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Published: April 2014
Calcium carbide is an inorganic compound with the following primary commercial applications—generation of acetylene, production of calcium cyanamide (a nitrogen fertilizer), and use in the iron (foundry) and steel industries as a desulfurization reagent in the production of ductile iron and steel and as a slag modifier/conditioner (reducer) in steel production. In the United States, Japan, and China, the largest end use is the production of acetylene, both for cutting and welding and for chemicals. In Europe, metallurgical use, calcium cyanamide and acetylene each share roughly one-third of the market for calcium carbide.
China is the dominant player in the calcium carbide market, representing about 96% of total supply and consumption. Because of its large reserves and recent capacity rationalizations, China is also the world’s largest exporter of calcium carbide. China imports only negligible amounts. Primary importers include countries in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. In the United States, a supply disruption resulted in increased imports in 2012, after which the quantity declined. However, with the closure of Central Carbide in March 2014, imports are expected to increase.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of calcium carbide:
The production of acetylene is the largest end use for calcium carbide, amounting to 90–95% of total consumption in the major regions. China’s sizable share of the global calcium carbide market is linked to the country’s strong economic growth, large coal reserves and ever-increasing acetylene demand for PVC. Calcium carbide to PVC, considered an antiquated process in developed parts of the world, represents 94–97% of China’s total PVC production. As a result of continued development, China is projected to experience 2–3% per year growth in the consumption of calcium carbide for acetylene to 2018. Other expanding markets for calcium carbide include India, Africa and the Middle East.
In the United States, 68% of calcium carbide was consumed in the production of acetylene and 32% was used by the steel and foundry industry in 2013. Consumption growth for calcium carbide during 2013–2018 should average 1–2% annually overall. Demand for acetylene in chemical applications, metallurgical uses and industrial acetylene will show small increases.
In Western Europe, capacity rationalizations over the past several years have brought the calcium carbide market more into balance; capacity utilization rates decreased a bit beginning in 2012. In 2013, demand in calcium cyanamide and metallurgical use accounted for about 50% and 26% of the total, respectively. Consumption for acetylene accounted for 23% of the total. Overall consumption of calcium carbide in Western Europe is expected to decrease at an average rate of approximately 0.6% annually during 2013–2018.
Japanese calcium carbide consumption is mainly for acetylene production (77%); calcium cyanamide and use as a desulfurization reagent consumed 11% and 12%, respectively, in 2013. During 2013–2018, consumption of calcium carbide will remain steady, showing marginal increase in consumption for desulfurization reagents and marginal decrease in calcium cyanamide over the next five years.
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