Dubai-based Akil Sahiwala, sales director for PU Middle East & Africa at Dow, said that a large volume of polyurethane insulation in the Gulf is used in roofing applications. ‘Often this is used as spray-foam or in combo-roofing systems,’ he said. ‘These are roofing systems with a layer of waterproofing, a layer of spray foam, a layer of screed and cement. It is a fully finished roof.’
He added that the big question is how much insulation is actually needed. ‘At first it was minimal, now the standards are getting stricter and greater k value, better insulation capacity is needed,’ he said. ‘The goal is to reduce energy consumption and improve waterproofing.’
Roofing is an area of particular interest to Dow, and it is working with partners to devise the next generation of combo roofs. ‘Combo-roofs are designed with the waterproofing buried within the structure,’ he said. ‘The key question is how to reduce the weight on top of the roofs.’
Although the GCC is a trading block, it has yet to harmonised standards in quite the same way as the EU, Sahiwala added. ‘This is shown in the way that different insulation levels can be acceptable within the same nation,’ he said.
Propst explained that most panel manufacturers in the region still produce panels using discontinuous processing. ‘Continuous production will increase as soon as the demand grows to a significant level,’ he said.
Compared to Saudi Arabia, the demand for PUR/PIR rigid foam is significantly smaller in most countries in the Middle East and Africa, and PU rigid-faced panels are no exception. Bawab has a slightly different perspective. His company has been operating in the UAE since 2005 supplying PU systems, polyester polyols and PU specialties.
‘Rigid foam is used mostly by panel makers,’ he said. ‘The country is highly regulated for fire and smoke performance of insulation products used in construction. We have developed systems that meet the highest European standards.’
Some of these changes in regulations were introduced in the aftermath of a serious hotel fire on New Year’s Eve 2016. ‘The authorities have taken a long look at regulations,’ he said. ‘Abu Dhabi and Dubai lead the legislation on fire safety requirements.’
In the spray foam market, he added, customers are starting to ask about alternative blowing agents he said. Saudi Arabia is already moving towards third-generation blowing agents, he said, while in nearby non-GCC Jordan, regulations are now in place to force this change. Egypt, a large market outside the GCC, has also moved from 141-b to alternative blowing agents, he added.
Dow’s Sahiwala agreed that spray foam is an attractive regional market. ‘It has been growing across the board,’ he said. ‘We estimate that this is in excess of 25kT/year in the Middle East – UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Yemen. Spray foam has been growing because of energy efficiency standards that are being implemented across the region. As these standards get stricter, thickness of the spray foam used increases.’
However, the situation is quite complex. ‘The standards can vary across the Emirates,’ he said. ‘Abu Dhabi has the strictest standards. It aims to be more sustainable and is more LEED driven, with more LEED-compliant buildings. Spray foam in this region is HCFC 141-b blown. While this has been phased out in many countries, it is still used here. There are projects in Abu Dhabi that require zero ozone depletion potential blowing agents and less than 5 GWP.