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Titanium dioxide prices climb nearly 50% this year; a potential alternative appears

If you manufacture anything, it is hard not to use titanium dioxide. According to some sources, it accounts for 70% of the total production volume of pigments worldwide. It is used in paints, coatings, toothpaste, concrete, foods, sunscreen-the list goes on and on. It also, of course, is used in plastics, and that is becoming a problem as the prices of the pigment shoot skyward-up about 45% this year alone.

Recent prices hikes for TiO­2 include the market leader, Dupont, announcing a $300/ton price increase. Huntsman hiked its prices for the pigment by $200/ton and Kronos by $250/ton.

According to the pricing information service ICIS, DuPont's $0.15/lb price increase for North America TiO­2 grades, effective Nov. 1, likely will be implemented in Feb. 2012 since most contracts enjoy 90 days of price protection. According to ICIS, roughly $0.15/lb (+9%) of the last increase (effective July 1, but implemented on Oct.1) likely went through, bringing the North America price to $1.87/lb for 4Q11, up 45% since the start of 2011.

ICIS predicts little respite for buyers of the pigment "given supply constraints that won't be resolved for several years."

One result may be a drop in the number of companies choosing to incorporate "Apple white" into their products. One company hoping to profit from the TiO­2 price increases is PQ Corp. of Malvern, PA. The company, a supplier of inorganic specialty chemicals and engineered glass materials, this month announced the launch of ADVERA Ti, a pigment it says can be used for partial replacement of titanium dioxide in coatings, plastics, paper coatings, and other markets.

PQ Corp. markets the material as "a cost-effective replacement for TiO­2 at comparable performance." Flavio Ribeiro, commercial development director for PQ Corp., commented, "This new product is a highly viable alternative to titanium dioxide and meets the performance requirements of the market."

ADVERA Ti has a small particle size, is said to be easily dispersed in a matrix material, and has a crystal morphology which facilitates optimum TiO­2 spacing. The product also exhibits strong whiteness and brightness (hiding power). ADVERA Ti is manufactured at PQ Corp.'s Jeffersonville, IN. plant.

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