Global growth in the magnesium market is expected to average 3.4% per year reaching almost 1.2 million tpy by 2020, according to a new report — Magnesium Metal: Global Industry, Markets & Outlook, 12th Edition — from Roskill that forecasts the industry out to 2020. Globally aluminum alloys and die casting are predicted to be the fastest growing markets at about 4% per year each. The main factor affecting magnesium demand will probably be its use in automobiles, both because of greater unit consumption and increased vehicle production.
The development of dense uniform dispersion of silicon carbide nanoparticles (14% by volume) in magnesium through nanoparticle self-stabilization in molten metal could have a significant long term impact on the demand for magnesium alloys. The material is said to provide an enhancement of strength, stiffness, plasticity, and high-temperature stability, which delivers a higher specific yield strength and specific modulus than nearly all structural metals.
Magnesium-ion rechargeable batteries, which have twice the capacity and energy density of lithium ion batteries, could also be a potentially significant use of the material. Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA) recently developed a new breakthrough involving magnesium batteries, which could provide a much safer and more energy-dense alternative to current lithium battery technology.
World production of primary magnesium, reflecting that in China, rose by an average of 6% per year from 500,000 tons in 2002 to 940,000 tons in 2014; preliminary data indicates that production fell by 4% in 2015 to about 900,000 tons.
In 2015, just seven countries reported production of primary magnesium metal. China’s output was 702,000 tons and accounted for 78% of the global total; Russia and the U.S. with production of 69,000 tons and 59,000 tons respectively accounted for a further 14%. Secondary magnesium is an important component in global magnesium supply, with production estimated to be between 200,000 tons and 250,000 tpy, of which 125,000 tpy is in the U.S.
There are more than 50 magnesium smelting operations in China, most of them in the provinces of Shaanxi and Shanxi, which accounted for 61% and 28% of production respectively in 2015. On a company basis, the largest productive capacity is held by Shanxi Yinguang Huasheng with 80,000 tpy, which is followed by Ningxia Hui-Ye Magnesium with 60,000 tpy.
US Magnesium in Rowley, Utah, plans to increase capacity from its current 76,500 tpy to 90,000 tpy. It is probably the largest magnesium producer in the world. VSMPO-Avisma in Russia with capacity for 60,000 tpy ranks third or fourth. Dead Sea Magnesium in Israel — a high cost producer with capacity for 35,000 tpy — announced plans to terminate operations in 2017.
There are four new projects aiming to start production before 2020:
- Qinghai Salt Lake in China, which will probably be confined to its first phase capacity of 100,000 tpy (due on stream in 2017)
- Alliance Magnesium in Magnola, Canada with 50,000 tpy planned by 2018
- Latrobe in Australia with 40,000 tpy by mid-2019
- SilMag in Norway with 65,000 tpy planned for in 2018
In addition, Century Sunshine announced plans to expand its Baishan plant by 50,000 tpy by the end of 2016; Posco in South Korea plans to expand its Gangneung plant to 20,000 tpy (from 10,000 tpy) in 2016 and to 100,000 tpy in 2018; and Esan Eczacibasi’s plant at Ekisehir in Turkey was being ramped up to 15,000 tpy in 2016, with plans to double capacity by 2018.
Global consumption of magnesium is estimated to have grown at an average annual rate of 1.6% from 2008 to 2015. This was after falling 7% in 2008 and 19% in 2009 and then recovering by 18% and 9% in the following two years. Growth was low in 2012 and 2013 but rose to 8% in 2014 to a peak of almost 1Mt. It then fell by 2% in 2015.
Aluminum alloys containing on average about 0.8% of magnesium are used in a wide range of industries, but packaging (35% of magnesium use in aluminum alloys), transport (25%), and construction (21%) are the three most important. About 350,000 tons of magnesium were used for alloying in 2015.
Magnesium castings are used chiefly by the automobile industry, but also in aerospace components, defense applications, and consumer goods (laptop, tablet, and mobile phone cases in particular). The most widely used magnesium castings contain more than 90% Mg, alloyed most commonly with aluminum. Some castings are alloyed with rare earth elements to give creep and corrosion resistance. Globally about 315,000 tons of magnesium were used for castings in 2015.
Magnesium is a reductant used in the production of titanium sponge, representing about 130,000 tons in 2015 or 14% of total demand. Much of the magnesium used, however, is produced in-house in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan from the recycling of magnesium dichloride generated in the production of titanium. Actual new magnesium used is probably closer 80,000 tpy.
The fourth major use of magnesium is in desulphurisation of steel; about 95,000 tons were used in 2015. Sulphur causes brittleness in steel and low sulphur facilitates modern production processes. Other significant uses of magnesium are as a nodulariser in cast iron and in cathodic protection of metal structures.
More information on the Magnesium Metal: Global Industry, Markets & Outlook report and downloadable sample pages of the report are available for download online.