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Australia: Boral chief executive Mike Kane said that coal seam gas is critical to the future of Australian manufacturing as he warned that rising energy costs are threatening to kill the industry. The US executive has only been running Australia's Boral for about 18 months, but he has already slashed 1000 jobs and cut US$95.5m from the company's cost base.
Kane still has costs firmly in focus, saying that spiralling energy costs are seriously damaging manufacturers. "Coal seam gas is part of the future recovery for Australian manufacturing," he said. "If it is not exploited properly, I think Australian manufacturing has a use-by date attached to it because the inflationary pressures in energy will kill domestic manufacturing over time."
Gas and electricity costs Boral about US$91.1m/yr. The group's newly-signed contracts in New South Wales and Victoria will see Boral's cost of gas rise about 20% from 2014. Because of import parity pricing, it is difficult for Boral and its competitors to pass cost increases on to customers. However, Kane is testing the waters. At its half-year result in February 2014, when Boral reported a 73% jump in underlying half-year profit to US$82.4m, the company flagged its intent to raise concrete prices by 6% in April 2014.
Over the past decade the strong Australian Dollar, high wages, rising energy costs and static productivity have taken their toll on manufacturers. "The Australian economy is showing signs of recovery but it is still early days. Not all of the states are reaching the same rate so I would argue that Queensland, Victoria and South Australia still have a while to come," Kane said.
Oman: Zawawi Gypsum has loaded its first export consignment of gypsum from the port of Salalah. The vessel loaded 66,000Mt of gypsum destined for India. A press release said that the company expects exports to increase to 2Mt/yr within the next three years.
''This shipment is the beginning of a long-term relationship between the port and our company. This relationship will grow stronger when our facility in the free zone commences exports through the port. Salalah, with its proximity to the main trade lanes and direct main line connectivity to our export destination was the ideal location for our facility in Oman,'' said Ramachandran, CEO of Zawawi Minerals.
Zawawi Minerals has created two joint ventures with USG Corporation, Zawawi Gypsum and Zawawi Drywall. Zawawi Drywall is building a 8MM2/yr gypsum wallboard plant. The US$37m plant is expected to be opened in early 2015. It will target growing markets in the Middle East, India and East Africa.
USA: A new study highlights the top reasons that crop growers apply gypsum to cropland. The research cites increased yields, valuable sulphur fertility and soil quality improvements as key benefits of gypsum use, contributing to positive financial returns. The study involved an extensive review of published scientific literature, in-depth interviews with several long-time gypsum users and a survey of US farmers.
"On average, gypsum users received US$1.68 in return for every US$1 invested in gypsum. In addition, gypsum significantly improved the productivity of their soil," said Marvin Batte, professor emeritus of The Ohio State University. "Many gypsum users experienced even higher returns. Plus, there were significant environmental benefits as well."
"Returns were highest for alfalfa where users experienced dramatic increases in yield," said Batte. "In alfalfa, returns per dollar of gypsum cost were often 5:1 or higher. In corn, returns were 2:1 or higher. Alfalfa is a crop with a high sulphur requirement and gypsum supplies sulphur in the sulphate form, which is readily available to plants, unlike elemental sulphur that must be converted to a usable form," said Ron Chamberlain, lead agronomist for Gypsoil. The value of sulphur in gypsum is more than US$16/acre (24281m2) for a 6t alfalfa yield and more than US$5/acre for a 200-bushel corn crop. Producers also found that gypsum improved the effectiveness and efficiency of other plant nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
While increased yield and improved fertility were among the easiest benefits to measure, improved soil quality was viewed by many, especially long-time gypsum users, as the most important benefit. The most valuable soil improvement benefits included improved plant rooting, improved seedling emergence, increased soil water retention, reduced runoff and improved absorption of nutrients. Enhanced soil biological activity was also noted.
Written by Global Gypsum staff
14 March 2014
Germany: Saint-Gobain has been certified for the seventh time in a row as a top employer in Germany for its outstanding employee offerings, by the Netherlands-based Top Employers Institute, which recognises leading employers around the world.
The participating companies were SG Glass, SG Sekurit, SG Performance Plastics Pampus, SG Weber, SG Isover and SG Informations Systems. The best results were achieved in the categories 'secondary benefits' and 'culture management,' in which Saint-Gobain was among the top 10 of the 125 certified companies. Furthermore, the companies named above achieved the Top Employers Europe 2014 certification, as they had also been certified in various countries in Europe.
Reinhard Runte, HR director of Saint-Gobain in Germany and Austria and HR managing director for SG Glass Deutschland, accepted the award in the name of all participating companies on 6 March 2014 in Dusseldorf. "I am very happy about receiving this award again and also a little proud as it shows that, despite the increasing standards set by the Institute, we could improve our performance."
Uzbekistan: Knauf plans to invest up to US$50m to double its production capacity in Uzbekistan, according to Akbar Muhiddinov, a senior manager of Uzstroymaterialy (Uzbek Construction Materials). Knauf currently produces gypsum wallboard at its 20Mm2/yr Knauf Gips Bukhara plant in the Bukhara region that was built in 2011. Including a gypsum-based mix plant, Knauf has invested more than US$51m in the region.