Thursday, November 14, 2019

Indium – Uses, Prices, and Production


This blog highlights information and data I have found on the Internet related to indium uses, prices, and production.   Key blog objectives are to present an indium 2018 global production amount and the amount of global revenues represented by the sale of this production.

Uses.  As for other metals, indium’s physical properties account for how it is used. For example, as a metal with a low melting point and stickiness (bonding) to itself and other metals, indium is used as a solder.  This good bonding property along with being a good electrical conductor accounts for indium’s use as a conductive transparent film on electrical device screens and solar panels (in combination with tin oxides and with copper, gallium, and selenide).  This use as opto-conducting coating material accounts for 60 to 70% of global indium use.  Other uses include: in semiconductors; as an alarm trigger in fire sprinkler systems (due to its melting point range); as a corrosive-resistant coating on such devices as bearings; and for measuring thermal neutron flux in nuclear reactors.

Prices.  The average global price of indium during 2018 has been put at $310 per kilogram (kg).  This represents an increase over the indium 2017 prices (e.g., a range of $190 to $290 per kg.)

Production.  Indium is produced as a by-product of mostly the mining of zinc (and lesser amounts of other major metals such as cooper).  For this reason, indium production is constrained by scheduled mining activities of zinc (and other major metals).   Estimates are that in 2018 approximately 750 metric tons (mt) of indium was refined from mined ores.   In addition to this, in the mining process, wastes are generated containing indium and these wastes were further processed to recover amounts of indium contained in them.  This further processing accounted for an additional approximate 1,000 mt, for a total of 2018-produced indium of 1,750 metric tons.   With an average 2018 price of $310 per kg and 1,750 mt produced, potential revenues generated by indium sales in 2018 would have been $543 million ($310 per kg X 1,750 mt X 1kg/0.001 mt).  Estimated global reserves of indium are 50,000 mt, suggesting concerns about enough supplies over the long-term.  Indium has been listed as a critical element for national purposes by both the United States and the European Union.  For these reasons, much interest exists in developing processes for recovering indium from screen-containing electrical devices, which represent 60 to 70% of global indium used (see Uses above).  Click here (pdf file), here, and here (pdf file) for details that reflect the needs, interest, and activities in developing indium recovery from electronic devices.


Friday, November 1, 2019

Chemical and Metal Shortage Alert – October 2019


The purpose of this blog is to identify chemical and metal shortages reported on the Internet.  The sources of the information reported here are primarily news releases issued on the Internet.  The issue period of the news releases is October 2019.

Section I below lists those chemicals and metals that were on the previous month’s Chemical and Metal Shortage Alert list and continue to have news releases indicating they are in short supply.  Click here to read the September 2019 Chemical and Metal Shortage Alert list.

Section II lists the new chemicals and metals (not on the September alert).  Also provided is some explanation for the shortage and geographical information.  This blog attempts to list only actual shortage situations – those shortages that are being experienced during the period covered by the news releases.  Chemicals and metals identified in news releases as only being in danger of being in short supply status are not listed.

Section I.

None

Section II.   Shortages Reported in October not found on the Previous Month’s List

Ethylene oxide:  United States; supply not keeping up with demand
Gamma ferric oxide:  global; production not keeping up with demand
Palladium:  global; production not keeping up with demand

Reasons for Section II shortages can be broadly categorized as: 

1.  Mining not keeping up with demand: none
2.  Production not keeping up with demand: gamma ferric oxide; palladium
3.  Government regulations: none
4.  Sources no longer available: none
5.  Insufficient imports:  none
6.  Supply not keeping up with demand: ethylene oxide


Thursday, October 31, 2019

India’s versus China’s Chemical Industry – Some Data


The table below provides data on various considerations with respect to India and China’s chemical industry.  I searched the Internet for data on the two country’s chemical industry and present in the table what I found and consider to be relevant in making comparisons between the two countries.  The column “country with apparent advantage” shows the country that I consider having an advantage with respect to how the data characterizes the country’s chemical industry.


