Magnesium Oxide and Other Magnesium Chemicals
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Published: June 2010
This marketing research report covers primarily magnesium oxide (MgO or magnesia), with additional data on magnesium hydroxide (Mg[OH]2), magnesium chloride (MgCl2), magnesium sulfate (MgSO4 or Epsom salts) and precipitated magnesium carbonate (MgCO3) as available. Magnesium chemicals are used in many different applications, including refractories, agriculture (both as fertilizer and in feed), the production of magnesium metal, water treatment, deicing, pigments and paints. Magnesium oxide is the most commercially important of the magnesium chemicals.
The following graph provides a breakdown of the world consumption of magnesium chemicals:
Until mid-2008 the global magnesium oxide market had been tightening, because of continued global growth in the main consuming industry—refractories for steel and cement production—for dead-burned magnesia (DBM) and fused magnesia (FM). In the same period Chinese exports, which had dominated the market in previous years, started to decrease. In addition, environmental applications had gained ground for caustic-calcined magnesia (CCM). Accordingly, companies around the world announced plans for capacity expansions, or a return to production activities in dead-burned magnesia that had been given up years before, when inexpensive Chinese imports had made these activities unattractive. However, as the economic downturn started in late 2008, consumption started to decrease and projects were postponed or came under review.
China dominated the global market with its exports covering roughly one-fourth of the global market outside China. Exports fell substantially in 2009 as a consequence of reduced demand after the economic downturn, and because of the export taxes imposed on magnesium oxide products by the Chinese government.
The majority of the magnesium oxide produced worldwide is consumed as refractory magnesia. The primary use of refractory magnesia is in furnace linings in the iron and steel industry. This market suffered from the economic crisis, with decreases in global steel production volumes in 2008 and 2009. The second major market for refractory magnesia is in the production of cement; developments in this market in the economic downturn were similar to the steel market. However, global cement production grew in the 2007–2009 period with Asia, and to a lesser extent Africa and the Middle East, making up for the losses in the European, North American and CIS markets.
The largest end use for magnesium hydroxide is in environmental uses—flue gas desulfurization and wastewater treatment. Ease of handling, increasing environmental markets and the high price of caustic soda had spurred demand in these applications in previous years. In 2008 and 2009, the growth trend reversed with the decrease in industrial activity; however, it is expected to return during the forecast period 2009–2014 as the global economy recovers. The use of magnesium hydroxide in flame retardants is a fast-growing application. Magnesium hydroxide is the second-most-important mineral flame retardant after alumina trihydrate (ATH).
China dominates the global magnesium chloride market, producing and consuming about 60% of all magnesium chloride. The Middle East and Israel in particular are also very large exporters of magnesium chloride. Trade statistics show Europe also exports magnesium chloride; however, it seems likely that Europe’s trade is overstated. The largest merchant end uses for magnesium chloride in the Western world are for dust control and deicing, whereas Asia, and China in particular, consume by far the largest part of all magnesium chloride for the manufacture of Sorel cement.
China dominates the magnesium sulfate market with about two-thirds of global production and more than one-third of global consumption. Magnesium sulfate is used in many different applications. Its main use is as a fertilizer (mostly in the kieserite, or natural, form of magnesium sulfate). It is also used in the consumer market as Epsom salts or “bathing salts,” in industrial applications such as mining and fermentation, in the pulp and paper industry, and as a salting-out agent for acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) resins.