Raw & Manufactured Materials: 2015 Overview
The rebounding economy is offering multiple opportunities for many traditional and advanced ceramic materials.
- Bauxite and Alumina
- Boron Materials
- Magnesium Compounds
- Rare Earths
- Soda Ash
- Talc and Pyrophyllite
- Titanium and Related Materials
U.S. and Canadian production of crude fused aluminum oxide and silicon carbide remained flat in 2013, at 10,000 t and 35,000 t, respectively. U.S. imports for consumption of fused aluminum oxide declined slightly (1.3%) to 228,000 t, while exports jumped 23% to 23,500 t. Silicon carbide imports increased 7.4% to 108,000 t and exports declined by 1.5% to 17,700 t. Apparent U.S. consumption of silicon carbide rose 8.7% to reach 125,000 t.
In 2013, China was the world’s leading producer of abrasive fused aluminum oxide and abrasive silicon carbide, with production at near capacity. Table 1 details world production capacity.
According to The Freedonia Group, worldwide demand for abrasives products is expected to increase by almost 6% per year to $40 billion by 2017. Growth in the Asia-Pacific region will continue to drive gains, with especially strong advances in the large Chinese market. Of equal importance is an expected recovery in the U.S., Western Europe and Japan, where durable goods manufacturing (the leading outlet for abrasives sales) will accelerate along with continued improvements in the overall economic outlook. Throughout the world, an emphasis on improved manufacturing processes will benefit abrasives market value, as not only do these often require greater abrasive usage per unit but also an increasing amount of higher-priced, value-added products overall. These trends are especially apparent in developing countries in the Africa/Mideast region, as well as South America and Eastern Europe.
Over half of all additional abrasives demand generated between 2012 and 2017 will be attributable to China, the world’s leading national market for these products, according to Freedonia. While growth in the country will decelerate as its abrasives industry matures, China’s gains will still far surpass those seen in any other major market. Growth in manufacturing activity, increasing living standards, and additional foreign investment will continue to stimulate demand in China. In addition, as the country’s durable goods industries become more sophisticated, the intensity of abrasives use is also expected to increase noticeably. China is also the largest producer of abrasives worldwide, supplying both domestic demand and a growing export market.1
According to Global Industry Analysts, Inc. (GIA), the popularity of cubic boron nitride (CBN), which is the world’s second-hardest material after diamond, is on the rise. CBN as an abrasive is witnessing impressive growth for use in grinding engine parts and transmissions. Despite the high costs, CBN abrasives are being preferred by manufacturers due to the promise of long life.2
Apparent domestic consumption of natural and synthetic manufactured industrial diamond (bort, grit, and dust and powder) dropped by 42% to 649 million carats in 2013. Production was essentially flat (at 44 million carats), while imports for consumption declined by 40% to 703 million carats; exports were down 12% to 135 million carats. Major consumers of industrial diamond included computer chip production, construction, machinery manufacturing, mining services, stone cutting and polishing, and transportation systems (infrastructure and vehicles). Stone cutting and highway building, milling and repair consumed most of the industrial diamond stones (natural and synthetic). Production and apparent consumption of natural and synthetic stones were both basically flat at 60 million and 62 million carats, respectively.
The vast majority of the world’s synthetic industrial diamond is produced in China (91.3%), according to Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd. The country is expected to remain the leading producer, with annual production exceeding 4 billion carats. Additional production is found in the U.S. (2.2%), Russia (1.8%), Ireland and South Africa (1.4% each); the rest of the world produces 1.9%. The natural industrial diamond market is more open and not dominated by one country. Already comparatively negligible, production of natural industrial diamond is expected to decline over time as similar-quality synthetic diamond is more cost efficient.3
The U.S. continues to rely heavily on imports of bauxite and alumina. Imports of bauxite for consumption in 2013 dipped 5.5% to 10.4 Mt, while alumina imports jumped 21.2% to nearly 2.2 Mt. Exports were down for both materials in 2013, with bauxite dropping significantly (54.8%) to 19,000 tand alumina down less drastically (13.7%) to 1.5 Mt. Apparent U.S. consumption for both bauxite and alumina declined by 5.9% in 2013 to 2.7 Mt.
