Prices: TiO2 and samarium

By Laura Syrett
Published: Monday, 21 December 2015

TiO2 2016 contracts negotiated in December; prices edging close to production costs. Samarium's use in permanent magnets could boost prices but oversupply remains a challenge.

TiO2 to trail in 2016

Price declines for titanium dioxide (TiO2) reported in the final quarter of 2015 have not taken the market to a floor, industry sources told IM in December.

They said that the latest cuts in prices have come as producers offer cheaper deals on higher-quality types of TiO2 – with every quarter of 2015 yielding fresh discounts. More could be seen in 2016, industry observers warned.

In Q2, manufacturers of the pigment chemical had mooted their intention to keep prices stable and not give in to pressure from buyers, however the growing surplus of supply, coupled with the reversal of rising prices in China, forced producers to renege on these intentions.

The global TiO2 industry is now fiercely competitive, with many companies said to be operating on the narrowest of margins and even selling some grades at a loss.

Both suppliers and consumers of TiO2 in the paints and paper industries have suggested that sliding prices could come to a halt in H1 2016 if the sector decides collectively to take a stand on margin pressure.

If rutile, ilmenite and leucoxene prices also continue to fall, TiO2 companies may find they have more room to manoeuvre on margins.

Negotiations for 2016 contracts were reported to be taking place in December and prices are expected to remain flat into January.

Prices1  

Titanium dioxide pigment, high quality, bulk volume, CFR Asia $1,650-1,850/tonne

Titanium dioxide pigment, bulk volume, CIF Northern Europe, $1,900-2,100/tonne

Titanium dioxide pigment, bulk volume, CIF US $2,100-2,300/tonne

Titanium dioxide pigment, bulk volume, CIF Latin America $1-1.2/lb


Samarium may fare better than other light rare earths

Prices for samarium metal and oxide tracked those of other rare earth elements in 2015. Prices for oxide material stood at just $1.9-2.9/kg FOB China in December, down from prices of $5-7/kg 12 months previously.

Sources said that demand for samarium had been weak throughout the year and that the proportion of excess supply continued to stack up against demand, pulling prices down and meaning that they are unlikely to recover in the near term.

Samarium benefits from a wider application base than other low value light rare earths like cerium. The element is used as a catalyst in certain organic reactions. Samarium iodide (SmI2) is used by organic research chemists to make synthetic versions of natural products. 

The oxide, samaria, is used for making special infrared adsorbing glass and cores of carbon arc-lamp electrodes and as a catalyst for the dehydration and dehydrogenation of ethanol. As a compound with cobalt (SmCo5), the element is used in making a type of permanent magnet material. 

Magnets have been highlighted as one of the few growing markets for rare earths and industry sources told IM that samarium could see a reversal in its price trend sooner than other light rare earths if the pace of expansion in this sector picks up.

The main challenge facing samarium at present is availability of supply. 

Chinese output of samarium remains high, but some industry observers have predicted that prices for both the oxide and the metal could stabilise or even begin to rise by the second half of next year.

Prices2  

Cerium oxide, min 99%, FOB, China, bulk $1.8-2.3/kg

Dysprosium oxide, min 99%, FOB, China, bulk $215-240/kg

Europium oxide, min 99%, FOB, China, bulk $165-210/kg

Lanthanum oxide, min 99%, FOB, China, bulk $1.9-2.4/kg

Neodymium oxide, min 99%, FOB, China, bulk $39-42/kg

Praseodymium oxide, min 99%, FOB, China, bulk $53-60/kg

Samarium oxide, min 99%, FOB, China, bulk $1.9-2.9/kg


IM’s full price listing will now only be published online at www.indmin.com/PricingDatabase. If you have any comments or concerns, or wish to discuss any of the grades or prices listed, please contact Laura Syrett, Prices Editor, at lsyrett@indmin.com.

Bold indicates a price change from the previous month (it may have changed more than once during the month). All prices are listed in US$ and quoted per tonne unless indicated.