Kerneos is the world`s leading manufacturer of calcium aluminate cements and finished products. Kerneos Inc, the North American subsidiary of Kerneos, had its beginnings as a joint venture between subsidiaries of Lone Star Industries and Lafarge Coppée in 1970. At that time, Lafarge was importing and distributing finished cement to the North American market. In 1974, with the markets for these lower alumina products firmly established, Lafarge leased a Lone Star Portland cement facility along the Elizabeth River in the South Norfolk Community of Chesapeake, Virginia. The City of Chesapeake was chosen in part because of its harbor front location. Kerneos is now a global company with over 1,300 employees representing over 21 nationalities and operating 10 plants and 20 sales subsidiaries around the world.
By 1978, the decision was made to expand the product line. This required additional capital to construct a plant intended to produce high purity calcium aluminate cements. This plant operated successfully with some growth in the markets for these high alumina cements, but insufficient growth to support the fixed cost burden of the new plant. Because of this and other economic factors, this new plant was temporarily closed in 1985.
At this time the entire operation was downsized and Lafarge began importing high alumina cements, while at the same time continuing to produce the lower alumina products. These movements, although painful, improved the flexibility of the company significantly.
In the period following this closure, a steady growth in the high alumina markets was pervasive and was coupled with further growth in the lower alumina cement markets. As a demonstration of Lafarge’s commitment to the North American market, Lafarge (which had purchased Lone Star’s portion of the joint venture in 1985) decided on a major capital investment to reopen the high alumina cement plant and build a new distribution facility in 1990.
That plant was the object of a $17 million, two-year modernization program, which was one of the largest capital projects in the Hampton Roads area in 1990. Major phases of the project were to upgrade and improve cement manufacturing equipment. This included preparation and grinding facilities for raw materials, a kiln for sintering Secar® brand high purity calcium aluminate cement, grinding facilities for producing finished cement prior to shipping, and full instrumentation and computer process controls that enable a single operator to run the entire manufacturing operation. Also completed was the construction of a new packing and distribution building, rail and truck distribution facilities and packaging machines that can bag up to 40 tons of cement an hour. State of the art pollution controls were incorporated, including continuous emissions monitoring equipment and electronic dust collectors that are designed to trap a minimum of 99.99% of all dusts.
Contracts worth $6 million were awarded to 30 local contractors and subcontractors during the plant modernization. The new plant began production in July 1991 and the first full year of production in 1992 saw successful conversion of the existing customer base to U.S. production of the high alumina products.
In October 1997, Lafarge Aluminates opened the doors to its new laboratory and office building.
In January 2001, Lafarge Aluminates, a member of the Specialty Products Division, was sold to the investment funds Carlyle, CVC Capital Partners and Advent International. Under the terms of the agreement, Lafarge retained a 33.34% interest in MATERIS, the name of the newly created holding company. Continuity was assured by the management team of the former Specialty Products Division.
The new holding company, MATERIS employs 4,500 people and operates in nearly 50 countries. The company generated sales of Euros 1.1 billion in 2000 through its businesses in admixtures, aluminates, mortars, paints and refractories.
In 2004, Materis sold its interest in the Lafarge Refractories to the Imerys group of companies.
In May 2006 a new owner, Wendell Investements purchased all remaining ownership of the Materis group of companies. With Lafarge exiting as partial owner of the investment group, the Lafarge name could no longer be used for any of the subsidiaries. Kerneos™ was chosen as the new name for the aluminate cement division and conveys it’s ambition to offer innovative technical solutions based on calcium aluminates for all its markets. The creation of this new identity complements the Materis ambition for global leadership in specialty chemicals for construction.
In March 2014 a new owner, Astorg Partners purchased Kerneos and all subsidiaries from MATERIS. Kerneos is now a global company with over 1,300 employees representing over 21 nationalities and operating 10 plants and 20 sales subsidiaries around the world. Kerneos has annual sales of over € 60 million in 100 countries (half in Europe, a quarter in Asia and a quarter in the Americas).