Crouching tiger: an overview of the Indian TiO2 industry

By IM Staff
Published: Monday, 22 October 2018

Fastmarkets IM Correspondent Sunder Singh looks at India's titanium dioxide supply and demand dynamics, as well as the future of the industry.

India1  
iStock 

In India, about 57% of the titanium dioxide pigment produced is used in the paints and coating industry, followed by about 24% in plastics, paper (10%) and inks (3%). Other categories, such as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, synthetic fiber, rubber, refractories and electronics combined account for the remaining 6% of total consumption. 

Supply deficit

There is a huge mismatch between total titanium dioxide demand and supply in India. Following the launch of the Kilburn Chemicals plant in early 2018, India has a total installed capacity of 96,500 tonnes per year. Meanwhile, total titanium dioxide demand is about 124,000 tpy (for the financial year 2017-2018). Additionally, capacity utilization is low, meaning significant volumes of titanium dioxide are imported into India. 

India has been dependent on Chinese titanium dioxide supply for some time. But with stringent measures taken by the Chinese government since mid-2016 on small and highly polluting titanium dioxide producers, the ability for Indian titanium dioxide importers to secure supply is worsening. Chinese titanium dioxide plant closures also resulted in the titanium dioxide price touching historic highs in the past one and a half years. 

Huge anticipated demand

Titanium dioxide demand in India is expected to steadily grow in the coming years thanks to growth in the paints and coating and plastics industries; two sectors which account for more than 80% of the total titanium dioxide consumption in the country. 

During the 2017-2018 financial year, total paint production in India was estimated at 4.38 million tonnes, up 5% over the previous year. In value terms, the paint industry grew by about 8% to 43.5 billion rupees ($587.2 million) of which the decorative paints share was 74%, with the balance being industrial paints. The industry’s value grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.9% between 2011-2012 and 2017-2018. 

The per capita consumption of paints in India - at 3.23kg - is much lower compared with some developed economies. But the current low per capita consumption is viewed by domestic paint producers as an immense future growth opportunity.

Arun Nair, head of corporate communication at India’s largest paint producer, Asian Paints, told Fastmarkets IM, "TiO2 prices have become a big concern for the paint industry in the last three years. But after touching a multi-year high in June 2017, TiO2 prices have gradually eased and are currently down by around 14% from the peak. But there is huge uncertainty regarding the future prices. Most Indian paint companies import TiO2 from countries including China."

Raw materials resources

India has large deposits of ilmenite in the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. Total deposits are reported to be around 12% of the world’s reserves. Indian reserves of ilmenite - a feedstock for titanium dioxide pigments - are estimated to be more than 154 million tonnes.

Ilmenite resources in the country are concentrated in five well defined zones:

  • Over a stretch of 22km between Neendakara and Kayamkulam, Kollam district, Kerala (known as Chavara deposit after the main mining center).  
  • Over a 6km stretch from the mouth of River Valliyar to Colachal, Manavalakurichi and little beyond in Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu (known as MK deposit).
  • On Chatrapur coast stretching to about 18km between Rushikulya river mouth and Gopalpur lighthouse with an average width of 1.4 km in Ganjam district, Odisha (known as OSCOM deposit after IREL’s Orissa Sands Complex).
  • Brahmagiri deposit, which stretches for 30km from Girala nala to Village Bhabunia with an average width of 1.91km in Puri district, Odisha.
  • Bhavanapadu coast between Nilarevu and Sandipeta, which covers an area about 25km long and 700m wide in Srikakulam district, Andhra Pradesh.

Despite the significant reserves of ilmenite, India is importing large quantities of the material from Africa, highlighting the lack of mining capacity and an inability to optimize the production in mines and expand mine capacity. 

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India’s leading producer, VV Mineral, is planning to expand feedstock production in the
country as prices continue to rise.
VV Minerals 

New capacities

Kilburn Chemicals Ltd, a Kolkata-based company, commissioned its anatase grade titanium dioxide plant at Dahej, in the state of Gujarat, in March 2018.  Kiburn Chemicals is not new to the titanium dioxide industry. The company had been associated with titanium dioxide production at Tuticorin, with an installed capacity of 12,000 tpy of anatase grade material. Kilburn sold this manufacturing plant to V V Titanium Pigment Ltd in October 2011. 

Kilburn Chemicals said, "The slight delay from the planned target date of commissioning was mainly on account of floods and delayed availability of personnel for commissioning of imported equipment. Several challenges remain with respect to quality stabilization and ramping up of production and operations, as is normally expected in titanium dioxide plants. After achieving stability and growth in anatase production, the company will focus on further value addition in the form of rutile grade production." 

