Could rising titanium dioxide prices drive
another wave of substitutions, similar to that which cut the
use of the pigment back in 2011-12?
With titanium dioxide prices breaking multi-year
highs, some market participants are reporting a trend
toward decreased inclusion of titanium dioxide in coatings.
One European titanium trader
told IM the move was being driven by
discomfort with the volatility of titanium dioxide prices,
which makes it hard for pigment consumers to forecast margins.
(See chart below for the titanium dioxide price development
over the past 6 months.)
And an executive at an international
pigment company said sales of a lower-titanium white pigment
were "though the roof".
"TiO2 has always been the expensive
element [in coatings]" he said.
Last time titanium dioxide prices rose
sharply, back in 2011-12, a change in formula reduced the use
of titanium in many commonly used coatings by up to 40%.
Rather the extension to stretch the amount
of titanium dioxide used with the addition of binders and
extenders including calcium carbonate, kaolin, and talc, as
well as other additives to maintain the performance of the
But there is some scepticism as to whether
a similar reduction can be achieved now, without compromising
the quality of the coatings.
"All technicians worked to reduce
[titanium dioxide use] back then," a European dealer told
IM, saying it was unlikely that further
reductions could be achieved.
"The big wave of substitution happened
back in 2011 [when] people had room to substitute" he said.
Other market participants saw the drive
toward substitution driven more by environmental factors than
"Titanium dioxide substitution is not due
to higher prices, it is the sustainability," a calcium
carbonate producer, who sells into the pigment market, talking
to IM earlier this year, said.
The production of titanium dioxide carries
a controversial environmental burden, particularly when the ore
is converted through the sulphate process, which produces large
amounts of acidic waste.
In China, the worlds’ top
titanium dioxide exporter, production is overwhelming
The environmental burden of the industry
has left it in the firing line of the Chinese government, which
is on a drive to reduce pollution.
In fact, this slowdown of Chinese
production, as sulphate-route producers are
shut down ahead of a planned drive to increaseless-polluting
chloride-route output, is a key driver of the recent price
And buyers are echoing the concerns of the
A purchasing director at a major
international paint company told IM "we are
always trying to lower titanium dioxide use."
The director said that it was
environmental concerns, not current elevated prices, which were
the encouraging the ongoing drive to reduce usage.
"It’s not a sustainable
product," he said, "it always makes sense to reduce