india
china
comments
country with apparent advantage
chemical employment
2 million
60 million
depends on productivity - see chemical production per employee
neither
chemical product use per person
36 kg per person per year
580 kg per person per year
much higher use in china
china
chemical production including petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals
48 million mt 
812 million mt
depends on productivity - see chemical production per employee
neither
chemical production per employee
24 mt per employee
14 mt per employee
inida more productive per employee in producing chemical products
india
chemical revenue expected growth - near term, per year
9%
4 to 5%
india's economy growing at faster rate; china's environmental focus slowing chemical growth
india
chemical revenues
$163 billion       6% of gdp
$1,560 billion    12% of gdp
higher % of gdp indicates larger chemical industry
china
chemical revenues per person
$120
$1,100
higher value indicates more robust chemical industry
china
clusters
government policy
government policy
both countries have policies to develop chemical manufacturing clusters
neither
demographics
population  - 1.35 billion     gdp (ppp) per capital - $7,194 
population  - 1.4 billion     gdp (ppp) per capital - $16,696
greater gdp (ppp) per capital allows for more consumption of products supported by chemical industry
china
exports - imports
net importer of chemicals - 10 million mt
net exporter but import rate increasing in need to import due to chemical plant closures for environmental reasons
assume net exporter preferred
china
foreign direct investments
no limits on foreign direct investments
limits on foreign direct investments
significant advantage for india
india
value added per product
$163 B/48 M mt = $3,396 per mt
$1,560 B/812 M mt = $1,921 per mt
significantly more value added by india's chemical products
india
world bank indices
human capital - 0.44                human development - 130
human capital - 0.67                    human development - 86
higher human capital number is better     lower human development number better
china



For the thirteen data sets presented in the table, the data suggest to me that six of the sets indicate a more positive characteristic for China’s chemical industry and four sets more positive for India.  Three sets suggest no advantage for one or the other country.

Looking at the comparisons for each set, here are some comments:

1.                  The 2018 chemical revenues for China (all period-related data are for the 2018 period) is about 9.5 times that of India.  The comparison of chemical revenues per person for the two countries is approximately the same (9.2 to 1).  Both favor China.
2.                  Although the chemical revenues for China versus India is 9.5 times higher in China’s favor, the amount of chemical product (810 million metric tons (mt) for China versus 48 million mt for India) suggests a different conclusion.  It suggests that India gains more value from its chemical product manufacturing (more revenues per product - $3,396 per product versus $1,921 per product for China).  See the “value added per product” data set in the table.
3.                  The World Bank indices data set, which compares most, if not all, countries, on certain characteristics for their populations (human capital) and how well the countries develop their populations (human development) indicate China is ahead of India.  Such indices suggest levels of education and skills, with higher levels giving advantages to a country’s chemical industry, which depends on better trained and skilled personnel.
4.                  Although India has fewer apparent advantageous data sets, information in advantageous ones for India, ((such information as: a) no limits on foreign direct investment in the chemical industry versus restrictions in China; b) apparently India gets more added value from their chemical production; and c) India’s apparently chemical revenue growth rate is 9% versus 4 to 5% for China)) is significant and shows that India does have some important advantages.




Thursday, October 3, 2019

Chemical Processing of Plastic Wastes – Dissolution and Extraction; Hydrothermal Processing; and Gasification


In two earlier blogs, I provided, in the first blob, some data on global plastic waste production and chemical recycling.  I also identified various chemical methods being commercialized to recycle plastic waste.  (Click here to read that blog.)  In the second blog, I identified some chemical companies that are developing (commercializing) one of the chemical methods – pyrolysis.   (Click here to read the second blog.)

In this blog, I identify some companies that are commercializing the following methods (other than pyrolysis) for recycling plastic wastes: dissolution and extraction; hydrothermal processing; and gasification.

Dissolution and Extraction – involves the dissolution of mixed plastic wastes in a supercritical fluid and extracting (separating out) the various plastics (polymers) in the mix.   The following are some companies that are investigating the commercialization of waste plastics recycling by dissolution and extraction:

Eastman Chemical.  In a process using methanolysis, the United States company Eastman Chemical uses methanol under pressure and elevated temperature to dissolve polyester-based products and extract various components.

MOL and ARK. The Hungarian MOL Group, a multinational oil and gas company, has a joint project with the German recycling company APK using a solvent-based process to recover high-quality materials from multi-layer plastic packaging containing polyethylene and polyamide.

Hydrothermal Processing – involves heating a waste plastic in water at high temperatures (e.g., 400 to 500 degrees centigrade) and high pressure (e.g., thousands of pounds per square inch), which breaks down the plastic to oils.  The following are some companies that are investigating the commercialization of waste plastics recycling by hydrothermal processing:

Neste and ReNew.   The Finnish renewable oil producer Neste is working with the British plastic recycling specialist ReNew to commercialize a patented version (called Cat-HTR) of hydrothermal processing for generating oils from waste plastics.  A key patented element of Cat-HTR is the use of catalysts (hence the use of Cat in the name).