Merchant Research breaks down 2013 bauxite mine production as follows: Australia, 29.7%; China, 18.1%; Brazil, 13.2%; Indonesia, 11.6%; and other countries, 27.3%.4 Rising demand for aluminum, driven by increasing urbanization and industrialization, is driving demand for bauxite and alumina worldwide, according to GIA; the global market for bauxite is forecast to reach 378 Mt by 2020. Australia dominates bauxite production, while China takes the lead in alumina refining capacity. Metallurgical bauxite represents the largest segment in the bauxite market worldwide. Alumina is primarily used for downstream aluminum production, which accounts for the largest market for alumina worldwide. Demand for non-metallurgical alumina is driven by the refractories industry. Although demand for alumina in refractories has been on the decline in recent years, non-metallurgical markets such as water treatment and flame retardants offer potential market opportunities. Alumina is also witnessing increasing adoption as a substitute to zircon in ceramics and refractories due to increasing prices of zircon.
Asia-Pacific represents the largest and fastest-growing regional market worldwide, reports GIA, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.8% through 2020. Steady economic growth, increasing urbanization, growing industrial output, rising production and demand for aluminum, and an increase in alumina smelter capacities represent key growth drivers in the region.5
According to IBISWorld, alumina production in Australia is expected to reach 20.9 Mt in 2013-2014, generating approximately $7.1 billion in revenue. Australian alumina output is expected to decline in the time period as Rio Tinto’s Gove refinery reduces output and domestic demand from aluminum smelters falls. Most of Australia’s alumina output is exported; exports are expected to be 15.4 Mt in 2013-2014, generating revenue of approximately $5.2 billion.6
According to GIA, the worldwide market for boron nitride and boron carbide is projected to reach 7.6 thousand t by 2020, driven by expanding applications in sectors such as ceramics, industrial tools, refractory coatings, and electronics devices. Boron nitride and boron carbide are two major compounds of boron that find use in diverse industries such as automotive, equipment and machinery, electronics, metal working, and medical, among others.
Due to the fact that the dynamics of the boron nitride and boron carbide market are linked to the trends in major end-use markets, GIA reports, market growth was affected by the economic volatility of the past few years. With the global economy now rebounding and the manufacturing sector gathering pace, the market is positioned for growth in the coming years. Increased demand from major end-use sectors (including ceramics, refractory coatings and electronic devices, among others) is driving consumption of boron nitride and boron carbide. Demand is also expected to benefit from the development of large-volume production methods and the emergence of new technologies.
According to GIA, demand for boron carbide, with its unique characteristics of low specific gravity, resistance to several reactive chemicals, high elastic modulus, good hot strength and extreme hardness, is expected from various industrial applications, as well as in bulletproof vests, engine sabotage powders, and tank armor. Boron carbide also finds use in cutting tools, metal matrix composites, automobile brake linings, abrasives, scratch-resistant coatings, neutron absorbers in nuclear reactors, and high-pressure water jet cutter and grit blasting nozzles, among others.
The U.S. represents the largest market for boron nitride and boron carbide worldwide, reports GIA. The country is also forecast to record the fastest CAGR of 4.2% over the forecast period. Europe and developing regions such as Asia-Pacific will offer promising opportunities for future growth in the market.7
According to Merchant Research, worldwide consumption of boron minerals in 2013 was for: glass, 33.9%; agriculture, 17.9%; ceramics, 8.7%; detergents, 7.5%; and others, 32%. Asia and Latin American will be the driving force for demand in the near future, with particular growth in agricultural, ceramic and glass markets. Increasing consumption of borates for fiber glass insulation is also expected.8
In 2013, the leading domestic uses of boron products were for glass and ceramics, accounting for approximately 80% of total borates consumption. Imports for consumption of borates in 2013 included: borax, flat at 2,000 t; boric acid, up 9.1% to 60,000 t; colemanite, up 7.1% to 30,000 t; and ulexite, down fairly sharply (16.7%) to 10,000 t. Exports remained essentially flat compared to 2012.
World consumption of borates was projected to reach 2 Mt of boric oxide by 2014, compared to 1.5 Mt in 2010. Demand for borates is expected to shift slightly away from detergents and soaps toward glass and ceramics.
In 2013, domestic sales/use of clays was estimated to be 25.9 Mt valued at $1.58 billion. Apparent consumption remained essentially flat, at 22.1 Mt (vs. 22.2 Mt in 2012). Uses for specific clays were estimated to be as follows:
• Ball clay—44% floor and wall tile, 18% sanitaryware and 38% other uses
• Bentonite—33% absorbents, 20% drilling mud, 11% iron ore pelletizing, 13% foundry sand bond and 23% other uses
• Common clay—45% brick, 23% lightweight aggregate, 24% cement and 8% other uses
• Fire clay—40% heavy clay products, and 60% refractory products and other uses
• Fuller’s earth—72% absorbent uses and 28% other uses
• Kaolin—48% paper and 52% other uses
Exports of clays remained essentially flat overall at 4.2 Mt, including: ball clay, down 12.2% to 65,000 t; bentonite, down 8.7% to 950,000 t; fire clay (including some refractory-grade kaolin), basically flat at 290,000 t; fuller’s earth, down 4.8% to 100,000 t; and kaolin, up 2.0% to 2.5 Mt (clays not otherwise classified jumped 40.8% to 300,000 t). U.S. production of various clay types was also essentially flat, at 25.9 Mt (see Table 2).
