Cogs turn in CCM market

By Siobhan Lismore-Scott
Published: Monday, 22 April 2013

The caustic calcined magnesia (CCM) market is not as large as the dead burned magnesia market, but there have been some interesting movements and some new spaces are emerging. Siobhan Lismore, Editor, looks into this market.

Acquisitions in the caustic calcined magnesia (CCM) market and a shifting of suppliers mean that as well as spaces opening up, there may be some potential supply blockages in the future.

Of note were the acquisitions by RHI in 2011. The Austria-based company made significant moves to become entirely self sufficient in its dead burned magnesia (DBM) and fused magnesia (FM) production. Firstly it acquired Premier Periclase Ltd (PPL), a seawater magnesia producer of low silica, high density, low iron oxide, large periclase crystal DBM with a 75,000 tpa capacity at Drogheda, Co. Louth, Republic of Ireland.

PPL also has production capacity for 80,000 tpa CCM and 90,000 tpa Mg(OH)2.

In the same year, RHI acquired SMA Minerals Magnesia SA, renamed Normag AS, a producer of high quality seawater CCM for speciality markets at Porsgrunn, Norway.

Here RHI plans to use the CCM as feedstock for a new €70m, 80,000 FM plant at Porsgrunn with 10 EAF, the largest single FM plant outside China. The plant started up in late 2012, but was temporarily closed in Q1 2013. This was due to a technical default. Now, however, eight-furnaces are up and running, RHI confirmed with IM.

The acquisition of SMA was portrayed as RHI successfully vertically integrating and expanding its FM supply - but, by doing so, two CCM producers were taken off the market.

“There’s a question mark over SMA - will it continue to supply as they were?” Roland Murenik, manager business development & research, magnesia division, ICL-IP, Israel, asks.

“It was told that RHI would run the plant as fused magnesia so if that happens then they will disappear [as a CCM outlet],” he added.

“Traditionally RHI is quite a small CCM producer and CCM is a niche market for us - and that’s where we see RHI in future as well,” Bernhard Goliasch, RHI’s head of supply chain, told IM.

   


QMAG


Multinational privately-owned industrial minerals group SCR-Sibelco NV acquired Queensland Magnesia Pty Ltd (QMAG) of Australia in April 2012.

QMAG mines, pre-concentrates, and beneficiates magnesite at Kunwarara, and processes ore to CCM, DBM and FM grades at its Parkhurst plant at Rockhampton, 70km south of the mine.

The company produces only small volumes of CCM, CEO Campbell Jones told IM.

“We are a small producer and only supply small volumes of CCM. As in the past our main volume is refractory,” he added.

QMAG produces 115,000 tpa of DBM, 35,000 tpa of Electrofused Magnesia (EFM) and 175,000 tpa of CCM, according to a presentation given by the company at the Queensland Energy Forum in 2011. However, since then the company has moved to purchase some additional CCM capacity.

In August 2011 QMAG signed an agreement to purchase and restart an Australian cement plant to facilitate an additional 100,000 tpa of CCM. This was expected to be online in 2012-13.



Kumas enters the fore

Kumas, the Turkish DBM producer, moved into the CCM space in May 2011 with the acquisition of Bomex Holding’s 98% shareholding in Bommag Manyezit Sanayi ve Ticaret Ltd Si.

The company has expanded CCM capacity, at its now-named Tavsanlõ plant, to 50,000 tpa, Nafiz ...zdemir, marketing manager, told IM.

“In our first year we spent to improve the reputation of the plant and products that were destroyed by the ex owner of the company,” ...zdemir said.

“We invested in very fine products in our plant. After we did that we achieved good sales level for the use of animal feed and grinding,” he added.

The company consumes 15,000 tonnes of CCM for use in producing FM.

“We are consuming high quality for ourselves and selling medium and low quality. Our aim is producing more high purity CCM and selling to the market,” ...zdemir told IM.

Kumas said it will aim to increase its CCM production in the next two years, to 90,000 tpa.

“We are planning to produce more high purity materials,” ...zdemir told IM, emphasising that the company will continue to sell CCM into the animal feed and fertiliser industries.



