Published March 2015
Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is the standard white pigment used principally in paints, paper, and plastics. It is the most important pigment in the world, accounting for approximately 70% of total volume. Titanium dioxide is made by processing a variety of titanium-containing minerals such as ilmenite and rutile. Rutile has a titanium dioxide content of 94-96%, making it highly desirable as a feedstock. Ilmenite is much more plentiful, but has a titanium dioxide content of 50–60%, so it is usually upgraded, or beneficiated, to a higher titanium dioxide content.
Seven major world titanium dioxide producers account for just over half of world capacity; the remainder includes about 75 Chinese producers with a 44% capacity share, and other smaller regional producers with a 5% share.
The year 2014 was characterized by poor market demand for titanium dioxide, which resulted in further consolidation among the top producers. Other factors that came into play were that China became a major producer, increasing supply while demand declined with a slowdown in Chinese construction.
The major consuming industries for TiO2 pigments are paints and surface coatings, plastics, and paper and paperboard. Consumption tends to parallel general economic trends for these end-use applications. Ultrafine grades of titanium dioxide (particle sizes between 1 and 150 nanometers) are used as catalysts, UV blockers, color pigment precursors, and electroceramics. This area is growing, but is relatively small and will not affect the overall market significantly.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of titanium dioxide:
North American consumption has dropped noticeably during the last decade, mainly as a result of the decrease in coatings consumption caused by the poor construction and manufacturing markets. Paint and coatings remains the largest outlet, accounting for almost 60% of consumption. Western European and Japanese consumption remains stagnant. The real driver to growth is China, where the coatings and plastics industries continue to expand at high rates. The potential remains high. Per capita consumption of TiO2 in China is about 1.1 kilograms per year, compared with 2.7 kilograms for Western Europe and the United States.
Between 2011 and 2014, China increased its share of total world titanium dioxide consumption from 29% to 34%, and is forecast to further increase its share to 37% by 2019. An average annual growth rate of about 5.6% is forecast for Chinese consumption over the next five years.
Demand for nanoparticle titanium dioxide for use in high-efficiency photovoltaic installations is expected to increase demand for titanium dioxide during 2014–19. Titanium dioxide nanoparticles are used as a semiconductor in this technology, making it more economical and efficient.