Industrial Minerals / The Economics of Bentonite, 11th edition 2008
- 1. Summary
- 2. Mineralogy and reserves of bentonite and fullers earth
- 3. Mining and processing of bentonite and fullers earth
- 4. World production of bentonite
- 5. World production of fullers earth
- 6. Leading producers of bentonite and fullers earth
- 7. Production and processing of bentonite and fullers earth by country
- 8. International trade in bentonite and fullers earth
- 9. Consumption of bentonite and fullers earth
- 10. End uses for bentonite and fullers earth
- 11. Absorbent uses for bentonite and fullers earth
- 12. Foundry sands
- 13. Use of bentonite in iron ore pelletising
- 14. Use of bentonite in drilling muds
- 15. Use of bentonite in civil engineering and construction
- 16. Use of bentonite in refining, filtering, clarifying and decolourising
- 17. Use of bentonite and fullers earth in agriculture
- 18. Other uses for bentonite and fullers earth
- 19. Prices of bentonite and fullers earth
The Economics of Bentonite, 11th edition 2008
World demand for bentonite and fuller's earth is forecast to rise by an average of 2.2%py from 20Mt in 2007 to 22.4Mt in 2012. Growth will be led by the foundry sand sector (5%py), filtering and decolourising of edible oils, industrial oils, solvents and chemicals (5%py) and iron ore pelletising (3%py). The highest rates of growth will be found in Asia, notably China, and in South America where demand will be driven by the requirements of the iron ore pelletising and foundry sands markets. The main regional markets for bentonite are North America (7.5Mt), Asia (5.6Mt) and Europe (5Mt), although there are significant variations in the pattern of consumption within each of these regions. These variations depend partly on the types of locally occurring, and also on the degree of industrialisation. In industrialising economies, applications in the iron and steel industries are one of the main demand drivers, whereas in mature economies consumer applications, such as pet litter, predominate. Production in 2007 was concentrated in the USA (5Mt), the EU (2.8Mt) and China (an estimated 2.5Mt). Over the period 1997 to 2007, production grew in the USA, the former Soviet Union and China, but fell in the EU. US companies are the largest producers, accounting for around a third of total world output in 2007. Chinese output is estimated to have grown by over 11%py in the six years to 2007. Other important sources include Turkey, Greece, Russia and India. In Europe and North America production of bentonite and fuller's earth is dominated by a small number of corporate groups, most of which are integrated into downstream activities. AMCOL of the USA is the world's largest producer of bentonite with a capacity of over 2Mtpy. In Europe, S&B Industrial Minerals of Greece and Sd-Chemie of Germany are the main producers, each with a capacity of more than 1Mtpy. AMCOL and Sd-Chemie are extending their global base by establishing production bases in BRIC. At least 0.8Mtpy of additional bentonite capacity is planned to be opened by 2009 with further capacity expected to come on-stream by 2012. The global industry should be able to raise output to meet forecast growth in demand over the next five years, although supplies of sodium bentonite may become tighter in the short term.
- The pet litter market is the largest end-use for bentonite and allied clays such as sepiolite, consuming 4.5Mt in 2007. The market is heavily concentrated in Europe (1.7Mt) and North America (2.5Mt). This is a mature market and is unlikely to grow at more than 1%py to 2012 when it is forecast to reach 4.7Mt.
- Growth in demand for bentonite in iron ore pelletising is largely due to the rapid growth in Chinese consumption of iron ore. By 2012, an additional 45.3Mtpy of iron ore pelletising capacity is scheduled to be opened, though the actual total may be even higher as not all projects had announced completion dates by mid-2008. Most of this increase will be in Australia, Brazil, China, India, Russia and Sweden.
- Demand for bentonite in drilling muds is forecast to rise by around 2%py to 2012 when it will reach 2Mtpy, compared to 1.8Mt in 2007. Consumption is closely linked to drilling activity, which in turn is linked to oil and gas prices. High prices encourage exploration and greater use of bentonite and other minerals in drilling fluids. Bentonite use in this end-use is concentrated in the USA where consumption totalled around 1Mt in 2007. Competition from alternatives, however, is expected to reduce demand for bentonite in drilling muds in the longer term.
- Use of bentonite in civil engineering is rising in line with construction activity, especially in China. By 2012, a forecast 1.9Mtpy of bentonite will be used in this application compared to 1.6Mt in 2007. Bentonite is used in foundation engineering, diaphragm wall construction, grouting, lubrication, sealing ponds and irrigation ditches, and for tunnelling. Sodium bentonite is the main form used and soil sealants are the largest market.
- Outside of these five major end-uses, some of the highest growth rates are expected to be seen in specialised markets. Chief amongst those is the edible oils industry, most notably the palm oil industry where production rose to a record 37.3Mt in 2006, an average rise of 8.2%py since 1997. A high proportion of edible oils are sold unrefined, particularly in Asia, and there is significant potential for increased use of bleaching earths in that region.