INTERVIEW: Agru America Enters the GCL Market

Nathan Ivy, Agru America

Nathan Ivy, Technical/CSR Coordinator at Agru America, Inc.

Nathan Ivy, Technical/CSR Coordinator at Agru America, Inc., has worked in the geosynthetics field for 20+ years. His company, which is one of the world’s largest geosynthetics manufacturers and very well known in the barrier market, is launching a line of geosynthetic clay liners (Agru GeoClay™). Geosynthetica’s editor Chris Kelsey traded thoughts with Ivy on the years the company has spent in research and development on the new product line and why it felt GCLs were not just a complementary product but one the company truly wanted as part of its identity.

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GEOSYNTHETICA: It generally takes years of research and development and supply chain establishment to bring a product to market—even one from a manufacturer with a well-known record. When did Agru begin developing its manufacturing capacity for and approach to geosynthetic clay liners (GCLs)?

IVY: Since we started geonet and geocomposite production in 2005, we knew that the last remaining product we needed to become a full service geosynthetics supplier was GCL. We started in earnest 10 years ago planning out the path to becoming a serious contender in the GCL market. We did not want to be just another GCL manufacturer, we wanted to be the best in the business. Our manufacturing line was installed in 2013. After some trial-and-error fine tuning the feed system, trials with different types of geotextiles, needles and needle configurations, we began full-scale production in Q4 2013.

To date, we have manufactured nearly 7,000,000 SF of first-quality GCL.


GeoClay GCLs from Agru America

Geosynthetic clay liners (GCLs) offer unique barrier advantages such as the ability to self-seal and self-heal as the bentonite core swells. Seen here: GeoClay WN36-3

GEOSYNTHETICA: In what applications does Agru expect to build its GCL market?

IVY: We intend to be a full-service GCL supplier. We plan to supply GCL in any application for which it is well suited. To date, our GCL has primarily been used in landfill applications, but we have the capability to produce lighter weight products for the mining industry, polymer-enhanced products for the coal ash industry, and heavier duty GCL loading and fabrics to support the most aggressive situations.


GEOSYNTHETICA:
Application-specific modification has certainly been a big trend in geosynthetic barriers in recent years and has helped reignite these product markets—GCLs, geomembranes, hybrid materials, spray-applied coatings, etc. Are there any other special options within this new GCL line to note at this stage?

IVY: Currently, we produce a full range of bentonite loading, textile types and peel strengths. As we continue to produce first-quality GCL, we are also working on trials to determine what other product variations we may want to offer in the future. We don’t want to offer a product just because someone else is making it.

Agru’s strong financial position is built on a long history of making measured decisions about which markets to enter and which products we want to develop. In order for us to offer coated, spray-applied, laminated or other niche type products, it has to make sense financially – there must be a market to support it. That said, we have the technical and financial backing to develop any of these types of products in the future.


GEOSYNTHETICA:
Agru already has successful international geomembrane lines. Are the new GCLs part of composite designs? Competitive designs to give clients more offerings? Or totally separate from your geomembrane work?

IVY: We have been manufacturing geomembrane in the US since 1988. We have been manufacturing geonets and geocomposites since 2005. We have been manufacturing our own geotextiles since 2012. GCL was the next logical step – the only core geosynthetic product offering that we did not produce. Our GCL offerings are intended to compliment our other offerings. They will certainly be used in composite designs – giving our clients the opportunity to purchase all products from a single manufacturer, but they will also be used in applications that, until now, Agru has not been able to participate in – those applications that require only a GCL with no geomembrane component.


GEOSYNTHETICA:
Is the GCL line available widely on the market yet? Has it achieved any particular certifications or approvals?

IVY: Our GCL production line has been running full time since late last year. We have produced nearly 7,000,00 SF to date. As with any manufacturing process, there is some trouble shooting involved in starting a new process. We certainly expect to produce more material in the next 6 months than we have in the last 6 months, but we have an incredible sales, manufacturing and quality control team that is dedicated to producing the highest quality GCL on the market. Our QA/QC laboratory in Georgetown (South Carolina) is GAI/LAP-approved for all GCL tests and has been since we first started making product.

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More information about Agru America’s GCL products and other geosynthetics can be found at www.agruamerica.com. We’d like to thank Nathan Ivy for his time.

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