International Cement Review
Onur ATAKAY, Sintek Group/Founder Partner
ICR: The cement sector knows Sintek as a company operating both in Turkey and internationally. In which regions are you active and can you give us an overview of your main cement industry references?
Onur Atakay (OA): We are a company based in Turkey that also operates in Europe, Africa and North America. Sintek has subsidiaries in The Netherlands, the US, the UAE and Côte d’Ivoire. We have developed significant turnkey cement plants of various capacities, particularly in Turkey, Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Cameroon, Guinea and Sudan.
In the European market, we assist potential customers in the areas of project development, engineering and turnkey projects. Sintek BV, our Amsterdam-based subsidiary, serves potential European customers and African sites. The efficient implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has created significant advantages in Europe. Our major objective with Sintek BV is to capitalise on these advantages. Furthermore, we have also begun serving US locations through our North American subsidiary. As Sintek Group, we demonstrate our strength in the overseas market by working in a variety of industries, including cement, energy, iron and steel, and logistics.
ICR: What attracted you to the North American market and what are your ambitions in this region?
OA: While Europe is our core market, the US is equally vital to us. After beginning operations in Europe, we now conduct operations in North America under the name Sintek North America. Furthermore, with the US government’s proposed US$2.3trn infrastructure modernisation package, the construction sector, and hence cement companies (our key clients), have begun to make investment strategies.
We monitor investments in the production of cement alternatives (eg, calcined clay, etc). In addition, services in the fields of engineering, EPC contracting, and project development will be provided to our potential customers in the US market. As a result, our customers in this region will be able to take advantage of the opportunities and services provided by our new subsidiary.
“While Europe is our core market, the US is equally vital to us.”
ICR: How significant are the aforementioned Infrastructure Bill and the US$391bn Inflation Reduction Act for Sintek’s growth prospects in the USA?
OA: It is plausible to argue that the US government’s infrastructure modernisation programme has an influence on the construction sector and hence cement producers when making investment decisions. The Inflation Reduction Act, which will make a historic prepayment to decrease carbon emissions by about 40 per cent by 2030, is also intended to aid in the battle against climate change by hastening the shift to greener energy sources. Minerva Engineering, a Sintek Group affiliate, intends to demonstrate the strength of Turkish engineering in the global market through key R&D studies in the cement sector to minimise its environmental impact.
ICR: Eastern Turkey suffered a destructive earthquake in February 2023. Has Sintek been assisting earthquake-hit areas of the country? How is the cement industry responding to the crisis?
OA: As Sintek Group, we tried to support the earthquake region with all our means to heal the wounds of the indescribable deep pain we felt as a country. Since the first day, we have stood by our site workers their families and our citizens affected by the earthquake. Cement businesses have also assisted and will continue to assist by supplying the essential support and assistance to participate in the recovery from this massive destruction. As the Sintek family, we express our condolences to our country and hope that such a tragedy never occurs again.
“We intend to offer new special solutions in the near future by transferring the innovative ideas that we are working on in our R&D centre laboratory into industrial applications.”
ICR: What are the main challenges for Sintek’s logistics business in the current environment and has the Russian- Ukraine conflict had an impact?
OA: Following the COVID-19 pandemic that swept the world and had a negative impact on the logistics industry, the Russia-Ukraine war had a negative impact on the industry as well. Rising fuel prices in tandem with the conflict reduced freight demand and drove down prices in the logistics sector. Nonetheless, as Europe’s gateway to Russia, Turkey has emerged as one of the most significant hubs for maintaining the continuation of logistical activity.
Sintek Logistics continued to carry out its activities in a timely and effective manner in accordance with the requirements of multinational organisations, owing to our placement in critical areas for both western and eastern traffic. The ports of The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, which have been the primary ports of Europe’s trading for centuries, also have significant trade potential. As a result, Sintek Logistics established its European operations in February 2023.
We believe that in the near future, high freight rates will regress and fall into decline. The logistics industry in Turkey needs to make significant efforts to improve efficiency, including facilitating transit trade, expanding the possibilities for rail transportation and strengthening our ports for maritime traffic.
ICR: What were the main reasons for Sintek Group’s decision to acquire Minerva Engineering in 2021?
OA: We are all concerned that the impacts of global warming are becoming more severe in Turkey and throughout the world. Minerva Engineering was founded in Ankara, Turkey, in 2021 as an R&D company and has been carrying out significant work since 2007 to develop low-carbon emissions and more environmentally-friendly procedures. Hence, it attempts to assist firms in avoiding the drawbacks of the European Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), which will come into force in 2026.
ICR: How is Minerva Engineering looking for optimum performance from calcined clay cements?
OA: The calcination and grinding steps are the foundation of calcined clay technology. In the cement industry, emphasis is placed on energy efficiency to maintain product quality in added chemicals and calcined clay grinding, while also increasing the energy efficiency of the grinding circuit. Minerva Pamir accomplishes the essential optimisation in pilot-scale grinding facilities at this vital moment, either by grinding along with clinker or independently.
ICR: What has the uptake been like for green cements in Turkey? Can Minerva match or surpass cement strengths achieved with OPC Type I?
OA: In the tests we carried out using different samples in our pilot facility, values above different cement standards were achieved. Moreover, these values were attained while using far less energy than conventional methods. In addition, we have research data demonstrating that capacity expansion is possible.
ICR: How will the evolution of the EU Emissions Trading System and introduction of CBAM impact the cement industry both in and around Europe?
OA: Border modifications are required for two reasons for carbon taxes to be viable. Firstly, to limit the possibility of carbon leakage from taxing jurisdictions to non- taxing jurisdictions. Secondly, to ensure domestic producers’ competitiveness with foreign producers favoured by low (or zero) carbon taxes.
The border carbon tax will cost our exporters EUR50-90/t of cement, depending on the height of the CO2 emission statistics. We are implementing measures to minimise energy consumption per tonne to shield our industrialists from the negative effects of the carbon border tax and to enable them to generate lowlevel carbon production targets.
ICR: How is the company looking to work and partner with carbon capture projects for the cement sector?
OA: We intend to offer new special solutions in the near future by transferring the innovative ideas that we are working on in our R&D centre laboratory into industrial applications.
We will continue to strive towards goals such as changing existing sector technologies into wholly new ones, lowering energy usage, expanding capacity, and improving product quality. In accordance with our founding goals, we intend to assist both the cement industry and mankind through these creative solutions.