Clear winner: Emirates Glass floats in the UAE

With increasing demand for locally manufactured glass, Jerry Dowling, general manager of Dubai-based Emirates Glass, discusses the company’s development of float technology, with Construction Week.

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By  Colin Foreman Published  September 17, 2005

Clear winner: Emirates Glass floats in the UAE|~|visweb200.gif|~|Jerry Dowling: the new plant will fill a much-needed gap in the market, meeting the region’s increasing need for high-quality glass products.|~|Last year the company was planning to build its own float. How has that progressed?

We are using Pittsburgh Plate Glass (PPG) for our float glass technology. The company was founded in the USA in 1888, so they are pretty old in the glass business. They were also the first licensee from Pilkington to use their patented float glass technology, later followed by Glaverbel and Saint Gobain.

Why did you choose to use PPG?

The choice for us came down to Pilkington and PPG. Pilkington wanted a substantial equity share in the operation, which for us was not acceptable.

This would have meant that they would take the tank into their portfolio and determine selling prices and markets.

Are there any floats currently operating in this region?

In the Gulf there is Saudi Guardian, 45% of which is owned by Guardian itself; the remainder belongs to Visage.

Are there any other companies around the region planning to build a float?

Qatar has been looking at it, as has Abu Dhabi, which is where our site will be.

Where will your float be built?

We have a water frontage site in the new Industrial City. A company formed by Abu Dhabi Investment Company (ADIC) and Dubai Investments (DI) will run the float, with DI being the driving partner behind the operation.

How much will the plant cost?
It will cost somewhere in the region of US $250 million, and
will produce 600 tonnes per day, which is pretty much an ideal size.

You do get tanks of up to 800 and 1000 tonnes a day but the optimum size is 600 tonnes a day, running 365 days a year for between 12 and 15 years. A large percentage of that glass, probably about 65%, will be taken up locally in the Gulf.

How much glass does the UAE use each year?

Saudi’s consumption per capita is 6 kg. The largest consumer in the world is Europe, which gets through 16 kg per capita. The UAE is running at something like 17.7 kg per capita, so
although the UAE doesn’t have the population that Europe does, the consumption per capita is very high.

What type of glass will the float produce?

The float will produce 1.8 mm right through to 12 mm thick clear glass that will be used for both automotive and architectural applications. We will also be running tints, and will probably produce a blue and a green. Green will be used for automotive and architectural, and blue for architectural only.

Most of the big multinationals, like Pilkington, Glaverbel, Saint Gobain, Asahi, Guardian and PPG, have a massive coating line next to the float line. We also have space to do this at our site in Abu Dhabi.

Our float will also produce pyrolytic medium performance glass. We do normally make high performance glass,
but for cheaper buildings pyrolytic glass is often used.
It doesn’t perform as well when it comes to shading coefficients and U-values.

When will the float be up and running?

The target date for the digging is October. The installation
period will take two years and then we can start production.

Does the UAE need its own float?

Saudi Guardian isn’t able to meet the UAE’s demand for glass at the moment.

The quota for the UAE is currently 110 loads per month, with each load weighing approximately 2 to 22 tonnes. At the same time, 160 loads are shipped to Syria each month.
This means a lot of glass has to be imported from outside
the region, which is proving costly for both contractors and suppliers.

Also, the tank at the Saudi Guardian only produces clear glass, so any tinted glass that is required has to come from the USA, Europe and Thailand.

What is driving the global shortage of glass?

The main reason is the incredible manufacturing boom in China. Despite the enormous number of tanks in China,
however, most of them cannot produce the quality of glass that is required.

There are currently only about six tanks that produce glass to international standards, and only about four of them use PPG technology.||**||

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