Tight supply of high-grade titanium feedstock to impede pigment production in Europe
Published: Thursday, 19 July 2018
European pigment producers must contend with high-grade titanium feedstock supply tightness following declines in output of rutile and titanium slag from key producing nations.
Pigment producers in Europe are facing
a shortage of high-grade titanium feedstocks rutile and
titanium slag following a decline in supply of both materials
from Australia, Canada and South Africa.
The tightened supply of rutile largely reflects a decrease
in output from Iluka’s closed Murray Basin
operation, while availability, current prices and contracts
are already being affected by the announcement from Tronox that
it will remove around 20,000 tonnes of rutile and leucoxene
from the market by end of this year.
As well, the imminent
closure of Sibelco’s Stradbroke Island mine
will remove up to 35,000 tonnes of rutile from the market by
This supply tightness recently triggered a rise in rutile
prices for the third quarter of 2018.
Minerals’ assessment for rutile concentrate min
95% TiO2 bulk cif China rose to $950-1,100 per tonne on
July 5 from $850-950 per tonne a week earlier, while the
assessment for the price of rutile
concentrate min 95% TiO2 large volumes for pigment fob
Australia increased to $930-1,020 per tonne on July 5 from
$800-900 per tonne in the prior week.
In times of tight rutile availability, welding customers
usually pay a premium for certain types of material due to a
general preference for natural rutile and the inability of many
customers to use synthetic material. This usually results in a
further reduction in the availability of natural rutile for
Although many chloride pigment producers are able to switch
between slag and synthetic rutile, some could struggle to
source sufficient feedstock given the low availability of slag
Of the global pigment producers, Chemours has the greatest
flexibility in switching feedstocks but not all pigment
producers have the same ability.
Many market participants have tipped Kronos, a major global
pigment producer that purchased an estimated 38% of globally
imported rutile last year, to feel the deepest effects of
dwindling availability of high-grade titanium feedstock.
One market source suggested that Kronos’
Belgium-based plant requires a predominantly rutile feedstock
and will therefore be forced to pay a higher price to its
The company may already be feeling the effects of the pigment
One trader told Industrial Minerals that Kronos’
lead times for chloride route production are extending -
reaching around eight weeks in Europe compared with four or
five weeks for its rivals.
While it is unclear if this is connected to the pigment
producer’s feedstock supply, a second market
source "wouldn’t be surprised" if that were the
case, he said.
Kronos could not be reached for comment at the time of
Pigment producers that can switch to chloride titanium slag or
those who predominantly rely on chloride titanium slag will
struggle more to source this material because of major
disruptions at Rio Tinto’s South African Richards
Bay Minerals (RBM) operation.
120,000-150,000 tonnes of chloride slag have been removed from
the market because of these disruptions, one market
participant estimated, with an unknown volume of sulfate slag
removed from the market due to operational interruptions to
operations at Rio Tinto’s plant in Sorel-Tracy in
the Canadian province of Quebec.
has cut its titanium dioxide production forecast for 2018
to 1.1-1.2 million tonnes from its previous guidance of 1.1-1.3
million tonnes in April and 1.2-1.4 million tonnes in February,
it said earlier this week.
But while many fear a complete shutdown of Rio
Tinto’s RBM operation, most market participants
agree that it is not in the local government’s
interest to do so and would therefore make every effort to keep
the facility open.