gypsum Conference voted for the next conference and exhibition to take place in Dubai in May 2008: A five-star conference venue has already been booked, and the conference organisers are already making moves to ensure that the event continues to grow and improve.
We look forward to seeing you in Dubai!