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The Concrete industry in Australia (especially in NSW), is about to witness a massive, ‘once in a lifetime’ surge in demand for concrete over the next 5 years.  On the back of a massive infrastructure spend underway for new Airports, roads, tunnels, bridges etc.

Approximately $75B has been allocated to be spent on new infrastructure over the next 10 years. NSW will allocate $5.3B to investigate the Western Sydney Airport Project, followed by Victoria, where $1B has been allocated for infrastructure and another $8.4B has been allocated for the new Melbourne to Brisbane freight corridor.

Queensland and South Australia also have new road infrastructure projects planned however, these are on a smaller scale in comparison to NSW and VIC. This demand from new infrastructure projects comes on top of the existing, steady demand and growth seen from residential and commercial construction projects already established.

This infrastructure push is putting unique pressure on the ready mix concrete industry in NSW who are not only struggling to increasing their production capacity,  but are also looking at ways to reduce their waste, with waste disposal costs spiralling out of control and waste disposal facilities in NSW reaching peak capacity.

To get a sense of this situation, one of the four major ready mix concrete suppliers are expected to supply about 1.8 million cubic metres of concrete in the NSW and Sydney metro region alone – and that’s just for 2018. However, in 2017 they expected to surpass that figure, by delivering closer to 2.0 Mm3 of concrete and expect deliveries for 2018 to increase to 2.2 Mm3 of concrete. This would be a +20% growth in demand for 2018 from 2017, with the new infrastructure projects just starting to get underway in NSW.

Australia currently produces upwards of 26 Mm3 of concrete every year, with this requirement expected to grow at a ‘faster than normal’ rate on the back of the above infrastructure push.

Industry experts estimate that in Australia, in spite of the best efforts by concrete suppliers to deliver exactly as much concrete as the customer needs that an average of 3-4% of concrete produced by concrete batching plants is returned as waste.

This waste comes not only from ‘empty’ returning agitator truck washouts but also from the occasional full / partial load returns. The reasons for full or partial load returns are varied and range from customers changing their mind to not meeting technical specifications to customers over estimating their needs.

Despite the best efforts by concrete suppliers, this figure of 3-4% waste concrete is the lowest achievable on average. Even if the waste concrete is paid for by the customer, the concrete suppliers still need to deal with this waste and it still costs money and most importantly, labour and machinery, to manage this waste disposal problem. This concrete waste disposal unnecessarily diverts resources and manpower from the core business of concrete production, thereby impacting productivity and efficiency of the concrete production process.

It is relatively easy to reduce this waste disposal problem to almost zero and in the process also to recover the sand, cement and aggregate from the waste concrete. It is also possible to reduce water usage by endlessly recycling the water used for washing out the agitator trucks.

Progressive concrete batching plants across Australia have now started to realise the benefits of reclaiming both solids and water from concrete washouts to reduce their overall disposal costs, free up valuable space and recover valuable resources for re-use.

This often includes using reclaimers to recover sand and aggregates as a re-usable commodity and a filtration system to recover clear water from the cementitious slurry whilst capturing cementitious particles as a dry, solid cake for easy and cheap disposal.

Traditionally, almost all of the concrete batching sites in Australia use wedge ‘settling pits’) to handle the waste concrete disposal. Significant amounts of water is used (and often lost) in the washout process and the returned waste concrete occupies space and needs to be handled / turned several times before being sent off to a licensed waste processing facility. In addition, a large amount of land is occupied by the traditional ‘settling pits’ which could otherwise be put to better use, especially in urban locations where real estate is at a premium.

All of this translates to money, space and many unnecessary truck and loader movements to handle and dispose of the concrete waste. Concrete waste material can take weeks to dry out enough for transport, occupying valuable space on site. Even then, you are transporting a significant quantity of water with the waste material.

Further wedge settling pits can be eliminated by investing in the right technology to deliver low cost recovery of both water and dry cement solids.  A single, elevated McLanahan Concrete Filter Press. Recovers, clean water for immediate re-use while producing a small volume of immediately disposable dry concrete filter cakes thereby greatly reducing on site vehicle movements and waste disposal costs.

Considering the above, recycling waste concrete and water helps reduce cost of waste disposal and protects the concrete producer against ever-tightening environmental restrictions. Automated processing technology reduces labour and delivers ‘green credentials’ by reducing greenhouse emissions, and leaching.  In all helping community based concrete plants to offer a socially / environmentally responsible profile.

Figure 1 – A McLanahan Concrete Filter Press is so compact that it is the same size as a standard Australian ute

Figure 2 – Concrete washout (before) and Clean process water (after) on site with a McLanahan customer

McLanahan offers Concrete Reclaimers which can recover sand and aggregate from concrete washouts as well as Filter Presses to recover water from the washout slurry.

Market validation for our solution is being proven for the application (i.e.; concrete washout) and in terms of having the required critical features such as –

References

Budget 2017 – Building Australia. 2018. Budget 2017 – Building Australia. [ONLINE] Available at: http://budget.gov.au/2017-18/content/glossies/jobs-growth/html/jobs-growth-01.htm. [Accessed 01 January 2018].

Ready-Mixed Concrete Manufacturing in Australia Market Research | IBISWorld . 2018. Ready-Mixed Concrete Manufacturing in Australia Market Research | IBISWorld . [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.ibisworld.com.au/industry-trends/market-research-reports/manufacturing/non-metallic-mineral-product/ready-mixed-concrete-manufacturing.html  [Accessed 02 January 2018].

Meet the author

Krish Pande

Krish is the Filtration and Dewatering Sales Specialist for the Concrete, Cement, Sand, Aggregates, Coal, Iron Ore, Copper, Gold, Nickel, Lithium, Silver, Bauxite and other mineral industries across Australia, New Zealand and Asia Pacific region.

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