Fluorspar facing competition from alternative fluorine sources
Published: Friday, 01 November 2019
Fluorosilic acid (FSA) could become a widely used viable alternative source for fluorine in the future, with increasing amounts if investment in specialized plants.
Fluorspar prices have been on such a high recently that
alternative sources of fluorine are becoming attractive and
are now enjoying investment from chemical companies,
delegates heard at Fastmarkets’ Fluorspar 2019
event over September 25-27 in London.
Fluorosilicic acid (FSA), a waste product from the phosphate
fertilizer industry, can be used as a source of fluorine,
which can then be turned into fluorine chemicals.
FSA accounts for around 5% of the global fluorine market, IHS
Markit director Ray Will estimated, adding that this
percentage is likely to grow.
Given that a "tipping point" in costs had been reached, it is
now more economical for companies to produce chemicals from
FSA, according to Roskill division manager Kerry
Fastmarkets’ price assessment for fluorspar,
acidspar, 97% CaF2, wet filtercake, cif Rotterdam was
$460-525 per tonne on Thursday September 26, down from
$500-540 per tonne in the previous month but almost double
the assessment from two years prior of $250-285 per tonne on
October 5, 2017.
Fluorspar is also taking a larger percentage of the
production costs for primary aluminium, according to
Purchases of CaF2 account for 28% of the overall costs for
aluminium producers outside of China; the percentage for
Chinese producers is as high as 45%. Alumina, at 24%, is the
second-most costly component among all producers.
"FSA is growing although growth is not easy. But over a
period of time, it may have a majority share in the
production of aluminium fluoride," Sendhil Nathaan, president
and chief executive officer of Indian fluorochemicals company
Cindy Shang, sales manager at Do-Fluoride, told delegates
that the Chinese fluorochemicals producer - one of the
largest in the world - has plans to create hydrofluoric acid
from FSA. Some research and development had "already been
done" but more work is needed to improve quality, she
Chinese fluorochemicals company Wengfu broke ground this past
April on an FSA-derived chemicals plant in Kailin,
FSA cannot be used as a straight substitute for fluorspar
because chemical producers’ systems can be
sensitive, even to different types of fluorspar with varying
impurity profiles. A plant would need to be configured solely
for FSA or fluorspar consumption and could not simply switch
from one to the other.
There could be greater investment in FSA technology if
fluorspar prices remain high, the industry widely