4 million tons of cement needed to rebuild New Orleans

Rebuilding New Orleans will require at least 4 million tons of cement during the next four to five years, pushing cement consumption beyond current record levels, according to the Portland Cement Association.

“Water is responsible for most of the structural harm in New Orleans,” said Ed Sullivan, chief economist for PCA. “Because of this ‘bottom up’ damage, high-concrete-intensity building sections like basements and foundations will need replacement.”

An increase in demand for cement in the Gulf Coast region will not occur until cleanup is completed, which will take five to nine months in New Orleans. PCA says cement consumption in Louisiana will be severely reduced during clean-up efforts. Once the cleanup is done, however, cement will be needed not only for rebuilding, but to complete jobs started before the hurricane, Sullivan said.

But getting 4 million tons of cement could be a problem, according to the PCA Economic Flash Report.

Six cement plants operate in the hurricane affected areas, but none of them were damaged by the hurricane.

What will affect cement distribution is damage to the port of New Orleans, Sullivan said. In 2004, 2.6 million tons of cement passed through the port, accounting for nearly 10 percent of the nation’s total cement imports. PCA estimates the hindrance of water traffic could cause a disruption of cement import supply of 400,000 to 500,000 tons.

Property damage from Hurricane Katrina has been estimated at $200 billion, making it the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history.