US acidspar imports climb for third straight year

By Michael Greenfield
Published: Wednesday, 03 April 2019

Mexico was the biggest supplier of acidspar to the US market last year.

US imports of acid-grade fluorspar increased for the third straight year to 350,000 tonnes in 2018, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).

This year’s volume rose by 19,000 tonnes from 2017’s total of 331,000 tonnes. Imports were only slightly up in 2017 from 328,000 tonnes in 2016, which was flat against 2015.

The biggest supplier of acidspar and metspar to the United States between 2014 and 2017 was Mexico, which contributed 69% of material. The other exporters were Vietnam (10%), South Africa, (8%) and China, (6%); 7% of imports came from other locations. 

Other import sources could include Mongolia, which primarily produces metspar, and Spain, although the data did not specify this.

Some 81.2% of all fluorspar imports to the US were acid-grade fluorspar in 2014-2017.

Meanwhile, metspar imports fell to 60,000 tonnes in 2018 from 70,000 tonnes the year before. This came despite a resurgence in the US steel market - a major end market for metspar, aided by US President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel imports.  

Downstream market

Major US companies Honeywell and Chemours are the main consumers of imported acidspar.

Honeywell is the only US consumer with the technology to process high-arsenic acidspar, which comes from Mexico, meaning any Mexican acidspar is likely to have gone to Honeywell.

Lincoln Electric also imports acid-grade fluorspar for its US operations. Fastmarkets estimates Lincoln Electric consumes around 20,000 tonnes per year of acidspar in its global operations, including facilities in Europe.

US acidspar prices have stayed at a low level for several months, in part due to a long-term contract between Mexico’s sole fluorspar producer, Mexichem, and Honeywell.

Fastmarkets assessed the monthly price for acidspar, 97% CaF2, wet filtercake, cif, US Gulf Port, US at $260-270 per tonne on February 28, flat on the previous assessment.

New product entering the US

Fluorspar imports continue to flow into the US, with demand for the material likely to increase in the coming months.

Canada Fluorspar (CFI) started operations in 2018 sending its first shipment of 4,700 tonnes in August 2018. This shipment was received by the Houston-Galveston customs district in Texas, according to the USGS report.

Chemours’ plant is in Fayetteville, North Carolina, while Honeywell has its automotive refrigerant plant in Geismar, Louisiana.

Given the proximity of Louisiana and Texas, which share a border, it is likely that Honeywell received this first parcel from CFI.

In February, Chemours opened a new plant in Corpus Christi, Texas, producing low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants. The company’s fluorspar consumption is expected to increase to feed this plant although it is unclear how much fluorspar will be needed.

The company has said the plant will triple its total capacity of low-GWP refrigerants.

Fastmarkets has opened a market consultation to seek feedback on its proposal to discontinue its acidspar, 97% CaF2, wet filtercake, cif, US Gulf Port, US, $/tonne price.