The titanium dioxide (TiO2) industry could be
facing another decade of weak trading conditions unless it
rebalances the global supply chain for the pigment chemical,
delegates at the TZMI 2015 Congress in Shanghai, China, heard
David Robb, CEO of Australian mineral sands miner, Iluka
Resources Ltd, told the meeting that it was important to "get
the balance right" in the TiO2 industry.
He summarised the industry as suffering from "COBAL"
– namely, cash flow pressures, ownership
uncertainties, balance sheet distress, asset quality concerns
and leadership issues.
Robb said that Chinese pigment production had increased at a
compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 20% between 1999
and 2014 and was expected to continue rising through 2015.
However, the fact that China's TiO2 industry was
dominated by the sulphate-route production process rather than
the more efficient chloride-route had implications for the
industry's competitiveness, he intimated.
Simon Turner, president of the pigments and additives
division at US-based Huntsman Corp., the world's second largest
TiO2 supplier after The Chemours Co., said that his
company was confronting challenges facing the industry by
internally restructuring its business model and capacity.
Huntsman currently has a capacity of around 800,000 tpa
TiO2 spread across 10 facilities, accounting for 75%
of its business. Its major markets include Europe, accounting
for over half of Huntsman's activity in this area, followed by
the US, Asia-Pacific and others.
Turner outlined self-help measures such as productivity
improvement, including a 20% reduction in positions and
capacity optimisation involving a 100,000 tpa cut in output
from Huntsman's TiO2 plant in Calais, France. He
also pointed to restructuring in the company's German
operations, specifically at its Duisburg facility, which makes
speciality TiO2 and performance additives, and at
Uerdingen, where Huntsman runs a large scale TiO2
plant. This restructuring is leading to staff reductions at the
plants of 360 and 160, respectively.
In October, Huntsman confirmed that it intended to exit the
TiO2 business, either by spinning off the unit to
shareholders or by pursuing "a more strategic move".
Industry participants acknowledged the tough conditions
facing the industry as a whole and conceded that an upturn in
the market is needed to revive the fortunes of TiO2
manufacturers. Global demand for TiO2 averaged a
CAGR of 2% for the last ten years, Turner said, but noted that
this average reflected expansion of less than 1% per annum for
the last five years.
According to Bryan Snell, president of titanium technologies
at Chemours, the industry should be thinking of recovery over
the next decade. He pointed to recent media reports forecasting
long-term gloom for the TiO2 sector and highlighted
four key points he considered essential to ensuring the
businesses' success to 2025.
"Manufacturing with integrity" was the first of these
measures, Snell said, explaining that suppliers needed to set
and adhere to the standards required to meet customer needs.
Application development, which he described as a "priority" for
Chemours, and co-creation, or closer partnerships, with the
industry's value chain were also highlighted. Finally, he said
that the sector needed to be flexible, enabling it to adapt
positively to changes in trading conditions.
These targets need to be met, Snell said, in order to move
the TiO2 industry from being just "good enough" to
Henan Billions' zircon products and
ZOC (chloride zirconia)
(including standard grade and stabilised
Zirconia grinding media
Source: Henan Billions
Henan Billions outlines sales plans to
Chinese TiO2 producer Henan Billions Chemicals
Co. expects to sell around 350,000 tpa TiO2 between
2016 and 2018, including 100,000 tpa chloride-route
TiO2, the company's chairman, Ruiqing Tan, told
delegates at TZMI 2015.
Having merged with local rival Sichuan Lomon Titanium
Industry Co. in June this year, Billions is among the largest
TiO2 manufacturers in China and is one of only a few
to have chloride-route process technology for making the
pigment, in addition to sulphate-route production capacity.
The company's total sales volumes reached 260,000 tonnes
TiO2 including exports, in 2014, a figure that the
company expects to fall back to 250,000 in 2015, including
20,000 tpa chloride-route TiO2, as a result of the
Billions started producing chloride-route TiO2 in
mid-October this year and is aiming to reach 100,000 tpa
capacity. Its traditional sulphate-route production lines
currently have a combined capacity of more than 200,000 tpa,
according to Ruiqing.
The company has its own titanium slag plant with a capacity
of 150,000 tpa, which it plans to expand to 300,000 tpa in the
next one-to-two years to supply around two thirds of the
feedstock material needed for its chloride-route process.
Ruiqing said that the company is planning to continually
enlarge its production scale to 500,000 tpa TiO2
capacity, which will be equally divided between sulphate-route
and chloride-route production.
Commenting on the merger with Lomon, Ruiqing said that even
though the deal was inked in June, full integration of the two
companies is ongoing and will take some time.
The company also produces around 28,900 tpa zircon