Friday, May 31, 2013

Eight Reports on Global Material Shortages

Eight reports with substantive data, information, and analysis on the state of global material shortages are identified below.  These reports were found during an exhaustive Internet search.

The reports are associated with what I judge to be authoritative institutions and authors.  The reports, in my opinion, represent very thorough research and analysis. The resources behind these reports are substantial.  If the resources were used in preparation of the reports, then collectively, the reports likely represent correct facts and views related to global material shortages as of the dates of the reports.   The reports are from: three organizations that represent governments (United States; United Kingdom, and European Union); one from a university (Germany); one from professional associations (United States); and three from consulting groups (the Netherlands; United States).

1.  A December 2011 US Department of Energy report (click here to read report; PDF file) identifies raw materials with potential supply risks.  The focus is on materials important in clean energy technologies, but many of the materials are important in several industries.  The report identifies strategies for addressing the potential risks.

2.  A March 2012 report from the UK Department for Business Innovation & Skills and the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (click here; PDF file) was prepared because of concerns about the availability of raw materials.  The report provides an analysis of the various impacts of raw material shortages.

3.  A February 2011 European Commission report (click here; PDF file) identifies 14 raw materials that the authors consider critical to the European Union and which also have supply shortage risks.  The report makes suggestions for responses to material supply shortage risks.

4.  A 2011 University of Augsburg report (click here; PDF file) identifies 19 materials critical to the energy industry and which also have potential supply risks.  Each material is discussed with respect to its use in the energy industry and the potential supply risks.

5.  A November 2009 report from the Dutch Materials Innovation Institute and Corus Research, Development, and Technology (click here; PDF file) discusses expected material shortages.  The report provides analysis of the present situations with respect to material shortages, the potential impact, and solutions.

6.  A 2010/2011 report (click here; PDF file) from the American Physical Society and the Material Research Society makes recommendations on what the United States Government should do to insure the supply of energy-critical materials, which are identified.

7.  An August 2011 report (click here; PDF file) from Skyworks Solutions, Inc. provides a summary of several studies that addressed raw material scarcity.  The summary provides historical data and the various perspectives and assumptions that are used in conclusions made on raw material scarcity.

8.  A December 2011 report provides the results of a 2011 survey conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (click here; PDF file).  Sixty-nine senior executives of manufacturing companies answered questions on the impacts, opportunities, and risks to their companies from material shortages.

These 8 reports likely represent as correct a recent assessment of global material shortages as is available on the Internet.  And, as such, the reports are a valuable resource for those seeking knowledge in this area.

A conclusion I reached from reading the reports is that several variables affect supplies, prices, and other aspects of material availability.  And, these variables change over time.  Therefore, it is very difficult to estimate future market availability of many materials.  Market availability does not equate to amounts of the materials available in the earth.  For amounts present in the earth, the materials will be available for long periods, at today’s annual usage rates.  Nevertheless, shortages can exist in market availability based on the many variables that influence market availability. And, these market availability levels change over time.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Pounds per Person of Acrylonitrile Use

Based on Internet data, the United States consumed approximately 545,000 metric tons of acrylonitrile in 2009 as a starting chemical from which many products were produced.   And, Western Europe in 2010 used approximately 750,000 metric tons.  Using these quantities and the approximate populations of these areas, this acrylonitrile consumption converts to approximately 4 pounds of acrylonitrile used per person in both the USA and Western Europe.

Does 4 pounds per person represent a “mature” amount of acrylonitrile to produce in order to have the desired products that well-developed economies want?  If yes, then estimating the per person use for the world population shows a gap in acrylonitrile needed to provide on a world-wide basis the types of products for everyone that those of us in well-developed economies desire and use.

The estimated world-wide consumption of acrylonitrile in 2011 was 5.25 million metric tons or approximately 1.7 pounds per person.   This suggests a need for a lot more acrylonitrile production as more people become better developed economically and seek to use those acrylonitrile-based products widely used in developed countries such as the United States and Western Europe.

Another conclusion is the importance of increasing demand in lesser-developed countries for certain mature industries in developed countries to grow.

Data used for the above were found at such sites as: clickhere (a Chemical & Engineering News report with acrylonitrile use); click here (a PCI Acrylonitrile, Ltd report on acrylonitrile prices and production); and click here (a Wikipedia site defining Western Europe and providing its population).

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Fluorspar Price and Mine Production Data Trends

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) publishes regularly fluorspar price, mine production, and other data.  Using this data, the graphs below on fluorspar, using 1996 to 2012 price and mine production data, were created.

Also, a regression analysis of the data, using Excel, was done to determine how closely the price and mine production quantity changes correlated with one another from year to year.

The R square result of this regression analysis is 81%, generally considered to indicate a good correlation between changes in two sets of data.  This suggests that often when fluorspar price went up (or down) so did the amount of fluorspar mined go up (or down), from year to year.  There seems to be a relationship between the two events – price changes and amounts mined.

Fluorspar’s price per ton increased 287% from 1996 to 2012, using average fluorspar acid prices for the year provided by the USGS in their reports (from $141 per ton in 1996 to $545 per ton in the first quarter 2012).  This is an average annual increase of 22%.  And, the fluorspar mine production went from 4,090,000 metric tons in 1996 to 6,850,000 metric tons in 2012, a 5% per year increase.

USGS estimates 240,000,000 metric tons fluorspar in mining company’s reserves (2012).  This is enough fluorspar inventories to last 35 years at 2012 mine production levels (6,850,000 metric tons).  So, it seems that it is not insufficient amounts of fluorspar reserves but other constraints that mostly affect the price fluctuations from year to year.

Projecting the amount of fluorspar mined over the short-term upcoming months, based on best mining activity data available and good estimates, could be useful in predicting price trends.

The USGS reports used for the data in the graphs below can be read by clicking here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.   USGS issues similar reports on many other minerals, elements, and compounds mined.  The USGS reports are an excellent data source on these materials.