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Sun November 28 2021

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Earth Friendly Concrete steps up UK presence with local production

9 Nov Australian construction materials group Wagners is planning to set up three chemical plants in the UK to support local production of its cement-free concrete.

Capital Concrete supplied Keltbray with Earth Friendly Concrete for the piles under Nova East in London Victoria
Capital Concrete supplied Keltbray with Earth Friendly Concrete for the piles under Nova East in London Victoria

Wagners International Operations Pty has registered two UK companies – Wagners Holding Company UK Ltd and EFC Green Concrete Technology UK Ltd – to ramp up its activities in the UK.

Wagners makes a cement-free concrete called Earth Friendly Concrete (EFC) made from ground granulated blast furnace slag, pulverised fly ash and a high-alkaline chemical instead of Portland cement. This geopolymer binder system gives it around 70% less embodied carbon, saving 250kg of CO2 per cubic metre poured.

Wagners already has a licence agreement in the UK with London-based Capital Concrete, a Breedon subsidiary, to which it currently supplies off-the-shelf chemicals for mixing EFC on site. By setting up its own production facilities in the UK, Wagners expects to bring costs down and get closer in price to conventional cement-based concrete.

The first chemical plant will be in Romford, with plans in the Birmingham and Manchester areas to follow as more licensees are signed up.

Wagners EFC general manager Jason Zafiriadis, in the UK this week for the COP26 summit in Glasgow, said that the production plants were small scale with low impact –  “a blending facility with a bit of steam” – but key to market penetration. “At the moment we are a premium [product] but that premium will reduce,” he said. “Firstly, the price of cement is increasing significantly and regularly. And our costs will come down as we scale up.”

However, EFC is already price competitive in special applications, he said, such as marine works and sewers because the chemicals in EFC offered built-in anti-corrsion protection that has to be added to traditional cementitious materials.

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In partnership with Capital Concrete, Wagners EFC has so far been used on HS2 with more than 900 m³ used for the temporary works piling mats as well as 2 km³ for haul roads and crane bases. This has saved 725,000kg of embodied carbon to date, Wagners says. At Silvertown tunnel, 322 m³ of EFC has been used for temporary works.

Keltbray used it for the piled foundations at Canada Water in southeast London and at Nova East in London Victoria. Mace has used it on 33 Charterhouse Street in London EC1.

Jason Zafiriadis added: “Demand for concrete is growing, but progress in reducing the carbon content of cement and the cement content in concrete has been far too slow. We are ready to accelerate the reduction of the carbon footprint in construction.”

Wagners has also launched EFC in Germany, having signed an agreement with materials giant Holcim and three leading precast fabricators.

Meanwhile, back in Australia, the Wagners board has told shareholders that it is seeking growth capital to finance its expansion plans on the back of EFC’s prospects.  

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