Flat glass sales by producers in the United States were
mostly higher in 2018, easing the glass supply shortage seen
in the past two years, according to research from Key Media
& Research (KMR).
This indicated a turnaround for a sector hit by unexpected
shutdowns and a natural disaster in 2016 and 2017, according to
But supply of soda ash, a critical raw material for glass
production, remains tight and that has caused producers to
increase their sales prices.
Several major US soda ash producers have announced price
increases in the past six months as a result of tight soda ash
Genesis Alkali, which operates in the US state of Wyoming,
raised its packaged prices by $15 per ton from September 13
On the same day, Tata Chemicals increased its price by $10
per ton for US and Canada bulk shipments from its plant in the
Green River basin, Wyoming.
Another Wyoming-based operative is Solvay, which introduced
a $10 per ton increase on its soda ash prices as of January 1,
All prices increases were within Fastmarkets’
monthly soda ash price range, so the assessment was unchanged
over the period.
Fastmarkets’ monthly price assessment for soda
ash, natural, dense, large contracts, fob Wyoming, US, was
$200-230 per tonne on January 31.
|Flat glass, or plane glass, is used in
walls and vehicle windscreens.
Marian Kroell, via upsplash
Meanwhile, flat glass supply is coming back to the US market
after shutdowns that have plagued manufacturers over the past
"Major float lines in the US [are] going back into operation
in 2018," the KMR report said. "In 2017, three of the five
primary glass manufacturers with float lines in the US faced
unexpected shutdowns and extended repairs due to major
A tornado damaged a float glass factory owned by Pilkington
North America in LaSalle County, Illinois. The plant had been
expected to return to operation in November 2017, having been
damaged by a tornado in February that year.
Pilkington was unable to confirm how long the plant was
offline when contacted by Fastmarkets.
Meanwhile, an explosion on June 3, 2017, at a Guardian plant
in Iowa took that plant offline. A company statement made at
the time said that glass production would "resume soon".
Guardian was not available for comment when contacted by
Elsewhere, a fire in August 2017 halted operations of both
production lines at a Vitro Architectural Glass plant in
Pennsylvania for a year. Vitro was not available for comment to
verify when operations resumed.
When asked at the beginning of 2018, 91% of glass suppliers
told KMR that they expected sales to increase in that year, and
this has started to happen.
Vitro, which is North America’s largest glass
producer according to its website, saw a 10% increase in flat
glass sales in the first three quarters of 2018 compared with
the same period in 2017.
France-headquartered Saint-Gobain increased its North
American sales by 6.8% through quarters one to three in 2018,
against that same period a year earlier.
But there was a 2% decrease in flat glass sales in the US for
AGC, which has its headquarters in Tokyo.
For 2019, 82% of US glass suppliers polled in the report
forecast an increase in sales compared with 2018, with nearly
half of them expecting a spike of 10% or more.
Profit expectations, however, were not at the same levels
although they were still positive.
Just over one-third of companies forecast an increase in
profits of 10% or more, and another 35% were expecting profits
to increase by less than 10%. This could be because glass
companies have been dealing with growing cost pressures.
The KMR report did not provide tonnages for sales or