Establishing a detailed view of 2018’s market
fundamentals and assessing what trends are now developing is
critical to understanding how the supply and demand balance
will develop. And the impact this will have on pricing was a
major talking point at a Fastmarkets IM panel discussion the
Fluorspar 2018 conference in Johannesburg, South Africa on
Gaining an accurate overview of the global supply and demand
balance has been challenging over the calendar year due to a
lack of clarity on the effect of environmental inspections on
China’s annual fluorspar output.
Kerry Satterthwaite, division director of carbon and
chemicals for industry consultancy Roskill, referred to
research that shows that 600,000 tonnes came out of the supply
side in China in 2017.
This 10% year-on-year decrease in global supplies has
created shortness in the market and led to price increases
across all production markets.
The latest Fastmarkets IM price assessment for acidspar, 97%
CaF2, wet filtercake, fob China $410-500 per tonne on Thursday
October 4. It was $340-360 per tonne a year ago.
In 2017, global fluorspar supplies were at their lowest
level in a decade at 5.7 million tonnes produced, comprising 3
million tonnes of acidspar and 2.7 million tonnes of
Acidspar fell 25% from 4 million tonnes produced in 2016,
while metspar production was up from 2.3 million tonnes in
Both metspar and acidspar are becoming more scarce, which is
limiting spot market activity and placing upward price pressure
on raw materials and fluorine products.
The drop in acidspar production has coincided with strong
"Hydrogen fluoride (HF) demand follows the same trends as
acidspar. You need HF as a precursor for refrigerants,
aluminium fluoride (AlF3) and fluoropolymers,"
Mexichem’s upstream business director Guillermo
Gallegos said at the panel discussion.
"If acidspar supply is short, there will be an impact on HF
volumes and thus prices," he added. "We are seeing this
situation in 2018 and most probably [will also see it] in
Fastmarkets IM does not price HF.
Mexichem, the largest single producer of HF by volume, has
both upstream and downstream operations.
"Despite the fact that new fluorspar producers are entering
the market, we believe that overall demand, including from
China, will absorb any incremental increase in supply,"
Gallegos said. "The market balance could continue to be short,
resulting in price increases."
Regarding metspar-consuming sectors - predominantly steel -
Satterthwaite estimates that while global crude steel
production will be broadly flat this year, there will be a
recovery in 2019.
Metspar demand will be slightly limited in steel
applications, and Satterthwaite believes that China has reached
its peak in terms of steel output.
Gallegos, however, noted that steel demand has recovered in
the United States, having dipped in 2015-2016, which means
metspar supplies are likely to be tighter because no new
significant metspar sources have been identified in recent
years. He added that this will be influenced by trade conflicts
between the US and China.
Even with current end markets performing strongly, Chris
Potgieter, director business development at the South
Africa-based consultancy BFluor, told the discussion group that
he expects downstream markets to become more fragmented as new
products are developed.
There have also been shifts in the market in recent years.
For example, French conglomerate Solvay has gradually moved out
of the fluorspar mining sector and is focused on developing its
And focusing on downstream products is a shift that mirrors
what has happened in the Chinese market, where production has
come offline and there has been a focus on developing
FLUORSPAR 2018: What we learned this year
Global supply has decreased. More than
500,000 tonnes of fluorspar came out of global supply in
2017. This followed on from 500,000 tonnes leaving the supply
side between 2012 and 2016 due to weak pricing in the market.
Market participants expect prices to move.
These expectations are already being reflected in Fastmarkets
IM’s 4 October price assessment where the
acidspar cif Rotterdam price spiked by $70 as a result of
short supply and consumer concern about securing material for
Trade flows out of China have diminished.
Research presented by Oliver Rhode, chief executive officer
of consultancy Xenops, shows that Chinese acidspar exports to
major import markets have declined steadily over the past
Manufacturing value-added products has become more
prevalent in China. As a percentage of local
production, domestic consumption is now more than 90%. A
decade ago, it was under 80%, and in 2000, it was marginally
End uses for fluorspar are becoming increasingly
fragmented. A few years ago there was only one
fluorine-based polymer product on the market and now there
Fluorocarbon refrigerants still have room for growth
in emerging markets. Strong growth is anticipated in
South America, Africa and across Asia, according to research
from IHS. There will be declines in Europe, Australia and
Two new projects will hit nameplate in early
2019. Canada Fluorspar and Sepfluor have both
asserted they will be at nameplate capacity in the early part
of next year, producing a combined 400,000 tonnes per