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Published: March 2012
The largest use for sodium chlorate is for the generation of chlorine dioxide, which is used for bleaching chemical pulp. In 2012, this application represented 98% of total consumption in North America and Europe. Other minor uses include weed control, production of potassium chlorate and sodium chlorite, and several other smaller applications.
After tremendous growth during the switch from chlorine bleaching to the elemental chlorine–free bleaching process, the global markets for sodium chlorate have matured, and average annual growth for North America and Europe has slowed. The regions of strongest growth for sodium chlorate consumption are Asia and South America, with access to the fast-growing pulp raw materials acacia and eucalyptus, and Russia, which has 22% of the world's forests and low-cost electricity.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of sodium chlorate:
Sodium chlorate production capacities are more evenly spread over the world in 2012 than they were a decade ago. The North American capacity share decreased from over 50% to about 43% in 2012. The European share decreased from 20% to about 16%. On the other hand, capacities in China, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America increased, and these regions now account for nearly 40% of global capacity.
In the 2011–2016 forecast period, expected production growth in the pulp industry and a trend toward higher-brightness paper is expected to drive sodium chlorate consumption. The amount of increase will depend on the cost of natural gas/oil/electricity in the forecast period. Cost of electricity is a major production cost component for sodium chlorate production. When electricity prices are high, sodium chlorate is expensive compared with hydrogen peroxide, and sodium chlorate is replaced to some extent by hydrogen peroxide in the bleaching process.