19 February 2010 03:36 [Source: ICIS news]
By Al Greenwood
SAN FRANCISCO (ICIS news)--The phase-out of methyl bromide as an agricultural fumigant will substantially increase demand for iodine, which is already a scarce material, a chief executive said on Thursday.
Methyl bromide is a key part of a system used to grow high-value crops, such as strawberries, tomatoes and peppers. However, methyl bromide also depletes the ozone layer, and governments have been phasing out the fumigant.
Methyl iodide is the most practical substitute, said David Schneider, chief executive of Iofina, a UK company that produces iodine and iodine derivatives. Schneider spoke on the sidelines of the InformexUSA conference in San Francisco.
So far, 48 states in the US have approved methyl iodide’s use as an agricultural fumigant, Schneider said. California, a major crop-producing state, may approve methyl iodide in the third quarter.
Already, demand for iodine has been increasing by roughly 1,500 tonnes/year, Schneider said. The element’s largest end markets include contrast media for x-rays and liquid crystal display (LCD) flat panels.
Overall, global demand is about 30,000 tonnes/year, Schneider said.
Any increase in demand would stress what is already a tight market, Schneider said. Iodine sells for $27-33/kg, Schneider said. In fact, prices never fell during the recession.
As such, Iofina has started production at its Atlantis prospect in Montana, he said. In addition, the company has started to deploy its portable iodine extraction modules.
These modules can extract iodine from the brines used in oil and natural gas wells, Schneider said. Currently, oil and gas producers are pumping the brine back into the ground.
With the modules, oil and natural gas producers can extract the iodine from the brine before pumping it back into the ground, Schneider said.
The company is about to deploy the modules to producers in California and Oklahoma, Schneider said. Production could start in April.
The InformexUSA fine and specialty chemicals conference continues through Friday.
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