OMV.  The Austrian oil company OMV has built, in 2018, a pilot plant at its Schwechat refinery using a version of hydrothermal processing to covert waste plastics into oils.

Gasification – involves heating a waste plastic to very high temperatures, e.g., greater than 700 degrees centigrade, in a controlled amount of oxygen and/or stream.  The plastics react (degrade) to form a mixture of carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide, which can be used as a fuel or to produce methanol and hydrogen.  The following are some companies that are investigating the commercialization of waste plastics recycling by gasification:

Enerkem.  The Canadian company Enerkem is building a plant in Rotterdam, with partners Air Liquide, Nouryon, and Shell, which will use gasification technology to convert waste, including plastic wastes, into carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide.

Sierra Energy. The United States company Sierra Energy specializes in building smaller gasification plants for use at the local level to treat wastes.

The chemical recycling of plastic wastes has been of commercial and public concern and interest for a long time.  For example, gasification plants using plastic wastes as an input were operating in Japan in the early 2000s.   Many companies have come and gone, failing in successfully commercializing various methods of recycling plastic wastes. 

But in recent years, a stronger public emphasis on the need to deal with the enormous amounts of global plastic wastes has developed.  This has gone along with a stronger public pressure being placed on companies, and recognized by the companies as good business sense, to be good environmental stewards and to identify, and quantify as a marketing tool, sustainability as a critical corporate strategic goal.  With this, more attention seems to be present in recent years by companies on treating plastic wastes, such as those companies identified in the three blogs I have written on chemical processing of waste plastics.  

Although the technical aspects of the methods identified  in these three blogs seem to  be developing successfully, it is likely that commercial success of these methods will be difficult to achieve as long as the value (price) of the resulting products from the methods cannot compete with identical, cheaper products produced from fossil fuels.  This uncompetitive situation is likely to continue for some time without public interventions, e.g. through tax, regulatory, and other governmental incentives.


Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Chemical and Metal Shortage Alert – September 2019


The purpose of this blog is to identify chemical and metal shortages reported on the Internet.  The sources of the information reported here are primarily news releases issued on the Internet.  The issue period of the news releases is September 2019.

Section I below lists those chemicals and metals that were on the previous month’s Chemical and Metal Shortage Alert list and continue to have news releases indicating they are in short supply. Click here to read the August 2019 Chemical and Metal Shortage Alert list.

Section II lists the new chemicals and metals (not on the August alert).  Also provided is some explanation for the shortage and geographical information.  This blog attempts to list only actual shortage situations – those shortages that are being experienced during the period covered by the news releases.  Chemicals and metals identified in news releases as only being in danger of being in short supply status are not listed.

Section I.

None

Section II.   Shortages Reported in September not found on the Previous Month’s List

Hydrogen: California; production not keeping up with demand
Sodium fluoride: United States; mining not keeping up with demand

Reasons for Section II shortages can be broadly categorized as: 

1.  Mining not keeping up with demand: sodium fluoride
2.  Production not keeping up with demand: hydrogen
3.  Government regulations: none
4.  Sources no longer available: none
5.  Insufficient imports:  none
6.  Supply not keeping up with demand: none


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Chemical Processing of Plastic Waste – Pyrolysis


In a previous July 12, 2019 blog (click here to read), I provided some data on the amount of plastic waste globally generated each year and how much of it is recycled, either by mechanical or chemical processes.

In this blog, I am identifying four chemical companies that are developing one of the chemical methods – pyrolysis – for recycling plastic waste (other chemical methods, e.g., solvolysis and gasification, will be written about in future blogs).  Extensively searching the Internet, I could find that four of the fifty largest global chemical companies (the fifty being based on the 2018 Chemical and Engineering News report identifying the top fifty; click here to read report) have pilot investigations of technologies and processes for recycling waste plastics using pyrolysis.  The following is a brief description of what each is doing:

BASF, at the pilot plant level, has generated new plastics from the cracking of pyrolysis oil.  The pyrolysis oil was provided by Recenso.   The plastics are being tested by BASF partners who might be eventual buyers of the plastics.  So far, the plastics have been meeting necessary use standards. 

