NEW YORK Demand for high-strength reinforcing steel is growing in the United States, and MMFX Technologies Corp. is expanding its operations as contractors and engineers increasingly turn to longer-lasting steel, chief executive officer Thomas Russo told AMM in an interview.
"Theres a huge market in high-strength rebar," Russo said. "No longer is it acceptable for a bridge to be built with a life-cycle expectation of 50 years. (The Department of Transportation is) saying they want more life out of their infrastructure developments and theyre challenging engineers to build structures that have a 100-year life cycle."
MMFX licenses a high-strength rebar to Portland, Ore.-based producer Cascade Steel Rolling Mills Inc. and supplies products for Department of Transportation infrastructure projects and commercial construction, among other areas. The companys corrosion-resistant rebar is significantly more expensive per ton than standard rebar grades, but structures built with its product require less material and less maintenance over their lifetimes.
"(Engineers are) evaluating the cost of those materials through the whole history of that structure," Russo said.
MMFX is expanding into private commercial markets, as well as its traditional Transportation Department project mainstay, and is considering a potential deal for a large liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in Texas.
"Right now our work has been heavy on the (Transportation Department) side, but theres been a groundswell of interest in our technology," Russo said. "Were in the process of jointly evaluating application with a large engineering and construction company in Texas in utilizing our products in an LNG facility; thats a commercial application."
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials in May issued revised bridge specifications to allow high-strength rebar of up to 100,000 pounds per square inch to be used in reinforced concrete bridges (amm.com, May 7), opening up a new market for high-strength product.
"Thats been a huge market opportunity for us to participate in. We are the only technology that has the ability to participate and take full advantage of (the new specification)," Russo said.
The Irvine, Calif.-based company once produced high-strength rebar at its mill in Welland, Ontario, but the company sold the facility when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2010 (amm.com, Jan. 11, 2010). The company has since licensed third parties, such as Cascade Steel, to produce its rebar, and is in discussions with a mill on the East Coast to potentially become a licensed producer later this year, in addition to mills in China and Chile.
"We hope by the end of the year were going to see an East Coast producer pop up," Russo said. "Youll see a producer in Chile and a producer in China, so were working aggressively to support our market."
The company is investing in other high-strength products as well, including anchor bolts, micropiles and fasteners, and will spend close to 30 percent of its overall earnings on research and development for new project applications.