Gorgunel was speaking at MEED’s Middle East Cement & Concrete 2008 Conference in Dubai on 30 October.

He said the growth would occur despite the current financial downturn in many markets worldwide.

“I believe project work in the UAE will continue to grow despite the world economic turmoil,” said Gorgunel.

“I believe cement demand growth over the next five years will be about 20 per cent a year.

“It will mean that clinker shortages will persist throughout the forecast period.”

Although there are plans to expand clinker capacity in the UAE to 36 million tonnes by 2011 from about 18.5 million tonnes now, he said that his forecast for demand growth would mean that the UAE would still need to import clinker throughout this period.

“Prospects for the UAE projects market are bright for the next five years if not more,” said Gorgunel.

Union Cement Company, the parent company of Union Cement Norcem, is also studying the possibility of converting a second of its four kilns to burn coal instead of oil, according to Gorgunel.

He said the company has already converted its 10,000 tonne-a-day (t/d) kiln 4 to coal-burning, because of a shortage of gas supplies in Ras al-Khaimah.

Gorgunel said it has a one-year supply contract for South African coal and that coal will be needed for five years or more.

“We would prefer to use gas but it is not available,” he said.

Gorgunel said the firm is planning to award a contract to build a covered coal store.