BASF: Creating chemistry for a sustainable future

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BASF is the world’s leading chemical company. They offer the customers intelligent system solutions and innovative products.

The BASF Group has been active on the African continent for close to 90 years. The company has been exporting colorants and intermediates to Kenya from its headquarters in Ludwigshafen, Germany, since the end of the 1920s. BASF in Africa is divided into four country clusters – South Africa for Southern Africa; Nairobi, Kenya for East Africa; Lagos, Nigeria for West Africa and Morocco for North-West Africa.  Since 2016, the BASF African headquarters is based in Nairobi, Kenya.

BASF’s key industries are Construction, Textiles, Agriculture, Automotive, Home & Personal Care and Plastics divisions.

According to Graham Dean the Country Manager Kenya – BASF Construction Chemicals, BASF strives to protect and improve concrete. “Concrete is one of the most versatile materials used in the construction industry. Every building you see anywhere is made out of concrete. However, it is also one of the things that is badly managed and produced which in turn leads to inferior quality of construction structures,” he adds.

The company produces two types of chemicals that include: Admixture systems which are liquids that you put into concrete at the time of production and construction systems which are allied products that are used to improve concrete in itself. These types are further divided into waterproofing materials, joint sealants, repair materials, industrial flooring materials, and protective coatings.

“I believe about 10-15% of concrete being produced in Kenya now has the potential to be modified by using admixtures.  For instance, when you look at the multi-storey buildings that are coming up in urban areas, the only way that they can get concrete to the top of the building is by using a plasticizer,” affirms Mr. Dean.

He further explains that the quality of the stone and the sand that goes into concrete can vary enormously; therefore, the result of putting these chemicals into the concrete is to accommodate the variability in the performance. “Stone and sand are natural products hence you are bound to use what is available but what we are able to do is help the manufacturer of concrete to improve the performance characteristics of these materials,” he adds.

BASF Construction Chemicals division has been involved in numerous projects in Nairobi that include: The Two Rivers Mall project, the UAP tower in Upper Hill and the Kenya Railways Terminal.

“In our construction chemicals business, we import waterproofing and industrial flooring materials from our manufacturing plant in Dubai,” says Mr Dean. “We have a waterproofing product called MasterSeal 501 which has been doing very well in the market. This is a crystalline waterproofing material of which when applied on concrete, the crystals penetrate the pores of the concrete and then grow – eventually waterproofing the concrete. MasterSeal 501 is just one of about 30 portfolios of waterproofing materials; we also have, amongst others, cementitious acrylic coatings, water stops that are PVC based and water plugs,” he says.

With regards to industrial flooring, BASF sells and have their applicators apply a coating that may range from half a millimeter to up to 9 millimeters in depth depending on the environment; which will help to protect concrete and give it life. Additionally, they can also apply coatings on floors which will give it hygienic conditions.

Mr. Ahmed Maazouz the Plant Manager at the BASF Construction Chemicals site, mentions that an admixture order is executed in a maximum of two days since they have stock of the raw materials in the country. “Our Admixtures enable ready mix concrete to remain in good condition for up to 6 hours after leaving the manufacturing plant which is quite advantageous considering the transportation challenges in the country like traffic congestion,” he adds.

“Since independence, there has been a significant increase in population in the country; and reports indicate that this upsurge will continue in years to come. The increase in population brings about the need for infrastructure development whereby people can have houses to live in and schools where their children can learn. All these developments need concrete; high performance concrete for that matter so that they can be sustainable, and of great service to the population,” asserts Mr. Dean.