Activated carbon markets were reinvigorated going into 2017, following the US Court of Appeal’s decision to keep the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) regulation in place. Roskill estimates that once all coal-fired utilities are in compliance with MATS, the US industry will consume approximately 150,000tpy to reduce mercury emissions. Powdered activated carbon systems are one of the dominant technologies in the control of mercury emissions from coal-fired power plant flue gas.
Nearly 40% of the electricity generated in the USA comes from burning coal. In China, more than 80% of electricity generation is from coal-fired power stations. If China enacts similar legislation to the US EPA MATS rule, the potential world demand for activated carbon in flue gas treatment systems could double to 300,000tpy of powdered activated carbon. China was one of the 140 countries that signed the Minamata Convention on mercury on 19 January 2013 and it went on to ratify the treaty on 31 August 2016. By early January 2017, 128 countries had signed the treaty and 35 had also ratified it. The Convention will enter into force 90 days after it has been ratified by 50 countries.
Treatment of municipal drinking water is another long-term growth sector for activated carbon. An important driver of growth to 2017 was the reduction of Disinfection By Products Rule in the USA. Water treatment in industrialising countries represents a larger long-term potential market. Activated carbon is therefore expected to enjoy further market growth to 2025. Expansion in world production capacity to meet this growth has been led by China and the USA but at least four other countries have increased their capacities.
Cabot Purification Solutions remains the leading producer of activated carbon worldwide, and since the acquisition of Jacobi Carbons of Sweden from Addsorb Holding in June 2014, Osaka Gas Chemicals of Japan has moved up into second place. A relatively recent entrant to the market, Datong Coal Jinding Activated Carbon, is already the largest producer in Asia and the third largest producer in the world.
Calgon Carbon remains the leading producer of granular activated carbon and is the largest regenerator of spent activated carbon worldwide, with capacity of more than 123,000tpy. Regeneration capacity was increased by the acquisition of Ceca in November 2016. Net capacity is scheduled to increase further by end-2017. Activated carbon production is based largely on coal, coconut shells and wood charcoal and raw materials availability can be an issue.