Fluorspar and Inorganic Fluorine Compounds
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Published: December 2012
This report covers fluorspar and its major derivative, hydrofluoric acid, as well as providing additional data on aluminum fluoride, cryolite and fluosilicic acid.
Fluorspar is a mineral from which essentially all fluorine-based compounds are derived. From 2000 to 2011, world production increased at an average annual rate of 6.7%. This time period saw two recessions (2000–2001, 2008–2009), which hampered industrial production, and the increasing role of China and Mexico in the global fluorspar supply. Hydrofluoric acid consumes almost 50% of the global fluorspar supply, followed by use for aluminum smelting and steel manufacturing.
Although twenty countries have the ability to produce significant quantities of fluorspar, the majority of the world's fluorspar production has become concentrated in China, which accounted for 65% of world production in 2011. The next-largest producers—Mexico, Mongolia and South Africa—together contributed an additional 23% of world production in 2011.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of fluorspar:
World demand for fluorspar will grow at an average annual rate of almost 4.5% during 2012–2017.
Hydrofluoric acid is the most important chemical derived from fluorspar, accounting for almost 50% of global fluorspar consumption in 2011. Most of the world's hydrofluoric acid production capacity is in China, followed distantly by North America and Western Europe. It is the raw material for the production of fluorocarbons, which are used in refrigeration, air conditioning, and as a precursor to fluoropolymers and elastomers. In addition, hydrofluoric acid serves as a catalyst in petroleum alkylation, a process used for gasoline manufacture. Hydrofluoric acid is also used in metal treatment, uranium fuel production, and as a raw material in the manufacture of inorganic fluorine compounds, including most inorganic fluorides as well as elemental fluorine. World demand for hydrofluoric acid will grow at an average annual rate of almost 5% during 2012–2017.
Aluminum fluoride is used in primary aluminum production. The majority of aluminum fluoride is captively produced at aluminum plants by the reaction of aluminum hydroxide with hydrofluoric acid or gaseous hydrogen fluoride as an intermediate during primary aluminum production. Acid-grade (over 97% CaF2) mineral fluorspar is the fluorine raw material source. As with hydrofluoric acid, China has become the world's largest producer of aluminum fluoride in the last few years. Aluminum production has been shifting and growing faster in regions where energy costs are lower. As this trend continues, most of the growth in aluminum fluoride will occur outside the traditional manufacturing areas of North America and Western Europe. The Middle East will be the fastest growing market for aluminum fluoride in the next five years. World demand for aluminum fluoride will grow at an average annual rate of just over 4% during 2012–2017.