TOP STORIES: Russia to start magnesium hydroxide production

By Mike O'Driscoll
Published: Thursday, 25 February 2010

Nikochem j-v with Rusnano; Nano Mg(OH)2 pilot plant 2011; Russian flame retardant market growth

Russia is looking forward to joining the select group of world magnesium hydroxide (MgOH2) producers through Nikochem LLC’s joint venture with The Russian Corp. of Nanotechnologies (Rusnano) in the commercial production of nano MgOH2 by 2013.

The project’s aim is the production of a flame retardant nanostructured MgOH2 with a modified surface, and value added products of bromide and magnesium chloride. Rusnano has taken a 35.8% share in Nikochem’s nano MgOH2 project, aiming at a 2013 plant start up.

Rusnano is to contribute RUB167m.($5.48m.) to the project, and provide up to RUB1,110m.($36.4m.) in credit. The total budgeted cost of the project is RUB3,100m.($101.8m).

A 25,000 tpa plant is to be constructed at the site of JSC Kaustik (a Nikochem subsidiary) in Volgograd. An EPC contract with Andritz AG, Austria is under negotiation, which, if successful, will permit the project to proceed in the first quarter of 2010.

The plan envisages start up of a pilot plant in 2011 and ramp up to commercial production by 2013.

Nanostructured MgOH2 production technology has been developed by Nikochem at laboratory and pilot scales.

In a statement, Dmitry Kuzmenko, head of Business Development Department of Nikochem said: “Polymer compounds produced with nanostructured magnesium hydroxide addition were tested in cooperation with leading Russian compounders and profile institutes like FGUP VNIIPO. As a result Nikochem has already concluded several long term sales contracts with the biggest global and Russian compounders and traders.”

Rusnano was established in 2007 to enable Russian government policy in the field of nanotechnology. Other projects include development of Li-ion batteries with Thunder Sky, China, and quartz processing for hi-tech markets.

Flame retardant growth

As more end products are manufactured containing plastics and increasingly stringent safety legislation permeates all industries, the demand for flame retardants is rising accordingly.

This is welcome news for mineral producers and processors of alumina trihydrate (ATH), MgOH2, borates, and antimony trioxide.

Where the growth appears most promising is in regions which are experiencing an upgrade in end product quality and thus demand high quality raw materials for their manufacture.

This seems to be the case in Russia, and is all the more interesting to mineral developers since the country has a dearth of domestic flame retardant mineral production.

In Russia, there is a major drive to reduce the flammability of products, and especially lower the smoke and poisonous gases of burning polymers that are used in construction, electronics, and many other sectors.

In 2008, the total Russian market in flame retardants was 9,900 tonnes, and about 75% was estimated as imported.

The annual volume consumption of ATH and MgOH2 in Russia is some 5,000-6,000 tonnes. The crucial fact here is that all this material is presently imported.

Russia clearly has a distinct lack flame retardant mineral production. Many forms of flame retardants are not produced in the country, including: bromine-based flame retardants, high-quality ATH, MgOH2, and several phosphorated flame retardants.

Over the last three years the domestic flame retardants market has steadily grown 11-13% per annum. On 22 July 2008, Russia passed Federal Law No.F3-123, which increased fire safety and a new GOST certification for construction work and the manufacture of cable which stiffened requirements for fireproof and non-toxic products.

This new legislation is expected to stimulate growth in the flame retardant market and perhaps accelerate market growth.

Certainly this is the opinion of Rusnano. Dionis Gordin, managing director and member of the executive board of Rusnano said: “The volume of flame retardants consumed in the country is growing at a rate of 10-20% per year.”

The global market for flame retardants is also expanding, with 1.15m. tonnes sold in 2008. The EU and the USA are the primary producers and consumers of flame retardants, accounting for 50% of the market.

Sales estimates for 2009, despite the economic turndown, are forecast to be at a similar level. Market growth is expected in 2010, and by 2015 the world’s market for flame retardants could reach 1.55m. tonnes.

Most non-halogenated flame retardant cables contain 60% wt. metal hydroxides (ie. ATH or Mg(OH)2) and 40% wt. polymers and other additives. So should the Nikochem/Rusnano project yield a competitively priced MgOH2 grade, there is a market opporunity to be pursued.

Nikochem & magnesia

Nikochem arrived on the magnesia market in 2007, when subsidiary JSC NikoMag commissioned a $2.28m., 30,000 tpa magnesium chloride plant in early 2007 at the site of chlor-alkali subsidiary JSC Kaustik.

In 2008, plans were laid for production of 20,000 tpa of Mg(OH)2 and 15,000 tpa of MgO.

Raw material is sourced from the magnesia-rich brine bischofite deposits of Svetly Yar, hosting some 50m. tonnes of magnesia reserves, mined under long-term contract by LLC MagMine. As by-products, bromine will be produced out of the bischofite solution with a capacity of 3,000 tpa, and granulated calcium chloride production capacity will increase to 140,000 tpa.

The MgCl2 flake plant attained full production capacity in early 2009. Target markets include applications in de-icing, construction, hydrotalcite, chemical compounds, drilling, rubber, and balneology in Russia, CIS countries, Europe, and Asia.