Merchant Research details 2013 worldwide bentonite mine production as follows: U.S., 32%; China, 22%; Turkey, 6.7%; Greece, 6%; and other countries, 33.4%.9 Meanwhile, kaolin mine production in 2013 was: Uzbekistan, 18.9%; U.S., 16.1%; Germany, 12.2%; Czech Republic, 8.9%; Brazil, 5.5%; and the rest of the world, 38.4%.10
According to Freedonia, global demand for kaolin is forecast to rise 3.3% per year to 28.7 Mt by 2017, valued at $4.4 billion (see Table 3). Growth in kaolin sales will accelerate as economic conditions improve worldwide, especially in recession-impacted North America and Western Europe. “Advances in manufacturing activity are expected to spur demand for kaolin in all key markets,” said Elliot Woo, analyst. “However, gains will continue to be constrained by a relatively poor performance in the leading paper market, where kaolin usage is being affected by expanding competition from calcium carbonates.”
The Asia-Pacific region is projected to be the fastest growing in terms of kaolin demand through 2017, reports Freedonia. The world’s top four countries in projected growth rate for kaolin consumption (China, India, Malaysia and Thailand) are all located in the Asia-Pacific region. China will continue to be the largest market for kaolin in the region, accounting for one-half of regional demand in 2017. China also recently became the largest national consumer of kaolin in the world, overtaking the U.S. in 2012. Demand for kaolin in Japan is forecast to be flat, as modest increases in manufacturing will be counteracted by a declining market share for kaolin in paper production.
Western Europe and North America (the second- and third-largest regional markets for kaolin, respectively) will both post improved demand through 2017, according to Freedonia, although gains will trail the global average in both regions due to slower growth in manufacturing output in kaolin-consuming industries. The U.S., which accounted for nearly 80% of North American kaolin consumption in 2012, will rebound from the decline it saw over the 2007-2012 period and remain the second-largest national market for kaolin worldwide. Demand for kaolin in Western Europe is less concentrated, with Germany, Italy and Finland representing the largest kaolin consumers in the region. All of these countries saw their kaolin markets contract between 2007 and 2012. Demand for kaolin in Western Europe will return to growth through 2017.11
Merchant Research reports worldwide 2013 feldspar mine production as: Turkey, 30.4%; Italy, 20.4%; China, 9.1%; Thailand, 4.8%; France, 2.8%; and the rest of the world, 32.4%. Glass and ceramics account for nearly two-thirds of world demand, by far the leading end use sectors.12
In the U.S., 2013 feldspar production was valued at about $37.7 million. The three leading producers accounted for approximately 87% of production, with four other companies supplying the remainder. Estimated marketable production was 490,000 t, representing a 6.6% decline from 2012.
Estimated apparent domestic consumption of feldspar dropped 7.2% to 477,000 t in 2013, while exports increased 30.7% to 17,000 t and imports for consumption doubled to 4,000 t. The glass container industry continues to be the leading end user of feldspar in the U.S. Though relatively stable, the glass container industry continues to be challenged by competing materials in some market segments, as well as imports from China.
The consumption of flat glass in residential construction continued to slowly increase in 2013. Housing starts and completions each rose by more than 20% in the first half of the year (compared to the 2012 first half), and increases continued into 2014. Automotive glass consumption also continued to increase, with a nearly 5% bump in production in the first 10 months of 2013 (compared to the same period in 2012).
Domestic feldspar consumption has been gradually shifting from ceramics toward glass markets. Feldspar use in tile and sanitaryware in the U.S. and Western Europe remained sluggish because of the continued slow rebound of the housing market from the economic recession. A growing segment in the glass industry is solar glass used in the production of solar cells. Fiber glass consumption for thermal insulation is also expected to expand in line with housing and commercial building construction in the U.S. through 2014.
