Due to global infrastructure projects in the emerging markets of Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Latin America, along with governmental policies and environmental standards, demand for geotextiles is expected to grow. According to a recent study from Markets and Markets, the geotextile market is expected to reach $8.6 billion by 2019, growing at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 10.59% from 2014-2019. Findings show that the Asia Pacific region is expected to dominate the market in value terms by 2019.
One of the advantages of using nonwoven geotextiles is the environmental factor. According to recent data from EDANA, about 750 square kilometers of geotextile nonwovens are manufactured and sold annually, and of this, 60% is used in road construction. If all new roads in the European Union were made with nonwovens instead of other materials like gravel, the association says it would result in a savings of 6.8 million tons of CO2 equivalents. “By being lighter, thinner and more resource-efficient than gravel, nonwoven geotextiles offer both an environmental benefit, and cost savings to the user,” the association says.
The following is a look at what’s new from some of the key players in the nonwoven geotextiles market.
Dalco Nonwovens, a needlepunch nonwovens manufacturer based in Conover, NC, maintains geotextiles as a substantial allocation of its overall manufacturing capacity. As a supplier to various markets, the company focuses on civil engineering products for drainage, separation, stabilization and reinforcement and filtration, as well as other applications. In addition, Dalco supports manufacturing of needlepunch nonwovens for the home furnishings, industrial, roofing and automotive markets.
According to Dalco’s president Mark Evans, the company recently expanded its operations, with its fourth needlepunch line scheduled to be up and running by April. Three of the company’s four lines are capable of producing nonwovens for geotextiles. “Geotextiles play an integral role in our overall business strategy. The geotextiles market has been a mainstay of our business, and we will continue to look at new ways to develop business,” Evans says.
The primary raw material for geotextiles is polypropylene (PP), and unstable prices for PP, compared to others like polyester, has made planning raw material purchases a principal factor in the geotextiles market. “It’s important for us to plan the best way we can to be successful in any given season,” he says.
Dalco has seen more availability of overseas raw materials compared to four to five years ago when virtually no PP fiber was available abroad. Therefore, this new access to PP has changed the overall buying strategy to some degree. Dalco seeks to always buy its raw materials domestically to support its domestic suppliers, but the company also acknowledges the need to look at lower prices in order to stay competitive with market buyers.
Fibertex Nonwovens of Aalborg, Denmark, is one of the leading manufacturers of nonwoven geotextiles with a full range of products covering separation, filtration, drainage, reinforcement and protection. The company also produces a stress-relieving product for asphalt overlays, and offers a range of geosynthetics.
Last year the company increased its ownership interest in Fibertex South Africa, co-founded in 2010 and jointly owned by Fibertex Nonwovens, The Investment Fund for Developing Countries (IFU) and the South African company Safyr, from 26%-74.2% by purchasing the 48.2% Safyr shares, effective March 1, 2015. The transaction included the investment in a second state-of-the-art needlepunch production line, and the simultaneous purchase of the Safyr fiber line, along with additional land and buildings. .
According to Fibertex, the transaction will create an important platform for the future development of Fibertex Nonwovens in Africa. This is a strategic initiative and Group CEO Jorgen Bech Madsen sees huge potential in having local production in South Africa. Fibertex South Africa has experienced significantly increased demand for South African infrastructure programs, as well as products serving automotive and industrial applications.
“The investment in South Africa will help us to reach a position as market leader at the African continent,” says Bech Madsen.
When characterizing the market as a whole, he says demand is good but they have seen an overinvestment in capacity. Regionally, Bech Madsen describes the European and North American markets as stabilized but still growing, while emerging markets are showing very strong growth. “However, at the moment, reduced prices and less demand for raw materials has led to less demand and less growth in emerging markets,” he explains.
Headquartered in Houston, TX, GSE Environmental manufactures a versatile family of nonwoven geotextiles used in civil and environmental applications. Products offered are available in various weights and thicknesses to meet specific project requirements.
According to marketing manager Robin Vodenlic, the most common uses for GSE’s geotextiles are asphalt overlay—working as a sealant and stress absorbing layer to help prevent reflective cracking on asphalt pavements; separation—the material helps maintain physical separation of two adjacent materials, helping to prevent the deterioration of engineering performance; filtration—GSE nonwoven geotextiles allow the passage of liquid while preventing the loss of soil particles; protection—geomembrane liners can be damaged during construction—a GSE nonwoven geotextile can be placed above and/or below the liner, providing a cushion to protect the geomembrane from damage over the entire life of a project; and drainage—in some instances, gas and vapors can become trapped by a geomembrane and must be vented—GSE nonwoven geotextiles can facilitate drainage of gas and vapors.
One of GSE’s core geotextile products is CoalTex Filter. Vodenlic says the filter is structured with an apparent opening size (AOS) specially designed to allow filtration of very fine soils without such concerns as clogging and piping. This makes it ideal for even the most challenging environments such as Coal Combustion Products (CCPs). In fact, the company is seeing a lot of growth in the coal ash market due to recent regulations implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Vodenlic explains.
