World production of salt is expected to reach a new record of over 330Mt in 2019, surpassing the previous peak of around 325Mt in 2018 when output was stimulated by high consumption in the de-icing market following a cold winter in North America. Production only grew globally at an average of 1%py in the period between 2010 and 2019. This was largely driven by growth in Asia in response to increased consumption by the regional chloralkali and synthetic soda ash industries.
Apparent consumption in Asia is the largest of any region at over 160Mt in 2019 because of the regional chemical and industrial sectors, as well as population size. Variable winter weather conditions in NAFTA and Europe lead to significant fluctuations in apparent consumption, mostly because of the amount of salt used in de-icing.
Chloralkali production is the largest single market for salt, accounting for an estimated 36% of world consumption in 2018 or 127.8Mt. Around 52% (66.4Mt) of global consumption was in East Asia, followed by North America (18% or 23Mt) and Western Europe (14% 17.3Mt). The leading market is vinyl chlorinated monomer (VCM), the precursor of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which accounts for over half the total market. Global production of chlorine is forecast to rise from 72.9Mt in 2018 to 98Mt in 2028 or by 25.1Mt at an average of around 3%py. Of this, some 63% or 15.8Mt is forecast to be in China where production is expected to rise to 46.3Mt. This is some 8.1Mt over capacity in 2019 (38.2Mtpy) so some 10–15Mtpy of additional chlorine capacity would need be added by 2028 to meet the forecast rise in demand.
In 2018, over 65Mt of salt was consumed in the production of synthetic soda ash. Around two-thirds of this, over 35Mt was used in East Asia—nearly all in China. In Western Europe, some 11.5Mt of salt was consumed in this end use, mostly in Germany, Bulgaria and Poland but also in a further seven countries. Consumption in South Asia has grown sharply, mostly in India. In Eastern Europe, nearly all consumption was in Russia (4.3Mt). The remainder of consumption was divided between operations in Turkey (2.2Mt), Mexico (1.1Mt), Iran (0.7Mt) and Argentina (0.2Mt).
Rising salt production and consumption is ultimately driven by rising populations and urbanisation. The global population is around 7.6Bn and forecast to reach 8.5Bn by 2028. Urbanisation requires the construction of housing and infrastructure, which in turn requires PVC (chloralkali) and flat glass (soda ash). Both population growth and urbanisation are strong in Asia, particularly China, which in turn is driving global salt consumption and future demand. This has led to a tightening regional market for high quality solar salt and the development of a number of world scale projects in Australia.