What do you think of the current situation of the basalt industry?
Each era marks a breakthrough in a certain sector. So, it was with internal combustion engines, antibiotics, electricity and space exploration. I’m confident that the time has come for a radical breakthrough in the composite industry with the use of basalt materials.
Early studies and tentative steps towards studying the properties of basalt materials have long been made in the 60’s of the last century. Scientists in several countries conducted the studies, but the level of production technology at that time didn’t allow them to obtain continuous basalt fiber (CBF) of sufficiently high quality, ready to compete with other fibers.
Today, there are significant advances in all the fundamentals of basalt production: the technology has stepped forward considerably, laboratory tests have allowed to select raw materials to obtain basalt fiber with specifically set properties, and the global industry is ever ready. Moreover, new construction materials with better physical and mechanical properties are required.
All this creates a solid platform for reliable launching of the basalt industry into leading position in global development. This is especially true because the scope of CBF and basalt composites is practically unlimited: automotive industry, aeronautics sector, medicine and chemical industry, energy and construction. The wide range of properties of basalt fiber makes the material a basis for further development of the global technological progress. This is the view held by world’s prominent scientists and researchers.
Demand for CBF and basalt-based composites in all areas of the industry is growing, but large-scale production is hopelessly lagging behind, relying mainly on first-generation plants. These plants were established based on experimental prototype technology, whose aim was only to confirm that CBF production is possible, but not for industrial large-scale production. But latest-generation plants (2.0 technology) currently account for only 20% of the current capacity of worldwide CBF production.
What is the main difference between your technology 2.0 and other solutions?
The main difference in the stability of the properties of the fiber. The technologies that are offered on the market have a modular solution, that is, furnace modules of small capacities, mainly up to 100 tons per year. To organize an enterprise with a capacity of 1000 tons per year, 10 such furnace modules will be required. Each module has its own chemical process of melting at a temperature of 1450 degrees. For example, when a refractory element enters the melt, the temperature regime in the melting zone changes and the composition of the chemical elements of the melt changes, which immediately affects the properties of the drawn fiber. Thus, from different furnaces, fiber with different characteristics is obtained. In the jargon of technologists, such furnaces are called “stands”, and they are primarily intended for training and experimental work with raw materials and fiber in the enterprise.
Our solution is one furnace unit with a capacity of up to 1,500 tons per year and fully automated process control. Changes in temperature conditions no longer affect the properties of the fiber, and as a result we get 1,500 tons of basalt fiber with stable characteristics.
We pay special attention to raw materials. We have developed a unique methodology for determining the suitability of raw materials. Chemical and mineralogical analysis of rocks is not enough to decide on the use of raw materials for CBF, these data only give a vector where to look for raw materials, and no more.
What are your goals?
The main goal of our Basalt Projects Group is to develop the basalt industry throughout the world. We have combined both skilled and promising specialists from Russia and Ukraine, who are ready to provide assistance at any CBF production stage, from analysis of basalt rocks for suitability as raw materials to creation and management of industrial facilities.
Tell us about the stages of the implementation of CBF projects and the services that your company offers?
The process of creating a new enterprise for the production of continuous basalt fiber begins with before-project work. It is at this stage that it is important to determine the raw material base and calculate the economy of the future enterprise depending on the future location. Raw materials logistics, material costs, economic factors, sales and national characteristics are very important for the final result.
It is after this stage that we recommend that investors and customers decide on the choice of a project implementation scenario – for example, a gradual increase in capacity or the construction of a large-capacity enterprise. Indeed, the implementation of any project depends not only on technology, but also on the capabilities of the investor.
The implementation of the turnkey project begins after the approval of the preliminary feasibility study (business plan). And the first stage is the pre-project work on the collection of initial data, a visual representation of the enterprise and the recalculation of financial models considering the new input.
Next is the engineering stage – the development of project documentation, design development, procurement and equipment integration, a tender and the selection of a construction contractor. Equipment is delivered to the finished production site.
The construction phase is implemented by us with the involvement of a local construction contractor, selected on the basis of a tender or recommended by the investor.
The stage of installation of technological equipment and the launch of production is the final stage in the organization of the enterprise for the production of CBF.
Then we accompany the company on the terms of a technological franchise.
All stages are interconnected, which reduces the project implementation time. More information is available on the company’s website.
Our world-class experts have all the necessary skills required to deploy any modern technology. That’s exactly the reason why we have accumulated an impressive luggage of intellectual property, designed unique techniques and engineering solutions. Being fully aware that much importance is nowadays attached to environmental conservation and preservation, I would like to note that plants created by us meet all environmental safety standards.
Thank you for such a detailed answer. Tell me, is this approach to the implementation of projects deployed by all engineering companies?
I would not like to evaluate colleagues. The choice of an engineering contractor is a matter of the customer’s decision. The investor has its own assessments of determining the reliability of a partner.
I can only say that recently, we were asked to give an expert assessment of the business plan of one project for organizing the production of CBF. It is no secret that presentations and economic calculations of the CBF productions “go” on the market. Nobody checks the relevance of this data, and very in vain. In many calculations, the cost of technological equipment has become obsolete and has not been updated for years, and some suppliers either no longer produce the declared type of equipment or have ceased to operate.
Now we have brought the examination of basalt fiber production projects into a separate service.
What projects is BPG currently implementing?
We are currently assembling equipment for our partner in England, Basalt Tech UK. In the summer of 2018, we signed a contract to organize the production of composite reinforcing products in the UK. The launch of the enterprise is scheduled for May 2019.
As we finish our conversation, what would you wish our readers?
We are always ready for constructive dialogue with all those involved in any basalt fiber production stage and those using or planning to use basalt fiber. We are pleased to offer our own experience or listen to your suggestions and offers.
Companies: Basalt Projects Group
Persons: Maxim Chernykh