The global fire clay market is expected to witness significant growth over the forecast period, owing to increasing use as fire bricks and in metalworking industries. Its major application is in chimney linings, boiler, glass melting, pottery kilns-blast, and reheating furnaces. It is used as a protective shield in heat-generating machinery installed in places, such as power plants and households with fireplaces. Fire clay is applied in these furnaces on account of its high melting point, (1,515 °C - 1,775 °C) and its plasticity. The rising number of power plants in India, China, the U.S., South Africa, and Brazil, the resultant of increasing energy demand by the population and rapid industrialization is expected to fuel fire clay demand over the forecast period. Furthermore, it is also being increasingly used in construction projects to make the buildings fireproof. This is expected to be fueled by infrastructural developments in China, India, U.S., Saudi Arabia, and U.A.E., backed by rising disposable income.
Fire clay has two major properties, namely refractory and plasticity. Depending on the percentage content of these two, it is referred to as flint, semi-flint, semi-plastic fire, and plastic fire clays. The fusion point in the range from 1,515 °C to 1,775 °C is another important attribute for clay to be termed fire clay. If a certain grade has 1,515 °C as a fusion point, it is called low grade; whereas, if a certain grade has 1775 °C as a fusion point, it is called high grade. Generally, if it has the capacity to withstand temperature higher than 1600 °C, it is used as fire bricks in lining furnaces and in metalworking industries, such as crucibles, retorts, saggars, and glassware, to produce utensils. The challenges to the fire clay market are primarily owing to the impurities present in it, such as iron, oxides of calcium, magnesium, and titanium, and alkalis, coupled with increasing environmental concerns associated with air pollution created by brick manufacturing.
In terms of product, the fire clay market can be segmented into flint, semi-flint, semi-plastic fire, and plastic fire clay. This categorization is based on the material’s percentage content of plasticity and refractory. Flint clay has higher refractory property, whereas plastic fire clay has higher plastic content. Plastic fire clay has a higher fusion point as compared to flint clay and thus is more widely used in metalworking industries and as fire bricks in construction projects. In terms of fusion point, the market can be segmented into high-grade and low-grade fire clay. Flint clay is low grade, whereas plastic fire clay is high grade.
In terms of application, the market can be segmented into metalworking industries, such as crucibles, retorts, saggars and glassware, lining furnaces, pottery items, such as pipes and sanitary ware, and fire bricks. Among these, lining furnaces and fire bricks are the predominant application of fire clays. Fire bricks are used in various infrastructural projects, in order to provide fire-resistant properties. And it is for the same reason as lining furnaces in power plants and chimneys.
In terms of geography, the fire clay market can be segmented into North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, and Africa. Over the past few years, Asia Pacific was the fastest-growing regional market, on account of numerous construction projects, fueled by the rising disposable income of the population and rapid industrialization. Within Asia Pacific, China and India were the growth hubs, and are expected to witness a similar trend over the forecast period. North America and Europe have witnessed stable growth in terms of fire clay application, which has largely been adopted in housing developments, owing to greater safety requirements of the population. These regions are expected to witness moderate growth over the forecast period, with Germany, France, U.K., U.S., and Canada being the center of developments. The Middle East was a large market over the last few years and is expected to continue over the forecast period, owing to infrastructural projects scheduled in Saudi Arabia and U.A.E. Africa witnessed a below-average growth rate over the past few years with only Libya and South Africa as active sub-regional markets.
Key players involved in the fire clay market are Fire Clay Minerals, Inc., Changzhou Yashuo Fire Clay Factory, Claymont Fire Co Inc., Shandong Fire-Proof Materials Group Co., Ltd., Leeds Fireclay Company, Wortley Fire Clay Company, and Rutland Fire Clay Company.
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The shortage in supply of raw materials from Chinese manufacturers has resulted in a severe demand-supply gap. The manufacturers are further expected to be stranded on raw material orders owing to the logistics industry being significantly impacted due to lockdown amid COVID-19. However, the producers are expected to move away from China aiming to reduce the future risks that would affect the business and to reduce the manufacturers' cluster in a single country in order to smoothen the supply chain. The report will account for Covid19 as a key market contributor.