Ecocem expands at home and abroad

Micheál McKittrick says Ecocem enjoyed a significant sales increase last year in the UK, a country which is a net importer of cement. Name: Micheál McKittrick Occupation: Managing Director Ireland & UK Ecocem Background: Formed in 2003, Ecocem manufactures ground granulated blast-furnace slag cement and producing less carbon than traditional production methods. The company has manufacturing plants in Dublin, France and the Netherlands.

ECOCEM managing director Micheál McKittrick has been appointed to his new key role as the Irish firm enters a time of expansion, both domestically and internationally. His role involves the management of all aspects of the Irish and UK operations, and comes in the wake of the company’s further expansion into the UK market.

“I look forward to expanding Ecocem’s business domestically and internationally, and will continue to develop the Irish markets of both bulk and bagged cement with an increasing focus on innovative products to help deliver value to our customers.”

A chartered engineer and graduate of Trinity College, he previously worked in a number of senior roles with Atkins Consulting Engineers. An advocate of sustainable construction, his appointment fits well with a firm where sustainability is at the core of its ethos.

“2017 is probably one of our biggest years for expansion within the group, and over the course of the year we will have the capacity to produce an extra one million tons of GGBS (Ground Granulated Blast-furnace Slag) high performance alternative to traditional cement. The challenge for us now is to successfully sell this into the marketplace and is one of the reasons for our expansion into the UK market.”

Ecocem opened its first UK import terminal in Runcorn, on Manchester Ship Canal, in April 2016, following its £2 million investment – followed by the opening of a second import facility at Sheerness this April, providing capacity to supply more than 450,000 tonnes into the British market.

“We have recorded significant growth in the UK last year, which will be further strengthened with the addition of Sheerness coming on stream now. Given that the UK would be a net importer of cement with 30% of their supply coming in from overseas, much of which comes from Ireland, we are capitalising on a shortage of supply in the UK, not just of our product, but also normal Portland cement. In addition, we are experiencing growth in Ireland, Holland and Belgium as well as the French market, which is contributing to our continued growth.”

In 2015, Ecocem recorded income of €2.3m, up from €1.5m the previous year. Turnover for the group totalled €63.7m in 2015, up from €61m in the prior year, with operating profit increasing to €2.6m from €1.5m.

“The uncertainty around Brexit shows no signs of being resolved, particularly with the recent election result. I think, logically, a hard Brexit should be off the table for a number of reasons, not the least of which in terms of cement is their need for a supply into their market. It would seem that applying tariffs would be counter-productive for the UK for an economy that, certainly in the early years of post-Brexit, will rely on infrastructure to help their new way of life. We do have the flexibility in relation as to where we supply our facilities in the UK from, be it either Holland, France or Ireland, with the most likely scenario to supply from all three locations.”

In September 2016, Ecocem announced €30m joint venture with ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel firm, its partner for the UK terminal, for its production facility in France. The investment is a strategic partnership as Ecocem use a by-product of the manufacture steel to make cement.

“Security of supply will be a key factor with GGBS product over the next five years, and, due to our link up with ArcelorMittal, will be in a very good position to deliver and overcome the challenges of the market,” he said.

At the 2016 Builder and Engineer awards, Ecocem won Manufacturer of the Year – ‘highlighting the achievement of those who have gone above and beyond sustainable manufacturing.’ The award follows the company winning Green Product of the Year 2016, and a special award for Impact on Climate Change at the France Ireland Chamber of Commerce Awards 2016. Concrete made with Ecocem cement is of equal or greater strength than that made with ordinary Portland cement, and the company’s GGBS has been proven to double its 28-day strength after 10 to 12 years.

“Ecocem GGBS is ground more finely than ordinary Portland cement, ensuring that the concrete creates a large volume of cement paste making it easier to work, pump, place and compact. Due to its ultimate performance, the product is widely specified in harsh environments such as marine environments and roads, and is commonly specified by the National Roads Authority.”

After water, concrete is the second most consumed substance on earth, with 2.5 tonnes of concrete poured for every person on the planet every year. The active ingredient for concrete is cement, whose production is responsible for 5% of global CO2 emissions – from the manufacturing process necessitating high energy demands and high carbon content of the raw material: limestone. For every tonne of cement produced, a tonne of CO2 is released into the atmosphere – which is a very significant figure for such a widely used construction material.

“Ecocem cement has a CO2 output per tonne of 42kg, verified by an Environmental Product Declaration, compared with an ordinary Portland cement CO2 output of around 800kg per tonne. And while Green Public Procurement is nowhere near far enough advanced at this point in time, it will eventually catch up not just for the obvious environmental benefits – but also for its commercial advantages.”

While environmental gains have thus far been slow to materialise, Ecocem’s niche position in a world where the emerging green economy will continue to develop a bigger commercial clout allied to its current expansion paints an optimistic picture of its future prospects.

“It’s a long game, and while the gains on the environmental side have thus far been slow to materialise, we are not going to sit and wait on that legislation. We know we have a premium products, and having established its benefits over the course of the last 14 years, are now positioned to bring its benefits to an increasingly receptive world.”


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