Elsewhere, Saraf Titanium Products Industry, a group company of Kolkata based Saraf Agencies Pvt Ltd, started production at a 30,000 tpy (sulfate route) titanium dioxide plant (both anatase and rutile grade) in early 2017 in the titanium complex at Ganjam district in the state of Orissa. The company has kept a provision for future expansion of titanium dioxide production. 

The company also produces 36,000 tpy of titanium slag and 20,000 tpy of pig iron at the plant.  

Tata Steel shelved a titanium dioxide project in the state of Tamil Nadu, which could have changed the face of the Indian titanium dioxide industry. Had the 100,000 tpy project been commissioned, the country would have become a net exporter of titanium dioxide pigment. 

The company had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the state government of Tamil Nadu and even initiated the land acquisition process for the project, but the project was abandoned for various reasons.

Tata Steel is a subsidiary of Tata Group, one of the largest business conglomerates in the country, with an annual turnover of more than 100 billion rupees in 2017. According to the MoU, the company had planned to invest 20 billion rupees ($512 million, based on the USD:INR exchange rate of November 6, 2007) to open the 100,000 tpy titanium dioxide pigment site. It would have produced titanium dioxide from ilmenite sands available in Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts of the state.  

With an installed capacity of 40,000 tpy of high quality titanium dioxide derived from rutile at its Kollam-based production facility, Kerala Minerals & Metals Ltd (KMML) is the largest titanium dioxide producer in India. The state-owned enterprise was incorporated in 1956. Major operations comprise mining, mineral separation and production of titanium dioxide. 

KMML also produces titanium sponge at its plant. The 1.5 billion rupee 500 tpy plant was commissioned in 2011 to develop titanium sponge after the country faced a major setback in its defense research works owing to the scarcity of titanium.  

The company owns four blocks of beach sand in Kollam for mining, ensuring raw material availability for operations. Apart from rutile-grade titanium dioxide pigment, KMML also produces ilmenite, rutile, zircon, sillimanite and synthetic rutile under the brand name Kemox for use in paints, paper, cosmetics, rubber, plastics and ceramics.

KMML has been considering expanding capacity by 20,000 tpy of titanium dioxide at its Kollam plant for some time. The company has received environmental and other clearance for the project but has not yet started the expansion program. 

Travancore Titanium Products Ltd (TTPL), another Kerala state government undertaking, has an installed capacity to produce 17,000 tpy of titanium dioxide pigment by sulphate process at its plant at Kochuveli, Thiruvananthapuram. 

The company is the oldest titanium dioxide producer in the country, having commenced commercial production in the 1950s.   

Saraf Titanium Products Industry commenced operations at its 30,000 tpy titanium dioxide plant in early 2017.  Located over 260 acres of land at Chhatrapur, Ganjam district within the premises of its parent company, Saraf Agencies Pvt Ltd in the state of Odisha, the new manufacturing plant is located in the proximity of premises belonging to Indian Rare Earth Ltd (IREL). The company procures Ilmenite from this IREL unit as well as from a private company with a unit in Srikakulam in the adjoining state of Andhra Pradesh.

The project was first proposed in 2005 but was beset by problems for many years. In 2007, the company signed the MoU with two Russian state-run companies and a private entity firm, but the Russian companies backed out of the deal later.  In 2008, Saraf Group entered a MoU with the Odisha government to take up the project on its own.

The technology for the titanium slag plant has been supplied by Chinese company HPWY. Another Chinese company, Chongqing Chemical Engineering Design & Research Institute (CCDRI), has supplied process technology, basic and detailed engineering for the titanium dioxide plant.

A key executive from the production department at Saraf Titanium told Fastmarkets IM, on condition of anonymity, "The quality standards of ilmenite available in Odisha is better than the ilmenite deposits in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Titanium content in Kerala ilmenite is 58%, Tamil Nadu ilmenite is 54% and Odisha ilmenite is 50%. However, the chromium content in Odisha ilmenite is much lower, which is an important factor in ilmenite specification."

V V Titanium Pigments Pvt Ltd (VVTi) has operated a 14,500 tpy (anatase grade) titanium dioxide production plant at Meelavittan SIPCOT Industrial Estate, Tuticorin in the state of Tamil Nadu since 2011. The plant was previously run by Kilburn Chemicals between 1994 and 2011, before VVTi took over the plant. It sources its raw material needs from V V Minerals, one of the largest industrial minerals companies in the country.