TZMI 2017: Chloride TiO2 capacity increases will drive slag shortage

Published: Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Attendees at a conference in Hong Kong remain upbeat on pigment prices, as they face a titanium slag shortage in the years to come.

hong kong  
Hong Kong hosted the latest edition of the TZMI conference. (Source: oataro/flickr)

The market for titanium dioxide (TiO2) is looking at a major chloride slag shortfall if production is not ramped up in the next few years, attendees at the annual TZMI conference in Hong Kong told Industrial Minerals.

The mood was upbeat at the conference, held on November 13-15, with TiO2 producers noting the increase in pigment prices compared with last year, and with many mineral sand producers confident that the market strength would continue to come through into feedstock demand.

But a particular bottleneck was seen in the production of titanium slag, the high-purity feedstock which is likely to be increasingly favored for chloride-route TiO2 production.

Chloride-route TiO2 production is considered to be less polluting, and the result has traditionally been viewed as a higher-quality product.

A number of attendees and speakers at the conference downplayed the importance of TiO2 quality for end-consumers in the current market, which is marked by shortages and a scramble for short-term supply.

But the Chinese government remains committed to chloride-route production, with an effective ban on new sulfate-route capacity in the years ahead.

And as a number of attendees pointed out to Industrial Minerals, this means that titanium slag production will have to increase.

"There is plenty of mineral sands around," one senior employee at a TiO2 producer told Industrial Minerals. "But high-grade ilmenite… and rutile - not so much."

This shortfall in natural chloride route feedstocks is likely to drive sharply higher demand for chloride slag.

And as one slag producer pointed out, world output remains mostly in the hands of a few companies, including Rio Tinto, Tronox and TiZer. A titanium slag production facility in Jizan, Saudi Arabia, operated by Cristal, is set to be acquired by Tronox in a current takeover process.

Rio Tinto produced about 1.05 million tonnes of slag in 2016. In the same year, Tronox reported nameplate capacity of 410,00 tonnes per year of slag production, while TiZer saw capacity at 230,000 tpy.

Chloride slag normally consists of around 90-95% TiO2, meaning that even the 500,000 tpy of greenfield chloride-route TiO2 planned by Chinese producer Lomon Billions alone would put huge pressure on slag supplies.

Bruce Griffin, senior vice president of strategic development at Lomon Billions, which is China’s largest TiO2 producer, told the conference that sourcing feedstock for the company’s new chloride capacity would be a priority in the years to come.

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