Dow has signed an agreement with the Dutch company Fuenix Ecology Group to buy pyrolysis oil from Fuenix.  Fuenix produces the pyrolysis oil from waste plastics.  Dow will process the oil into new polymers at its Terneuzen, Netherlands plant.  Dow has a goal of incorporating 100,000 metric tons of pyrolysis oil into its plastic production by 2025. 

Ineos Styrolution, a subsidiary of Ineos, has entered into a joint development agreement with Agilyx for a recycling plant at its polystyrene plant in Illinois.  Agilyx’s pyrolysis process for recycling waste polystyrene will be used at the plant.

Sabic is investigating the introduction of volumes of pyrolysis oil feedstock, provided to it by the company Plastic Energy, into Sabic’s cracker at Geleen, the Netherlands, producing polyethylene and polypropylene.  The pyrolysis oil was produced by Plastic Energy from mixed plastic wastes.

It is interesting that each of the four companies have agreements with other, smaller companies to provide the pyrolysis oil.  This suggests the need for agreements with various contributors in a complex undertaking that recycling plastics appears to be.  It also might be a strategy that serves the larger companies well, in case recycling plastic wastes by pyrolysis does not develop into a successful business for these companies. 

An excellent report from BCG (Boston Consulting Group), entitled “A Circular Solution to Plastic Waste”, is summarized at this link.  The full report can be read by clicking here (pdf file).  This report identifies well the challenges, advantages, economics, and other aspects of the chemical processing of plastics waste by pyrolysis.


Thursday, September 5, 2019

Chemical Companies Interests in Products for Energy Storage


Due to a rapid increase globally in generating electricity by intermittent renewable energy sources, a need exists for energy storage systems, which can store the generated electrical energy until it is used as electricity.   Several energy storage systems are used but recently the most prevalent system being put into operation is battery storage, and the battery system most often used is based on lithium-ion technologies.

Because chemical technologies are critical to battery energy storage (as well as other types of energy storage), I researched the Internet for chemical company products and activities related to energy storage.  The following table summarizes what I found:


product
chemical company
arkema (binders)

lanxess (high purity nickel and cobalt compounds)

ppg industries

ptt global chemical

sk innovation

solvay

sumitomo chemical
cathodes (lithium-ion batteries)
arkema (binders)

formosa plastics (including lithium-iron phosphorous oxide cathodes)

lanxess (high purity nickel and cobalt compounds)

ptt global chemical

sk innovation 

solvay

sumitomo chemical
cryogenic air separation technology to store energy in form of cryogenic liquids
air liquide

air products and chemicals
electrolytes (lithium-ion batteries)
arkema (fluorine-based)

dupont (joint venture with ube industries)

lanxess 

ptt global chemical

solvay 

sumtomo chemical
flame retardants for battery use
lanxess
flow battery technology
basf

lotte chemical

sabic (joint venture with schmid to develop vanadium redox flow batteries
hydrogen as energy storage projects
air liquide

linde
lithium sulfur batteries
ptt global chemical
lithium-air batteries
ptt global chemical
lithium-ion battery packs
hatachi chemical

lg chem

sk innovation
materials (miscellaneous for use in batteries)
basf (porous carbon materials)

covestro (polycarbonate blends)

evonik (redox polymer materials for use in battery cells to power small electronic circuits)

lanxess (high tech polyamides and polyester for use in batteries)

lanxess (raw materials for synthesis of lithium compounds)

ppg industries (coatings)

sabic (joint venture for developing nano-technologies for use in energy storage systems)

sk innovation (cell packaging)

solvay (fluorinated materials)
separators (lithium-ion batteries)
arkema (coatings)

asahi kasei (1.55 billion meter square of polyolefin film by 2021)

dupont (nano fiber-based polymeric materials)

mitsui chemical (special polymeric materials)

ptt global chemical

sk innovation

solvay (specialized polymers)

sumitome chemical (aramid-polyolefins)

toray (building factory in hungary to manufacturer separators)
sodium-sulfur batteries
basf 
solid state batteries
ptt global chemical
thermal energy storage using salts
linde



The above table indicates to me a strong interest by chemical companies in providing products supporting energy storage.  This is not surprising given the expected high demand for energy storage, especially battery energy storage, in the coming years.  It is also not surprising because of the relevancy of what chemical companies can offer and the dependency of energy storage developments on chemical technologies, materials, and standards.

More details on the needs of energy storage in the coming years are provided by a US Energy Information Administration report (click here; pdf file); an International Renewable Energy Agency report (click here; pdf file); and an Energy Storage World Forum report (click here; pdf file).