Approximately 150 companies operated clay and shale mines in 40 U.S. states in 2015, producing 25.5 Mt valued at around $1.48 billion (see Table 2). This represents a slight decline (1.5%) from the 2014 level of 25.9 Mt.
Imports for consumption in 2015 remained essentially flat (574,000 t vs. 576,000 t in 2014), including: artificially activated clay and earth, down 11.5% to 23,000 t; kaolin, essentially flat at 513,000 t (vs. 518,000 t in 2014); and other clays, which increased by 12.1% to 37,000 t. Apparent consumption in the U.S. was flat compared to 2014, at 22.1 Mt; principal uses were estimated as follows:
U.S. clay exports dropped 5.7% to approximately 4.0 Mt in 2015, including:
The Freedonia Group reports that world demand for kaolin is forecast to grow 2.1% per year to 27.5 Mt in 2020, valued at $4.1 billion. Gains will be driven by the expansion of manufacturing activity in developing countries, particularly in the Asia-Pacific and Africa/Mideast regions. However, advances will be constrained by a contraction in the paper markets of North America and Western Europe, as the increasing digitization of media erodes demand for kaolin-intensive coated paper products.
The paper market will continue to be the largest global outlet for kaolin, accounting for over one-third of global demand in 2020, according to Freedonia. However, the importance of the paper market has declined significantly since 2005, when it accounted for almost half of world kaolin consumption. Demand for kaolin in ceramics production, the second-largest market, grew at an above-average rate between 2010 and 2015. Gains in this market were supported by a boom in demand for ceramic proppants used in hydraulic fracturing applications, particularly in the U.S. However, falling global oil prices beginning in 2015 cast petroleum industries into a state of uncertainty; rapid gains for ceramic proppants are not expected to be repeated through 2020.
Freedonia reports that the Asia-Pacific region accounted for the largest share of kaolin demand in 2015 due to China and several other major kaolin consumers, including Japan, India, and South Korea. Growth in kaolin demand in the region is forecast to outpace the global average through 2020, with the fastest gains in India, Malaysia, and China. However, regional growth will be restrained by a contraction in Japan, where kaolin consumption in the paper market is expected to fall.4
Global exports of kaolin amounted to approximately $1.7 billion in 2015, according to a report available from Research and Markets, a decline of 5%. The U.S. remained the dominant global exporter of kaolin, with exports valued at $562 million in 2015, a 33% share of the global export market. Belgium, the UK, Brazil and China were other key global suppliers of kaolin last year, representing a combined 45% share. Leading destinations of kaolin imports in 2015 included Japan (7.9% based on value), Belgium (7.8%), Finland (6.5%), Germany (6.5%) and China (5.6%). Imports to China grew the fastest during the 2007-2015 timeframe, at a pace of 4.9% per year.5
4. World Kaolin (published September 2016; $6,200), The Freedonia Group, www.freedoniagroup.com.
5. World Kaolin-Market Report, Analysis and Forecast to 2020 (published December 2016; $1,629) Research and Markets, www.researchandmarkets.com.