Grecian stays ahead of the game

Greece has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons over the last year. But for Grecian Magnesite, despite the country’s poor economic performance, the future looks positive.

The company has worked hard to implement cost-cutting measures and has invested heavily in research and development (R&D).

“Despite the very difficult situation Greece has faced over the last years resulting in increased taxes, increased financial costs, as well as increased environmental costs, we have managed to reduce somewhat our production cost,” Pantelis Vetoulas, sales and marketing manager at Grecian Magnesite, told IM.

The company has decreased its raw material cost (kiln feed magnesite) with investments in new beneficiation technologies, the use of bio-fuels in its kilns and the utilisation of its old magnesite stock piles.

This has resulted in increased production capacity, lower costs and a better quality of kiln feed magnesite (hence better quality of CCM), Vetoulas said.

Production of new high purity (natural) CCM grades, from Grecian’s Turkish affiliated company Akdeniz, is continuing. This holds a MgO content of up to 98% with extremely low impurities (Fe2O3 < 0.05%) heavy metals and trace elements as well as advanced physical properties such as specific surface area up to 100m2/g.

It also worked to double production capacity of its mine and plant in Akdeniz, Turkey, to >30.000 tpa CCM



The global CCM market

The CCM market is not the largest end use for magnesite. Global production in 2011 was 3.05m tonnes, of 10.7m tonnes (see pie chart of total magnesia products).

The largest part of the market (between 1.3-1.6m tpa) is for general chemical grades, construction and agriculture. An estimated 500,000 tpa of the market is intended for environmental and high purity magnesia chemicals and 100,000-150,000 tpa is intended for specialities, according to ICL Industrial Products.

As can be seen by the value pyramid (graphic 1) it is this, the smallest market sector, which commands the highest value. It is at this level that prices will leap from the $200-400/tonne level (see table 3) to be over $1,000/tonne.



China

China is the largest CCM producer, accounting for 49% of the CCM market (1.5m tonnes).

Of this, in 2011, 264,000 tonnes was exported to outside markets and three countries - the Netherlands, the US and Japan - accounted for 66% of exports (see table 3).

China remains a factor for those companies producing outside of the regions, sources told IM. This is mainly true in lower end markets, as the country does not tend to compete in the higher specification CCM market.

“As far as our product is concerned China is not an issue,” Murenik told IM.

For others, however, China remains an important issue.

“China is still a factor, due to low demands in China and high free capacities,” Goliasch told IM.

Doug Bopst, VP sales at Martin Marietta Magnesia Specialties (MMMS), US, agreed, telling IM that because of its position as a low-end supplier, China remains extremely important in the CCM market.

MMMS, with its brine sourced synthetic CCM and Mg(OH)2 production at Manistee, Michigan, produces light burned, hard burned and speciality grades for medium to high end CCM markets, such as chemicals, glass, ceramics, water treatment, rubber, and plastics.

In 2010, MMMS entered the nutrition market with its Food Grade MgO (Marinco FCC).

Another reason why China is a factor in the CCM market is because there are major discrepancies between prices (see table 5), producers told IM.

“There is a discrepancy between agricultural CCM sourcing cost from China and the market price,” Hagen Schultes, president of Baymag told IM.

“The cost has risen significantly since late 2012, but the market has not followed yet,” he added.

Elsewhere, Grecian Magnesite agreed that China remains ever important in the CCM market.”China still remains a critical/decisive factor in the CCM supply [and] pricing,” Pantelis Vetoulas, told IM.

Prices

While most industry participants maintain a silence on pricing of CCM most said they believed levels to still be in line with those published in IM (see table 4).

Depending where, or which market is being targeted, opinions divide as to what the next quarter, or even the next year, may bring. According to several different market sources, Chinese prices have seen some upside, but these have not yet been carried into contracts Ñ which means there is the chance that prices could rise in the next quarter.

Elsewhere, in the US, prices remain stable, according to Doug Bopst, vice president of sales, MMMS.

“Caustic calcined markets for synthetic magnesia are mature in North America. Markets can be described as flat to down,” he told IM.

