Chemical profile: Titanium dioxide

15 October 2007 00:00  [Source: ICB]

Uses

Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is used as a ­pigment to provide brightness, whiteness and opacity to paints and coatings, plastics, paper, inks, fibers, food and cosmetics. The largest consumer is paints, then plastics and paper. TiO2 is available in two crystal forms: rutile and anatase.

Supply/demand

Global demand is expected to rise by 2-3% this year, despite weaker-than-expected demand in the US, caused by uncertainties in the region's housing market. US TiO2 producers have been sending additional volumes to Europe and Asia, contributing to a fall in European prices this year. Demand is healthy in Asia, where strong economic growth in countries such as China and India is boosting downstream sectors.

Prices

TiO2 prices are expected to remain stable in Europe and the US for the fourth quarter (Q4), despite producers' attempts to introduce increases in response to low returns this year. Producers say prices have fallen behind rising energy costs in recent years, and the resulting margin squeeze is adding urgency to price hike initiatives. In Asia, negotiations are under way after major producers announced price increases by $100/tonne (€70.66/tonne) for Q4.

Technology

TiO2 is produced from either ilmenite, rutile or titanium slag. The pigment is extracted by using chlorine (gas-phase chloride route) or sulfuric acid (liquid-phase sulfate process). The chloride route enables higher productivity gains, and produces a purer product with a tighter range of particle size. The sulfate route uses simpler technology and can use lower grade, cheaper ores. Rutile TiO2 can be produced using both processes, but anatase pigments, used mainly in fibers, can only be produced by the sulfate route. Failed attempts this year by Kemira and Tronox to divest sulfate process plants indicate a long-term preference for the chloride route, which accounts for about 3.25m tonnes/year of the world's estimated 5.75m tonne/year TiO2 capacity.

Outlook

Uncertainties surround the unstable housing recovery in the US, with improvements expected in mid-2008 or early 2009. Economic growth in Asia, Russia and Eastern Europe is boosting TiO2 demand in those regions, and producers are confident they will be able to implement price increases in Europe next year. The global trend is for TiO2 demand to grow in line with gross domestic product (GDP).

Cristal, which acquired Lyondell's TiO2 business this year, plans to expand its Saudi plant to 300,000 tonnes/year by 2010. It is also planning a $20m expansion of ultrafine TiO2 in Thann, France. Huntsman, which is being acquired by Hexion, plans to add 50,000 tonnes/year of capacity in the UK.

Major global titanium dioxide capacity, '000 tonnes/year
Company Location Capacity
DuPont Altamira, Mexico 125
DeLisle, Mississippi, US 300
Edgemoor, Delaware, US 155
Kwan Yin, Taiwan 125
New Johnsonville, Tennessee, US 380
Huntsman Tioxide Calais, France 100
Greatham, UK 100
Grimsby, UK 40
Huelva, Spain 75
Scarlino, Italy 80
Teluk Kalung, Malaysia 56
Umbogintwini, South Africa 25
ISK Jurong, Singapore 54
Yokkaichi, Japan 160
Kemira Pori, Finland 130
Kronos Ghent, Belgium 74
Frederikstad, Norway 30
Leverkusen, Germany 173
Nordenham, Germany 60
Varennes, Quebec, Canada 90
Louisiana Pigments Lake Charles, Louisiana, US 146
National Titanium Dioxide (Cristal) Ashtabula, Ohio, US 215
Baltimore, Maryland, US 50
Kemerton, Australia 105
Le Havre, France 65
Salvador, Brazil 60
Stallingborough, UK 150
Yanbu, Saudi Arabia 120
Thann, France 30
Sachtleben Duisburg, Germany 90
Tiwest Kwinana, Western Australia 110
Tronox Botlek, the Netherlands 90
Hamilton, Mississippi, US 225
Savannah, Georgia, US 110
Uerdingen, Germany 107SOURCE: ICIS

Profile last published November 14, 2005

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