“The Chinese chemical sector will continue to drive demand for high purity salt to 2026 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 2017 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 2026, 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 2016. 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 2016), 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 2016. The other leading market is in food and food processing (9% in 2016). 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.
International trade in salt has increased in recent years, assisted by historically low dry bulk shipping costs. In 2016, world exports were estimated at 56.4Mt, down from 67.6Mt in 2015 but based on data available at mid-July the trade volume in 2017 is estimated at 60.6Mt.
Australian estimated exports peaked in 2013 at around 12.9Mt but fell to 10.1Mt in 2016 and are estimated at 8.9Mt in 2017E. Exports are sent to Japan, China, South Korea and Indonesia for use in the chemicals industry. This fall in shipments has been partly due to increased competition from Indian exports.
Mid-year data for 2017 suggests a strong increase in Indian salt exports to over 10Mt. Shipments to China increased from under 6kt in 2008 to nearly 3.5Mt in 2016 and an estimated 6.8Mt in 2017, though this figure may be revised later in the year. Exports to South Korea have also shown a strong increase, from 34kt in 2008 to over 1Mt by 2016 and could reach 1.3Mt in 2017.