“I have not seen an increase in CCM price in the last year, although one or two people have said that they expect increases,” Gerry Spoors, Development Manager of Omex Environmental Ltd, told IM.

For Israel Chemicals Ltd (ICL), which produces high quality CCM, prices “have marginally increased,” according to Murenik.

“There’s an acceptance of the fact that there is a lot of cost input into producing quality magnesia. This has been recognised by customers. There’s an increase that comes with quality magnesia in terms of regulatory; consistent quality; consistent service these are things that customers appreciate,” he added.

Bopst agreed that input costs had increased, citing increased energy, raw materials, taxes, logistics as well as regulatory costs.

Kumas, meanwhile, was more frank, saying that the cost of energy has seen an increase of price of around 8%.

“Prices of CCM have been changing between $300-680/tonne FOB Gemlik,” ...zdemir told IM.

A change in pricing is anticipated in the future also, with most sources saying that they believe that the increase in energy, personnel costs and regulatory pressures will doubtless see increases in prices for 2013.

However contracts are expected to remain in place, with spot pricing reserved for smaller quantities, RHI told IM.

“For big quantities: contracts are agreed far in advance, for small quantities: rather spot pricing,” Goliasch told IM.

Vetoulas meanwhile said that Grecian Magnesite had “seen a softening trend in CCM prices (with some ups and downs) since the end of 2011 (...) with CCM prices currently stabilising, at relatively low levels.”

The main drivers, he added, were Chinese prices, smuggling (including North Korea via China), new CCM producers and capacity increases of existing producers and the downturn in the global economy.

“Due to our substantial product range and diversity of applications served, our CCM prices can vary from €200/tonne up to Û600/tonne,” Vetoulas added.

Growth in demand

Each source questioned had different ideas as to where demand growth will take place. For RHI, there had been an upwards shift in demand for CCM used for water and gas desulfuration (for chemical, pulp and paper, leather tanning.)

For Kumas, demand is expected to increase in the insulation board endmarket, according to ...zdemir.

For Omex, there has been a marked growth in demand in trace element additives.

“Biogas is produced in anaerobic digesters, by the action of microbes on waste materials and the amount of gas produced can be substantially enhanced by adding essential trace elements as food supplements for the biomass,” Spoors told IM.

The market for trace elements is increasing worldwide and Omex has expanded its sales team to increase its efforts in this area.

“A rather new trend would be the successful replacement (wherever technically feasible) of synthetic CCM grades with high purity natural CCM grades in non-commodity, specialty applications,” Vetoulas divulged to IM.

“Volumes in these markets have been rather stable with signs of moderate increase with prices decreasing, in certain cases, due to the lower production cost/selling price of natural CCM versus synthetic CCM,” he added.

Regulation

Without doubt, the most regulated end market for CCM is the pharmaceutical and food market - and in recent years this has become even more stringent.

In the US regulations pertaining to CCM in food or drugs is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

There is more than one set of regulations. Companies must adhere to the ICH Good Manufacturing Practise (GMP) for active pharmaceutical ingredients.

This sets out quality, safety, efficacy and multidisciplinary guidelines.

Companies also must adhere to the US FDA Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Current GMP for finished pharmaceuticals (Q7A/CFR 211).

This sets out the minimum GMP for preparing drugs for both humans and animals.

In Europe, companies must also adhere to the ICH regulatory framework, which includes GMP I and II and Annex 18 Part 2. The industry is regulated by the European Medicines Industry.

As well as this, companies will have to adhere to regulatory frameworks within their own country.

ICL, which produces CCM for the high-end specialities sector, must adhere to all these different frameworks, Murenik told IM.

“For our pharmaceutical and food grades we require stringency in terms of the materials and stringent requirements from regulatory bodies,” Murenik explained.

The company is the largest producer of CCM for the specialities sector.

“If you look across the breadth of the world, we are the largest. We are by no means the largest producer of CCM but I think in terms of applications, we have the largest diversity,” Murenik added.

Agrimarkets

The agricultural sector is a vital end market for magnesia. CCM is typically combined with animal feed and given to cattle and sheep, and blended with fertilisers to increase nutrients in farming soil.