In 2013, fluorspar (calcium fluoride) production began at a new mine in Kentucky. Overall, U.S. production of fluorspar (equivalent from phosphate rock) increased 3% to 134,000 t. Exploration and development work continued at fluorspar projects in Canada, Mongolia, South Africa, the U.S. and Vietnam. Russia’s major fluorspar mine in the Primorye territory was mothballed due to low-quality ores and the need to modernize the mine; the shutdown could last into 2016.
According to Merchant Research, fluorspar finds use in industries such as steelmaking; aluminum, magnesium and calcium metal production; and glass and ceramics. Global fluorspar output declined by 5.5% in 2013 due to weak demand from fluorochemicals markets. Worldwide 2013 fluorspar mine production was as follows: China, 64.2%; Mexico, 18.5%; Mongolia, 5.2%; South Africa, 2.7%, Spain, 1.6%; and the rest of the world, 7.8%.13
Fluorspar prices decreased in 2013 as a result of a slowdown in downstream global fluorochemicals markets. As of October 2013, the price of Chinese acid-grade fluorspar, wet filtercake, free on board China, had decreased by 25% compared to the year-end 2012 price. During the same timeframe, Mexican high-arsenic acid-grade prices decreased by 17%. Substantial price decreases were also reported for various Chinese metallurgical grades of fluorspar.
World demand for natural and synthetic graphite (including carbon fiber) is forecast to expand 5.8% per year to 4.2 Mt in 2018, with a market value of nearly $30 billion, according to Freedonia. An overall strengthening of the global economy will bode well for all forms of graphite. Accelerating demand for steel and other metals will particularly benefit synthetic graphite electrodes that are essential for electric arc furnace steel production, as well as synthetic graphite powders and natural graphite used in other metallurgy applications.
According to Freedonia, China is the leading consumer of synthetic and natural graphite, accounting for one-third of global sales. Other major consumers include the U.S., Japan, India, South Korea, Germany and Russia. Carbon fiber demand is scattered among the developed economies of Western Europe, Japan, and the U.S., as well as China. Synthetic graphite production capacity is widely distributed among a large number of countries. In contrast, the natural graphite industry is dominated by China.
Synthetic graphite demand is expected to grow 5.7% annually to more than 2.8 Mt in 2018, valued at more than $25 billion, reports Freedonia. The increasing use of electric arc furnaces to produce steel in most parts of the world will boost sales of electrodes, the leading synthetic graphite product. The rise of new technologically advanced outlets, ranging from graphene to fuel cells, will also give a lift to demand for synthetic graphite. Production capacity for synthetic graphite is growing in low-cost countries, helping to keep prices down and making it more readily available to the industries in those nations.
Demand for carbon fiber is expected to grow at a double-digit annual pace, according to Freedonia, as its use in aerospace, automotive, wind turbine and other applications increases sharply. Manufacturers are expected to incorporate greater amounts of carbon fiber into their products in order to reduce weight and improve strength.
In the natural graphite segment, Freedonia reports that flake graphite will continue to capture market share from amorphous graphite, as high-tech applications become more important and the availability of flake graphite greatly increases. In particular, interest in flake graphite has increased dramatically with the rise of lithium ion batteries, which are used in electronics and electric motor vehicles. Nevertheless, traditional markets for natural graphite, such as metallurgy and refractories, will continue to account for the lion’s share of its use.14
According to Merchant Research, China recently closed a number of graphite mines due to environmental concerns, raising issues about future supply and spurring major graphite buyers to look for alternative sources. China is expected to continue to dominate the supply of graphite in the future, but its share will decrease. Worldwide 2013 global graphite mine production is detailed as follows: China, 68.1%; India, 13.4%; Brazil, 8.8%; North Korea, 2.5%; Canada, 2.1%; and the rest of the world, 5%.15
Apparent U.S. consumption of natural graphite in 2013 rose 2% to 51,000 t.
Seventy percent of the total natural graphite used in 2013 was for refractory applications, steelmaking, brake linings, foundry operations, batteries and lubricants (in descending order by tonnage). Imports for consumption increased by 5.3% to reach 60,000 t, while exports jumped 33.3% to 8,000 t.
Grand View Research reports that global magnesium oxide nanoparticle market demand was 111.3 tons in 2013 and is expected to reach 185.5 tons by 2020 (valued at $42.3 million), growing at a CAGR of 7.6% from 2014 to 2020. Magnesium oxide nanoparticles are used as fuel additives to enhance fuel efficiency and maintain engine health and performance. Increasing demand from the fuel industry due to rising consumer awareness regarding high-performance fuels in order to prolong vehicle operating life is expected to drive market demand over the forecast period.
