“The Chinese chemical sector will continue to drive demand for high purity salt to 2027 and be a major factor driving future projects in Asia, especially India.”
Roskill has reviewed the production plans of more than 300 salt production assets worldwide during the research for its 2018 report. Germany’s K+S remains the largest salt producer followed by CNSIC of China, Compass Minerals and Cargill of the USA then Solvay of Belgium.
The world market for salt, which is used to produce chlorine, caustic soda and a wide range of other important chemicals, is forecast to grow fastest in Asia. By 2027, Asia is forecast to account for 53% of global demand, from 47% in 2016. The Chinese chloralkali industry will be the key driver of this growth.
Chloralkali production is the largest end-use for salt, accounting for 36% of world consumption in 2017. Chlorine is the raw material for the production of numerous downstream compounds, the most important of which in terms of volume is ethylene dichloride, a chemical precursor to the 45Mtpy commodity polymer, PVC. Caustic soda also has a very wide range of end-uses including alumina manufacture, pulp and paper production, and chemical processing. Synthetic soda ash production is the next largest end-use for salt (18% in 2017), and in turn is mainly consumed in glass.
The third major market for salt is in de-icing applications. The major market is in North America followed by Europe and Asia. North American consumption has declined following a series of mild winters but was still estimated at 25Mt in 2017. The other leading market is in food and food processing (10% in 2017). Asia is estimated to account for almost two-thirds of global salt consumption in food and food processing because of its population size and high per capita use.
World salt exports rose to 64Mt in 2017, an increase of 10Mt on 2016 and early data for 2018 indicates that annual trade in salt may rise to a forecast 68Mt. Nearly all the increase was from Australia and South Asia where Indian exports grew by 3.6Mt from 7.3Mt in 2016 to 11.1Mt in 2017. Much of the increase in Indian shipments went to China.
International trade in salt had increased in recent years, assisted by historically low dry bulk shipping costs, but these costs doubled 2017-2018. The Baltic Dry Index, a benchmark for shipping prices, has nearly doubled compared with this time last year. Shipping costs have risen on some routes, partly due to increased iron ore trade. In the future, environmental legislation will also start to increase shipping rates. Authorities in the northern hemisphere are requiring vessels to reduce their pollution footprint by using lower sulphur fuel and change they way they handle discharges from ballast tanks. These will push up costs that will be transferred to customers in the form of higher freight rates.