Grass tetany is primarily a magnesium deficiency disease of cattle and sheep that causes uncoordination, muscular tremors, and even death.

One of the most effective aids in prevention of grass tetany is by feeding cattle a high-magnesium mineral supplement made with CCM.

In the US, the use of CCM in feed has decreased, David Johnson from Premier Magnesia told IM.

“The [CCM] market has been little changed with the exception of the feed market,” he said.

“Droughts in the US over the last two summers have significantly reduced the amount of dairy and beef cattle. The herds have been culled due to the high cost of sustaining the animals with minerals and supplements as opposed to prairie grass,” he added.

“This led to reduced beef prices in the near term, but will lead to higher beef costs due to continued demand, but less available cattle. This cycle will not correct itself for at least 3 -5 years assuming no other significant droughts,” Johnson said.

New end markets?

There are few new end markets reported for CCM, although there has been strong growth in the pharmaceutical and food sector. According to Murenik, this sector has grown the fastest - but it has now stabilised and is not diversifying.

“It’s important to mention that in CCM there is a rather limited product/market development since the R&D, promotional capabilities, lobbying capabilities of the producers is small due to their relatively small size,” Vetoulas said.

“Despite this, Grecian Magnesite, with its R&D centre, currently working on new projects,” he added.

Elsewhere, Spoors told IM that a new end market is advancing for magnesia used in biological systems where it is used for pH correction in anaerobic digestion for effluent treatment. These systems rely on keeping the pH carefully controlled around neutrality.



CCM Basics

Mike O’Driscoll

CCM is one of a series of magnesia grades (MgO) manufactured from feedstock magnesia containing raw material treated to increasing increments of calcination: 600-1,000¼C for CCM, but >1,450¼C for dead burned magnesia (DBM), and 2,800-3,000¼C for fused magnesia (FM).

CCM feedstock raw material can be either natural hard rock magnesia minerals, mainly magnesite, but also brucite, dolomite, and serpentinite (naturally produced CCM); or derived from seawater, and magnesia enriched lake and well brines (synthetically produced CCM).

Natural CCM is produced by calcining crushed magnesite (or other magnesia mineral) in a kiln (multiple hearth furnace (MHF), rotary, or shaft) at 600-1,000¼C to form a concentrated source of chemically active magnesia.

Synthetic CCM is produced by precipitating magnesium hydroxide from seawater or brines, using an alkali mineral (lime, dolime), which is then compacted, washed, and filtered prior to calcination usually in a MHF or shaft kiln.

Other synthetic processes to form high purity CCM include the Aman process (steam pyrohydrolysis of brine) and the Pattinson process (purification by carbonation of magnesium hydroxide slurries sourced from dolomite, magnesite).

CCM grades range from 85-98% MgO. Synthetic CCM is generally superior in quality, and more expensive, than natural CCM, such as:

*>97% MgO

*<0.2% Fe2O3, <0.3% Al2O3, <0.5% SiO2, <1.0% CaO

*smaller particle sizes

*greater bulk density

*whiter

*higher surface area, >170m2/g

Taken from “Magnesia blasts back, September 2010



LEHMANN & Voss & Co. found Dutch subsidiary

Germany’s Lehmann & Voss & Co., the well-known expert of natural and synthetic magnesia products has established an office in the Netherlands.

“The new subsidiary company LEHVOSS Nederland B. V. is the 8th subsidiary of the LEHVOSS-Group and has been founded especially to strengthen our magnesia activities globally,” the company told IM.



Magnesia exports quotas

In 2012 Chinese magnesia exports were dominated by five companies which were based in Liaoning: Liaoning Jiayi Metals & Minerals Co. Ltd, Haicheng Houying Trade Group Co. Ltd, Jiachen Group Co. Ltd, Haicheng Huayu Refractory Group Import & Export Co. Ltd, and Haicheng Xiyang Group import and Export Co. Ltd.

For H1 2013 the following companies claimed the largest share of quotas for CCM and DBM:



And for ‘other magnesia’ the following 10 companies had the largest share of the export quota: