Analysts predict rebuilding the Gulf Coast region after Hurricane Katrina will push cement consumption even higher than the current record levels. Experts estimate that rebuilding New Orleans will require at least 4 million tons of cement during the next four to five years. However, disruption to the cement to the cement supply due to port closures in New Orleans is expected to have a minimal effect.
Receding floodwaters in New Orleans are revealing the extent of the structural wreckage caused by Hurricane Katrina. Preliminary estimates put property damage in excess of $125 billion, making Katrina the most devastating natural disaster in U.S. history.
Experts expect a higher demand for cement than what is usually experienced after a hurricane, due to the nature of the damage.
“Normally hurricanes cause excessive wind damage, blowing off roofs, for example,” Ed Sullivan, chief economist for Portland Cement Association said. “However, water is responsible for most of the structural harm in New Orleans. Because of this, ‘bottom-up’ damage, high-concrete intensity building sections like basements and foundations will need replacement. In addition, more nonresidential buildings than normal were damaged by the floodwater and will need replacement.”
According to Sullivan, an increase in demand for cement in the Gulf Coast region will not occur until clean up is completed, which will take at least two to four months in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, and in the case of New Orleans, five to nine months. Once the clean up is done, cement will be needed not only for rebuilding, but to complete the jobs started before the hurricane.
The port of New Orleans is the nation’s second largest import terminal for cement, processing nearly 10% of all cement imports. However, the short-term decrease of imports caused by the port’s closure after the hurricane will be offset by the regions decrease in cement demand as projects have been postponed during cleanup.
“This disruption is temporary and cement cargo ships already have been reassigned to ports in Texas and Florida,” Sullivan said.
Some cement companies report the additional transportation challenge of finding available trucks, rail cars and barges to ship the cement to its final destination.