Furnace linings were the largest application market for magnesium oxide nanoparticles, according to Grand View, with demand estimated at over 60 tons in 2013 due to favorable properties such as large surface area, high purity and hardness. These nanoparticles are also used in the construction and ceramic industries due to their insulating and antibacterial properties, with estimated market revenue of over $4 million in 2013, growing at a CAGR of 9.1% from 2014 to 2020.
Asia-Pacific was the largest regional market and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.8% from 2014 to 2020, Grand View reports. The region is expected to witness growth resulting from end-use industries such as electronics, steel, cement, refinery and aerospace in India, China, Japan, and Korea. China has a large number of domestic magnesium oxide nanopowder manufacturers, offering products at prices lower than the global average.16
Domestically, production of magnesium compounds increased 2.5% to 250,000 t, while apparent consumption declined by 3.3% to 472,000 t. Imports for consumption and exports both declined, by 9.1% (to 240,000 t) and 10% (to 18,000 t), respectively.
Following an initial launch in 2012, rare earths continued to be mined by one U.S. company in 2013. Bastnasite (a rare earth fluorocarbonate mineral) was mined as a primary product, and production leaped by 400% in 2013 to 4,000 t. Rare earth concentrates produced by the same company were further processed into rare earth compounds and metal products. The company neared completion of new processing facilities and demonstrated a capacity of 15,000 t/year of rare earth oxides.
Based on reported data through September 2013, the estimated 2013 distribution of rare earths by end use was: catalysts, 65%; metallurgical applications and alloys, 19%; permanent magnets, 9%; glass polishing, 6%; and other, 1%. Domestic consumption of rare earth imports jumped to 10,500 t in 2013 (compared to 5,770 t in 2012). Imports of rare earth materials in 2013 were: cerium compounds, down 20.9% to 1,100 t; ferrocerium (alloys), up 19.9% to 320 t; mixed rare earth chlorides, down 27.3% to 360 t; mixed rare earth oxides, up 365.5% to 2,500 t; rare earth oxide compounds, up 104.2% to 5,800 t; and rare earth metals (alloys), up 62.5% to 390 t. U.S. exports of rare earth materials included: cerium compounds, down 26.4% to 730 t; rare earth metals (alloys), down 51.9% to 1,000 t; other rare earth compounds, up 195.1% to 5,400 t; and ferrocerium (alloys), up 47.2% to 1,400 t.
U.S. imports and consumption of yttrium in 2013 both increased by 25%, to 200 t. The leading end uses of yttrium included phosphors, ceramics and metallurgy. In ceramic applications, yttrium compounds were used in abrasives, bearings and seals, high-temperature refractories for continuous casting nozzles, jet engine coatings, oxygen sensors in automobile engines, and wear- and corrosion-resistant cutting tools. Global consumption of yttrium oxide was estimated to be about
7,000 t; China produced most of the world’s supply.
The global market for rare earth elements is expected to reach $10.96 billion by 2020, according to Grand View. Cerium accounted for nearly 40% of rare earth element consumption in 2013. Growing demand for metal catalysts such as cerium and lanthanum is expected to drive the market over the next six years. These metal catalysts find applications across a host of industries, including automotive, metallurgy, phosphors and glass, among others. In addition, the growing market for permanent magnets is expected to particularly boost the demand for neodymium.
Phosphors are vital components in the manufacture of LCD screens and CRT displays; the growing electronics industry (particularly in the Asia-Pacific region) is expected to increase demand for rare earth elements such as terbium, europium and yttrium, reports Grand View. Depleting reserves, a stringent regulatory framework, complex extraction and the capital-intensive nature of the extraction process are expected to be key challenges for market participants over the next six years. Recycling of these elements from waste could prove to be a key opportunity for the market in the near future.
The Asia-Pacific region was the largest consumer of rare earth elements in 2013, according to Grand View, with estimated market revenue of over
$3.74 billion. The region is also expected to witness the fastest growth in terms of consumption, at an estimated CAGR of 11.9 % from 2014 to 2020. Growing industrialization and extraction activities in China are the primary factors responsible for the high growth in the Asia-Pacific. North America was the second-largest consumer of rare earth elements in 2013, accounting for over 14 kilotons. However, the region is expected to lose market share to the high-growth regions of Latin America, Middle East and Asia-Pacific over the forecast period.17
Freedonia forecasts that global demand for specialty silicas (including precipitated silica, silica gel, silica sol and fumed silica) will grow 5% per year through 2018 to 2.9 Mt valued at $6.9 billion. This will represent an acceleration from the pace of the 2008-2013 period, as continued economic advances in developing countries such as China and India will bolster gains in demand for specialty silicas. Consumption of specialty silicas will also benefit from improved manufacturing levels in a stronger economic climate in the developed countries of North America and Europe. Increased use of silica in tire treads will further promote growth in specialty silicas demand in these regions.
Rubber is the largest market for specialty silicas and is also projected to be the fastest growing through 2018, according to Freedonia. The Asia-Pacific region held the largest share of the global specialty silicas market in 2013 and is expected to post the fastest growth through 2018 (see Table 4). This is primarily due to the performance of the sizable Chinese market, which will account for 58% of the regional total in 2018. In contrast, a below-average performance is expected in Japan, reflecting the maturity of silica-consuming industries in that country.
Central and South America and the Africa/Mideast region will both post solid growth in demand for specialty silicas through 2018, reports Freedonia, driven by economic advances in developing countries. Eastern Europe will also see fast growth, bolstered by strong gains in export-oriented manufacturing industries. Market maturity will lead to below-average growth in North America and Western Europe, although these regions will still see improvements relative to the 2008-2013 period, reflecting a stronger economic environment.18
Industrial sand and gravel (often called silica, silica sand and quartz sand) includes sands and gravels with high silicon dioxide (SiO2) content. U.S. production (120 companies from 177 operations in 31 states) rose 3.6% in 2013 to reach 52.5 Mt, valued at
$2.6 billion. In order of tonnage produced, leading states included: Wisconsin, Illinois, Texas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Michigan and Iowa; combined production from these states accounted for 74% of the domestic total.
U.S. imports for consumption of industrial sand and gravel dropped significantly (52.9%) in 2013 to
144,000 t, while exports remained essentially flat at 4.4 Mt. Apparent U.S. consumption increased by 3.4% to 48.2 Mt, and uses included: hydraulic fracturing sand and well-packing/cementing sand, 62%; glassmaking sand, 16%; foundry sand, 9%; whole-grain fillers and building products, 3%; other whole-grain silica, 2%; ground and unground sand for chemicals, 2%; recreational sand, 1%; and other uses, 5%.
According to GIA, the global soda ash market is forecast to reach 70 Mt by 2020. Fueled by strong demand for flat glass in the construction and automotive industries in emerging economies, demand for soda ash is expected to register significant growth in the coming years. The optimization of production capacity to balance supply and demand in Europe and China strengthened the market in recent years. In addition, the discovery of natural soda ash reserves in African nations (e.g., Tanzania and Kenya) is expected to further benefit the market.
After being hit by the 2007-2009 world economic recession, global sales of soda ash are improving mainly due to increased demand in developing countries, reports GIA. Glass remains the largest end-user sector for soda ash, supported by the increasing use of glass in construction, automotive and food packaging industries worldwide. Emerging applications in soaps, detergents, and wastewater and effluent treatment also bode well for the market. Overcapacity represents a challenge plaguing the global soda ash market. However, with demand for soda ash projected to pick up in the coming years, coupled with strategic decisions by major producers to close existing plants and curtail production, the supply-demand gap is expected to narrow in the immediate term.
GIA reports that China, the U.S., Russia, India and Turkey are the five major producers of soda ash. China commands a dominant presence in the global synthetic soda ash market and supplies about three-quarters of the total worldwide demand. The U.S. is the largest supplier of naturally produced soda ash. The cheaper cost of production of natural soda ash when compared to the synthetic production method augurs well for the U.S. soda ash market. Asia-Pacific and Europe represent the largest markets worldwide, while the U.S. and Europe represent mature markets with moderate growth patterns. China represents the fastest-growing market, driven by increasing export demand and strong regional production. Growth will also be driven by emerging markets such as India and Latin America (primarily Brazil), as well as the Middle East and African markets. Soda ash growth in these markets is primarily driven by the booming construction and automotive industries, as well as increased flat glass production.19
In 2013, the U.S. produced an estimated 11.4 Mt of soda ash valued at about $1.8 billion. Apparent consumption remained virtually flat at 5 Mt. Based on final 2012 reported data, the estimated 2013 distribution of soda ash by end use was: glass, 48%; chemicals, 29%; soap and detergents, 8%; distributors, 6%; flue gas desulfurization and miscellaneous uses, 3% each; pulp and paper, 2%; and water treatment, 1%. Imports for consumption dropped 30.8% to 9,000 t, while exports increased by 4.9% to reach 6.4 Mt.
Overall global demand for soda ash is expected to increase by 1.5-2% annually over the next several years due to improving economic conditions in many parts of the world. Most of the growth is expected to be in China, India, Russia and South America. If the domestic economy and export sales improve, U.S. production may be higher in 2014.
U.S. production of talc increased slightly (3.1%) in 2013 to 531,000 t valued at about $18 million. Montana was the leading producer state, followed by Texas, Vermont and Virginia. Sales of talc were estimated to be 589,000 t valued at $89 million. Talc produced and sold in the U.S. was used for: ceramics, 25%; paper, 22%; paint, 19%; roofing, 9%; plastics, 8%; cosmetics and rubber, 3% each; and other, 11%.
Talc imports for consumption in 2013 declined by 26.2% to 240,000 t. Reduced shipments from Pakistan (which probably included talc from Afghanistan) resulted in most of the decrease. More than 75% of imported talc was used for plastics, cosmetics and paint applications, in decreasing order by tonnage. The total estimated use of talc in the U.S. (including imports) was: plastics, 27%; ceramics, 18%; paint, 16%; paper, 15%; roofing, 6%; cosmetics, 5%; rubber, 3%; and other, 10%.
U.S. talc exports dropped by 32.3% to 170,000 t. Canada accounted for more than 50% of the decline in exports. Countries that had increased imports of U.S. talc in 2012 generally had lower imports in 2013, based on trade data through July.
Domestic production and sales of pyrophyllite remained unchanged compared to 2012. In decreasing order by tonnage, consumption was in refractory products, ceramics and paint.
Worldwide output of talc and pyrophyllite was 7.4 Mt in 2013, according to Merchant Research, essentially flat compared to the prior year. Annual global growth is forecast at around 2.9%. While most talc and pyrophyllite reserves are concentrated in Brazil, China ranked first in the world in terms of pyrophyllite and talc output volume in 2013 (30% market share). India and Brazil were the world’s
second- and third-largest manufacturers, respectively. Demand for pyrophyllite and talc is higher across emerging countries compared to developed regions. Prices are unlikely to post a significant increase in the coming years, as global resources are estimated to be enough to satisfy the slowly growing demand.20
Consumption of titanium mineral concentrates is tied to production of titanium dioxide (TiO2) pigments that are primarily used in paint, paper and plastics. Due to rising production of TiO2 pigments, domestic consumption of titanium mineral concentrates was estimated to have increased by 5% in 2013, to 1.5 Mt valued at $1.1 billion. About 95% of titanium mineral concentrates was used to produce TiO2 pigments in 2013; the remaining 5% was used in welding rod coatings and for the manufacture of carbides, chemicals and metal.
Two U.S. firms produced ilmenite and rutile concentrates from surface mining operations. Zircon was a co-product of mining from ilmenite and rutile deposits. The price of ilmenite remained constant worldwide throughout 2013, but the price of rutile decreased after reaching record-high levels in 2012. U.S. production of titanium mineral concentrates was flat in 2013 at 300,000 t. Domestic imports for consumption increased by 4.5% to 1.2 Mt, while exports declined by 5% to 13,000 t.
World mine production of titanium mineral concentrates increased by about 4% in 2013 due to increased TiO2 pigment production. Global production is expected to increase during the next several years, with new projects and production underway in Kenya, Western Australia and South Africa.
U.S. imports for consumption of TiO2 pigment were up 3.4% in 2013, reaching 210,000 t, while exports increased 4.2% to 650,000 t. Four companies at six facilities in five U.S. states produced 1.2 Mt of TiO2 pigment valued at about $4 billion in 2013, an increase of
5.3%. Apparent consumption reached 760,000 t (an increase of 5.7%) and was as follows: paint (including lacquers and varnishes), 60%; plastic, 25%; paper, 10%; and other (including catalysts, ceramics, coated fabrics and textiles, floor coverings, printing ink, and roofing granules), 5%.
U.S. imports of zirconium ores and concentrates (in terms of zirconia content) in 2013 dropped significantly (61.1%) to 6,500 t, while exports climbed 9.2% to 14,200 t. U.S. production of zirconium mineral concentrates remained unchanged from that of 2012 (specific data withheld). Worldwide mine production was also essentially flat (see Table 5).
