Demand for titanium dioxide pigment is on the rise in China and maturing in the West, but the production process—tightly held by a handful of companies—has not significantly changed in 30+ years, and no suitable replacement for the pigment is yet available, a new report concludes.
Recent years have seen a boom in the ultrafine, or nano-TiO2, markets, as volume has grown with an expanding scope of potential applications. Nano-TiO2 has been linked to self-cleaning, air purification, anti-bacterial, anti-mold, anti-moss and wear-resistant properties.
Those are some of the conclusions of the Pigment Industry Annual Review (PAR), TZMI Group’s third industry study of the global titanium pigment market and the first in what TZMI now plans as an annual series. The Australia-based firm offers technical consulting and market research for the mineral sands and TiO2 industries.
TiO2 pigment, widely used in paints and coatings, has been in short supply worldwide since the spring. Major manufacturers have been rationing their supplies, leading to, among other things, delays in roadway marking projects throughout the United States.
Among TMZI’s findings:
• The more mature Western markets for TiO2 pigment demand have slowed over the last decade, to compound average growth rates (CAGR) significantly below that of the long-term global average CAGR of 3.1%
• Since 2000, China has emerged as the dominant growth market for TiO2 pigment, supported in a large way by the rise of a domestic sulfate-process industry.
• Access to the newer (1950s) chloride process has been tightly held by a handful of global manufacturing companies and those organizations that successfully licensed technology during the 1970s and 1980s. Since 1994, there have been no greenfield chloride route pigment plants commissioned.
• New processes for the manufacture of TiO2 pigment have been, and still are, constantly under development, but no alternative manufacturing routes have been successfully commercialized on a large scale. While thrifting of use of TiO2 pigment has occurred, in part caused by the improvement in TiO2 pigment product quality, there is not yet a significant alternative product for most applications.
• In recent years the ultrafine, or nano-TiO2, markets have undergone significant growth, both in terms of volume and scope of application. However, while these markets are currently highly profitable, the total volumes are less than 1% of the global marketplace.
• The long-term real TiO2 global pigment price has declined over the last 20 years in U.S. dollar terms; however, there are significant differences in pricing behavior among different regions and different end-use markets.
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