Titanium dioxide doldrums
Not a great week for the titanium dioxide pigment and zircon
market. Tronoxs Q3 results
are indicative of the sluggishness in both markets which are
not expecting to witness signs of a pick-up until H2 2013.
As ever, the titanium dioxide
feedstock business is key to the pigment market and
zircon availability is also often hostage to the fortunes
Tight supply and rising prices of titanium ore has sparked a
trend where certain pigment producers, if able, have altered
their feedstock mixes to accommodate lower-grade feedstocks
into their processes.
In response, leading feedstock producer Iluka has simply
switched to exploiting lower grade deposit sections and reduced
Not called pig(ment) in the middle for nothing:
the titanium dioxide sector not only suffers from taking the
feedstock hit, but has also faced pretty grim conditions from
its end user markets in paint, paper, and plastics, influenced
in large part by a weak construction market.
However, there are signs of recovery, and nowhere will the
relief be welcomed more than in China, and its effect on
bolstering Asia Pacific prospects in general. With a new leader
at the helm, the markets (and industrial minerals suppliers)
will look on keenly to see what might unfold and hopefully
support much needed confidence which ideally could re-start
Astonishingly but then this is China
some sort of can-do factor is already registering. The
worlds tallest skyscraper, called Sky City and at 838
metres, is planned to be built in Changsha, capital of Hunan
province (and where Mao Zedong started his political
It took five years to build Dubais Burj Khalifa (828
metres), the worlds tallest building. Construction of Sky
City is expected to start at the end of this month and be
completed by...March 2013!
Pre-fabricated modules assembled on site are apparently the
secret here. But is this not a good sign for the future for
Chinese construction markets? And, in turn, for mineral demand
for steel, glass, cement, ceramics, refractories, paint, and
Sound scientific advice sought for shale
To the hallowed halls of the Geological Society of London
where this week UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir John
Beddington was invited by the British Geological
Survey to air his sensible and enlightened approach to
using the geosciences to assist in issues impacting the
Shale gas and
fracking naturally came to the fore and Sir John appeared
somewhat baffled as well as concerned by Europes
disjointed approach to nursing our energy sources for our
expanding future generations (no nukes in Germany; fracking
banned before birth in France).
Sir John lamented the power of the anti-fracking
lobby with its headline grabbing stunts and slogans.
Thats as maybe, but surely its time (past time!)
oilfield sector and those in the fracking fraternity to
stand up and start educating and advising the public and those
authorities that need to know with clear information on
hydraulic fracturing and its potential good and safe use to
develop shale gas resources.
Like the industrial minerals industry, which also needs to
follow this path on informing the public of the importance of
sensible development of natural resources, the oilfield sector
is probably a bit conservative and slow off the mark. But that
must change, and soon.
Just the day after Sir Johns speech, the European
Parliament passed two oilfield resolutions. The first, that
member states are recognised to have the right to decide on
shale gas development for themselves but at the same time
adhering to robust regulatory regimes to minimise
The second involved an overhaul of existing EU regulations
related to shale gas
Above all, at least for now, Members of the European
Parliament rejected calls for the imposition of a EU-wide
moratorium on fracking, but urged that fracking should be
subject to tighter regulation. Now is the time for industry to
work alongside state governments and communities.
Omya goes for gas
As a neat link to this topic, it was timely of leading
calcium carbonate producer Omya Inc. to announce
its decision to switch to using liquefied natural gas (LNG)
from No.2 fuel oil at its Pittsford facility in Vermont,
LNG is fast becoming the natural gas fuel of the future with
the US recently forecast by the International Energy Agency (IEA) as being a net gas exporter
by 2020. The countrys well- documented shale gas
development is driving this trend.
But look out Down Under. Australia is set to overtake Qatar
as the worlds leading LNG producer with a raft of LNG
projects underway and on the drawing board. The feedstock for
all this LNG? unconventional gas resources in the form
of coal seam gas and shale gas, all requiring hydraulic
fracturing...and a quality and consistent supply of frac sand and ceramic proppants.
Global Head of Research and Consultant Editor at Industrial
Minerals, previously he was Editor of IM
+44 20 7827 6444; email@example.com
For the latest trends and developments in oilfield mineral
supply and demand dont miss
Oilfield Minerals Outlook: Middle East, 21-23
January 2013, Dubai.