Zirconium resources are highly concentrated across the globe, reports Research in China. The majority of zirconium ore reserves are in the hands of Australia and South Africa, which made up 80.9% of the global total in 2013. In 2013, the gross reserves of zirconium ore resources in China hit 500,000 t, standing at less than 1% of the world’s total. Zirconium is widely used in fields such as ceramics, chemicals, casting and CRT TV kinescope glass. In 2013, the demand for zirconium for ceramics use accounted for 54%, while the demand for chemicals and casting together made up 28%. Of the zirconium oxychloride and zirconium silicate produced and processed in China in 2013, more than 85% was exported to the U.S., Japan and Europe for the production of ceramics, zirconium dioxide products, and nuclear-grade zirconium sponge.20
According to Roskill, world production of zirconium chemicals is dominated by China, where over 88% of the capacity is located. Chinese companies have invested substantially in chemical facilities over the last decade, particularly for zirconium oxychloride (the feedstock material for downstream zirconium chemicals). Global zirconium chemical capacity is estimated to be 525,000 tpy in 2014, with zirconium oxychloride comprising 80% of that capacity. The largest market for zirconium oxychloride is in the production of high-purity zirconia, which itself is being influenced by the ceramic pigments market. The introduction of digital inkjet printing has revolutionized the decoration of ceramic tile and has spurred demand for zirconia-based pigments. Very high-value markets such as oxygen sensors are also encouraging higher use of stabilized zirconia.
The catalysts market (especially automotive) has also led to strong growth in consumption of zirconium carbonate and its derivative products, reports Roskill. Automotive catalyst demand is being driven by environmental concerns over the release of pollutants from automotive exhaust gases, which is prevented with the use of a catalytic converter. Over 95% of all new vehicles sold globally each year are now fitted with catalytic converters.21
Editor’s note: The foregoing information, except where noted, was compiled from the U.S. Geological Survey (www.usgs.gov). All units are in metric tons (t) or million metric tons (Mt), unless otherwise noted. In most cases, 2013 data were the latest available (and often estimated). For additional details regarding the uses of these materials in the ceramic, glass, brick, refractories and related industries, visit the Materials Handbook pages in this issue.
1. World Abrasives (published March 2014; $6,200), The Freedonia Group, www.freedoniagroup.com.
2. Boron Nitride and Boron Carbide: A Global Strategic Business Report (published September 2014; $4,950), Global Industry Analysts, Inc., www.strategyr.com.
3. Industrial Diamonds: 2014 Market Review and Forecast (published July 2014; $2,500), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd., www.mcgroup.co.uk.
4. Bauxite and Alumina: 2014 Market Review and Forecast (published July 214; $1,850), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd., www.mcgroup.co.uk.
5. Bauxite and Alumina: a Global Strategic Business Report (published September 2014; $4,500), Global Industry Analysts, Inc., www.strategyr.com.
6. Alumina Production in Australia (May 2014; $995), IBISWorld, www.ibisworld.com.au.
7. Boron Nitride and Boron Carbide: A Global Strategic Business Report (published September 2014; $4,950), Global Industry Analysts, Inc., www.strategyr.com.
8. Boron Minerals: 2014 Market Review and Forecast (published July 2014; $2,050), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd., www.mcgroup.co.uk.
9. Bentonite: 2014 Market Review and Forecast (published June 2014; $1,990), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd., www.mcgroup.co.uk.
10. Kaolin: 2014 World Market Review and Forecast (published July 2014; $1,750), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd., www.mcgroup.co.uk.
11. World Kaolin (published April 2014; $6,200), The Freedonia Group, www.freedoniagroup.com.
12. Feldspar: 2014 Market Review and Forecast (published July 2014; $1,850), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd., www.mcgroup.co.uk.
13. Fluorspar: 2014 Market Review and Forecast (published July 2014; $1,750), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd., www.mcgroup.co.uk.
14. World Graphite (published August 2014; $6,100), The Freedonia Group, www.freedoniagroup.com.
15. Graphite: 2014 Market Review and Forecast (published July 2014; $2,150), Merchant Research & Consulting Ltd., www.mcgroup.co.uk.
16. Magnesium Oxide Nanoparticle Market Analysis by Application and Segment Forecasts to 2020 (published October 2014; $4,500), Grand View Research. www.grandviewresearch.com.
17. Rare Earth Elements Market Analysis and Segment Forecasts to 2020 (published February 2014; $4,500), Grand View Research. www.grandviewresearch.com.
18. World Specialty Silicas (published July 2014; $6,300), The Freedonia Group, www.freedoniagroup.com.
19. Soda Ash: A Global Strategic Business Report (published April 2014; $4,500), Global Industry Analysts, Inc., www.strategyr.com.
20. Global and China Zirconium Industry Report: 2013-2016 (published March 2014; $1,400), Research in China, www.researchinchina.com.
21. Zirconium Oxide, Chemicals and Metal: Global Industry Markets and Outlook(published March 2014; $4,150), Roskill, www.roskill.com.