“The design of geotextile filters for very fine-grained soils is one of the most daunting geotechnical challenges,” she says. “CoalTex geotextile is a component of the GSE CoalDrain geocomposite, which is designed specifically for use with CCPs, including fine-grained fly ashes, silts, and fine sands. Extensive laboratory and field tests have proven that the performance of GSE CoalDrain geocomposite meets or exceeds the filtration design requirements of CCP disposal sites.”
Headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Mattex Geosynthetics produces nonwoven geotextiles in a state-of-the-art, vertically integrated facility in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“Mattex Geosynthetics has access to one of the best polymers just at its doorstep,” says Philippe Grimmelprez, director sales, marketing and business development, referring to the direct access the company has to its raw materials that are manufactured next to its production sites. “With its own high tenacity fiber production, Mattex is able to produce one of the most regular, most consistent and performing geotextiles available on the market. The ultra modern production plant, designed for optimum productivity and optimal loadings, gave Mattex Geosynthetics its flying start since it began its operations.”
One of Mattex’s key regions is the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) market. While lower government budgets could have a negative impact on infrastructure, Grimmelprez indicates that it’s opened up doors for nonwovens. “Lower government budgets force contractors and governments to look at more efficient ways to build. Geotextiles and geosynthetics in general allow contractors to build faster, better, cheaper and more environmentally friendly. This gives great opportunities for Mattex to offer alternative construction methods. Lower quality products are being pushed out of the market and better quality products are gaining market share,” he says.
Sourcing locally is another advantage for contractors in the GCC states, giving Mattex an extra boost in the region, with more expensive imports losing market share. Grimmelprez says its quality products produced locally are displacing lower quality—often imported—products.
As it continues to be a key local source of materials for contractors in the region, the company has continued to increase the performance of its geotextiles and has invested heavily in quality control and research & development. As such, the company has made recent investments to improve its fiber, nonwoven and packaging lines, Grimmelprez says.
Based in Athens, GA, Skaps Industries manufactures geosynthetic and nonwoven drainage products for environmental and civil use in the U.S. and abroad. The company’s nonwoven needlepunched geotextile materials are made with polypropylene or polyester staple fibers for use in separation, stabilization, reinforcement, drainage, filtration and asphalt overlay, according to Anurag Shah, vice president, business development.
Last year, Skaps added a brand new nonwoven line at its India location. “The primary aim is to cover Middle East and Asian countries. We can also access European Market from India. The spare capacity can be used to full fill our American continental needs,” Shah says.
When comparing nonwoven geotextiles to alternative materials such as gravel, Shah says there are a number of benefits. “Nonwovens are relatively cheap, easily available and easy to install compared to natural alternatives. They can be altered in physical properties to enhance the performance for a particular purpose.”
TenCate Geosynthetics produces a full range of polypropylene nonwovens for both civil and environmental applications. Some recent news from the Americas arm of TenCate, based in Pendergrass, GA, is the investment and completion of a new needlepunch line at its facility in Jefferson, GA.
Todd Anderson, vice president of sales & marketing, describes the geotextiles market as very competitive, with a range of companies vying for share. Despite this competition, TenCate seems optimistic about where the market is headed. “Construction activity drives nonwoven geotextile demand,” he says. “Recent federal government highway programs should provide a solid foundation on which to build a growing business. Spending in the residential and commercial segments is also generally strong.”
Additionally, a factor that will contribute to growth in the geotextiles market is the continued adoption of these modern and innovative solutions, which will push further development of the materials, he says.
Anderson cites TenCate’s Mirafi RS580i as one of these developments. “Mirafi RS580i, the best performing geosynthetic in a recent study, is the result of years of product and application development which led to the introduction of a product for roadways that speeds construction and saves aggregate while protecting the environment and providing a better roadway.”
Thrace Nonwovens and Geosynthetics
Thrace Nonwovens and Geosynthetics, Athens, Greece, produces needlepunched nonwovens for the geosynthetics market, specifically to provide reinforcement, separation, filtration, drainage, protection and erosion control.
According to the company, the main difference between its nonwoven and woven geotextiles is that nonwoven geotextiles are more likely to stretch under the same conditions and have the ability to let water flow along the plane of the geotextile more effectively.
George Papagiannis, sales and marketing manager, says geotextiles is a key market where the company is seeing needlepunch displace other textile technologies. “In the geotextile marketplace, needlepunch nonwoven products continue to be produced at higher tensile strengths at lower weights using the advancements in equipment and processes. This, combined with high flow rates, is enabling needlepunch products to take market share from woven geosynthetics.”
In fact, Thrace has recently invested in a new needlepunch line that will be up and running in the second quarter of this year, which will serve the geotextile markets along with automotives, industrial and bedding, Papagiannis reports. n