China’s February TiO2 imports fall on weak demand, ample supply

29 March 2014 09:12 Source:ICIS News

Focus story by Alexis Gan Asia

SINGAPORE (ICIS)--China’s imported volume for titanium dioxide (TiO2) in February fell by 21% from January levels because of weak demand and ample domestic inventory, market sources said on Friday. 

Total import volume for February stood at 13,770 tonnes, according to the data published by China Customs on 27 March.

There were fewer TiO2 imports in February because business typically slows down during the Lunar New Year holiday, sources added.

Chinese TiO2 exports for February were at 33,308 tonnes, a 24% month-on-month drop, but a 53% rise from the same period a year ago, China Customs data showed.

Market sources attributed the positive growth for Chinese TiO2 exports to the country’s huge nameplate capacity which is estimated to be over 2.4 m tonnes/year.

Global nameplate capacity for TiO2 is at around 6.6m tonnes/year, sources added.

However, production is considerably higher than annual consumption. China consumes around 1.8m tonnes annually, while global annual demand is estimated to be at around 5.6m tonnes, sources said.

In China alone, there are over 60 TiO2 production facilities, which are predominantly sulphur-based. Among these 60 plants, only six have production capacity above 100,000 tonnes/year, with the majority producing below 50,000 tonnes/year. There is only one known chloride-based facility with a mere capacity of 30,000 tonnes/year.

TiO2 pigment is extracted by using either sulphuric acid (sulphate process) or chlorine (chloride route). The sulphate process uses simpler technology than the chloride technique and can use lower grade or cheaper ores (feedstock).

However, the sulphate-based plant generally has higher production costs and is more expensive to build than a chloride-based facility. While the chloride-based process can produce TiO2 of higher purity, it may require the construction of a chloralkali unit. It is also hazardous and difficult to handle, in addition to incurring higher waste-disposal cost.

Consequently, the technology for TiO2 production in China has been lagging when compared with international players, because there is a lack of consolidation in the domestic industry. This has been a major stumbling block for TiO2 export growth in China.

Rutile-grade TiO2 is a white pigment used in the coating, plastic, high-grade paper and printing inks as well as in small amounts for pharmaceuticals, food and cosmetic applications.

China’s TiO2 imports for January and February 2014

 

Import

Export

Import (tonnes)

YoY growth (%)

MoM growth (%)

Export (tonnes)

YoY growth (%)

MoM growth (%)

Feb

13,770

24%

-21%

33,308

53%

-24%

Jan

17,447

20%

13%

43,973

99%

15%

Source: China Customs

By Alexis Gan