LOS ANGELES The absence of large-scale desalination projects is contributing to an anticipated decline in global industrial titanium demand in 2014, according to an industry executive.
Kevin Cain, president of Moon Township, Pa.-based Uniti LLC, told the International Titanium Association (ITA) conference in Las Vegas that industrial titanium shipments will drop around 12.1 percent to 29,000 tonnes (about 63.93 million pounds) in 2014 from an average of 33,000 tonnes (72.75 million pounds) per year from 2011 through 2013, despite improvements in some other industrial sectors.
Unlike in the United States, where commercial and military aerospace typically accounts for 60 to 70 percent of shipments, non-aerospace demandof which industrial is the largest segmentcan represent up to half of the global market.
Cain noted that in the past three years nearly 12,000 tonnes (26.46 million pounds) of commercially pure (CP) titanium strip for welded tubing was produced for two Saudi Arabian desalination projectsRaz Az Zawr and phase 3 of the Yanbu power and desalination plants.
Uniti, a joint venture of Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI) and Russias VSMPO-Avisma Corp., shipped 5.5 million to 6 million pounds of strip for Raz Az Zawr in 2011. Industry observers said at the time that the project was so large it had an impact on the overall global availability of CP product.
While ATI has not disclosed how much titanium strip it is supplying for Yanbu, most was scheduled to be shipped this year. The strip is used as skelp to fabricate welded tubing for the plants.
However, Cain told the ITA conference that he is "not ready to forecast another Raz Az Zawr or Yanbu in the next five years." Other sources at the conference agreed that no desalination project with titanium requirements on the scale of the Saudi plants has appeared on the horizon.
Nevertheless, Cain predicted that total shipments to the industrial titanium market will creep up gradually to 34,000 tonnes (74.96 million pounds) by 2018, supported by chemical processing, energy and some desalination infrastructure demand.
Global demand peaked at about 43,000 tonnes (94.8 million pounds) in 2008 before falling to approximately 27,000 tonnes (59.52 million pounds) in 2009 amid the global recession, according to Uniti, but rebounded to about 39,000 tonnes (86 million pounds) in 2011, due in large part to desalination projects. Demand slipped to about 30,000 tonnes (66.14 million pounds) in 2012 before rising once again this year to an expected 32,000 to 33,000 tonnes, again bolstered by desalination.
Titanium consumption in chemical processing will range from 9,500 to 12,000 tonnes (20.94 million to 26.46 million pounds) annually during the next five years, Cain forecast. Uniti expects the power generation sector to consume 7,000 to 8,000 tonnes (15.43 million to 17.64 million pounds) per year over the same period in products such as welded tube, tube sheet and heat transfer equipment, while the oil and gas markets are forecast to consume 3,500 to 5,000 tonnes (7.71 million to 11.01 million pounds) annually over the next five years.
Cain noted that most titanium in desalination projects is used for thermal technology rather than reverse osmosis, but he said that osmosis technology is gaining ground.