Under way in Saudi Arabia
A product invented in Gisborne intended to replace traditional steel rebar (reinforcing bar) is now also being manufactured in Saudi Arabia in a joint venture that will also boost Gisborne manufacturing.
The new production facility was established under a memorandum of understanding signed in 2019 by New Zealand’s Pultron Composites and its partner, Isam Khairy Kabbani Group (IKK), with oil and energy company Saudi Aramco.
Saudi Aramco senior vice president of technical services Ahmad Al-Sa’adi recently inaugurated the first fibreglass rebar facility in Saudi Arabia.
Called IKK Mateenbar, the facility’s inauguration ceremony was held on June 23 in the presence of the New Zealand Embassy’s Chargée D’affaires Louise Searle and the National Industrial Committee of the Council of Saudi Chambers chairman Ibrahim bin Mohammed Al-Sheikh.
Mateenbar™ is a composite, fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP) pultrusion that is stronger and lighter than steel. Because it is corrosion-resistant, it can be used to replace steel rebar for concrete reinforcement.
Pultron chairman Dame Bronwen Holdsworth said the opening in Saudi Arabia showed that breakthrough technology could be developed in New Zealand’s regions and become a major contributor to more durable infrastructure worldwide.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Al-Sa’adi said the launch of this facility came as part of the kingdom’s efforts to attract and localise the rebar industry. This was also in line with efforts to achieve the objectives of the Saudi Vision 2030, in terms of diversifying the national economy, promoting innovation in the kingdom, and strengthening Saudi Arabia’s international relations.
“Aramco has been developing and deploying non-metallic solutions within its own operations for more than 20 years. The use of non-metallic, advanced polymer materials has significant potential in multiple sectors. Moreover, technologies such as GFRP rebar, which mitigate corrosion and minimise life cycle cost, have potential to be the real game-changers for the building and construction sector in particular.”
Pultron chief executive Jasper Holdsworth said the production facility in Saudi Arabia and another Mateenbar™ manufacturing site opened earlier this year in the United States, in North Carolina, were creating employment opportunities for the Gisborne region and expansion for Pultron.
“Pultron supplies the specialised machinery and equipment through its Pultron Technology (PulTech) engineering division – which has given rise to increased employment and new jobs.
Pultron’s Gisborne factory continues to make Mateenbar™ for the New Zealand and Australian markets and for Oceania.
Mr Holdsworth said sales were continuing to grow as the product became accepted by architects and engineers for its specialised qualities, including corrosion resistance and strength-to-weight ratio.
The new factory in Saudi Arabia was staffed by local workers, “as well as staff from and trained at Pultron’s original Dubai facility — and will include some exchanges between New Zealand and Saudi Arabian staff”.
Pultron had a long and substantial history in pultrusion technology and its science, he said.
“Our technology solves the key problem of corrosion but also addresses many other limitations of conventional materials, which presents a tremendous growth opportunity for Mateenbar™.
“After a successful technology transfer of New Zealand technology, IKK Mateenbar has the required foundations to emerge as the regional industry leader in composite reinforcement, delivering longer-lasting infrastructure while leaving a legacy of low maintenance for future generations.”
IKK Mateenbar will manufacture and supply corrosion-free fibreglass rebar for infrastructure projects in the kingdom, as well as the Middle East and North Africa region.
Saudi Aramco recently mandated the use of GFRP rebar in its engineering standards for reinforced concrete structures in highly-corrosive environments, enabling designers to replace steel rebar in these high-risk areas. Extreme temperatures and high levels of salinity make the kingdom one of the most corrosive environments for steel rebar, causing early structural damage, resulting in the nation’s economy incurring high costs to replace and maintain unstable concrete infrastructure.
Saudi Aramco was the first to deploy the innovative technology of IKK Mateenbar in the construction of its 23-kilometre-long, 80-metre-wide Jizan Flood Mitigation Channel, which is the largest GFRP rebar project in the world.
Mateenbar was the majority supplier for this massive project.
Saudi Aramco has approved the use of IKK Mateenbar’s glass fibre-reinforced polymer (GFRP) rebar technology in their infrastructure projects as a sustainable new corrosion-free material that could support the kingdom in achieving its carbon neutrality targets.
The non-metallic GFRP rebar produced at IKK Mateenbar’s 10,000m2 facility is expected to reduce steel rebar consumption in Saudi Arabia by approximately 50,000 tonnes per year.