Describe your job in a sentence.
I take entrepreneur responsibility and push business with Master Builder Cement Additives forward in the European market.
How did you start in the cement industry?
I started more indirectly in the cement industry, as I joined HeidelbergCement in the early 90s in the field of admixtures concrete. However, there is no concrete without cement and I therefore had a close connection with my colleagues from the cement side right from the beginning.
Tell us something we may not know about BASF?
BASF is considered a chemical company. However, we have lots of knowledge about mineralogy in our main R&D centre in Trostberg.
What does the building industry expect from cement producers?
A transformation has been in progress in the cement industry for some time. This not only means considerable challenges but also new opportunities. Cement factories need to become more efficient at the same time as reducing their environmental impact. Customers are also calling for increasingly high-quality, high-performance cement.
How are cement producers reacting to these challenges?
Technological developments are causing companies to think about the long-term development of cement production. What fuel mixtures are to be used in the future to generate the extremely high temperatures required? What are the limits for low-clinker cement? What potential is there for CO2 reduction? These topics are continuously discussed both within the cement industry and by stakeholders outside the industry. Cement additive suppliers are thinking about the future role and potential of innovative chemicals in cement production and investing in research projects in this area.
What are the benefits of using cement additives?
The main benefits are with respect to costs and the environment; manufacturers need less energy for the milling process, which saves costs and reduces CO2 emissions. Additives also play a key role in product quality, producing concrete with higher early and final compressive strength values and improved rheology.
What strategies can the industry employ for the development of cement additives?
BASF has invested in a pilot mill. This is a 1:10 scale version of a genuine cement ball mill, offering realistic conditions without the cost of tests at a real cement factory. It is used mainly for basic research and the development of new cement additives.
How will the role of chemicals in the cement industry evolve in the future?
In view of growing cost efficiency and environmental compatibility requirements, chemicals will increasingly become an integral part of cement production. Cooperation between cement additive suppliers and cement producers will help in mastering future challenges. By investing in resources and equipment, and with the support of a global R&D network, BASF intends to play a key part in this evolution.
Do you have a final message for the industry?
Trustful cooperation is the basis for success for all players involved. Cement additives could bring benefit for both sides, if we work it out together. Especially with increasing costs for CO2 emission papers, the need to reduce the clinker factor will further increase. In other words, more effective cement additives will be needed. We offer a full programme of performance enhancers (early and late) and we are open to working jointly on the innovations demanded by the industry.
About the author
Merkel is Head of Key Account Management and Business Leader for Cement Additives in Europe. He was born in Weinheim in Germany in 1968. Merkel studied Business Administration at the Berufsakademie Mannheim in Germany and received his Bachelor’s Degree in 1991.
Read the article online at: https://www.worldcement.com/special-reports/15012019/five-minutes-with-thilo-merkel/