You are on page 1of 8

BENTONITE

High bulk, low cost: a truck carrying bentonite from Volclay International’s mine (5,000 tpa) in Miles, Queensland, Australia being weighed. Courtesy Volclay.

Bentonite bound for success
High energy prices, manufacturing, pet ownership, environmental concerns and healthy diets have all contributed to a buzzing bentonite market. How has this versatile clay adapted to this changing global world? by Kwok W Wan, Assistant Editor
entonite is back with more uses than ever before. Despite the problems of rising freight costs for this high bulk, low cost industrial mineral, global production has increased for five years running, with some producers expressing concern about the ability to meet demand. There has been little investment in supply infrastructure over the past few years, not since the oil boom in the 1980s, and as plants reach capacity, producers could struggle to keep up. Even immediate investment now would take a few years to come online, though there are plenty of reserves to exploit. Freight costs may also explain the

B

recent trend to find local sources, with news of USA based Amcol International Corp. acquiring a 25% stake in Russian producers, Bentonit Group, and Italian producers, Laviosa Chimica Mineraria SpA, opening a processing plant in Turkey. Bentonite markets are robust, if not stellar. Oil and gas prices are fuelling exploration and therefore the drilling mud market, with gas exploration increasing in the USA and rig counts increasing in South East Asia. Car manufacturer and infrastructure projects are driving the foundry and iron ore pelletisation markets in India and China, while high tech products are buoying the European foundry market, especially in Germany.

Pet litter remains steady in Europe while performing slightly better in the USA, as cat owners switch to “clumping” litters. Global eating trends towards healthy foods means bleaching earths gain as customers consume more vegetable oils rather than animal fats, while clarification of biofuel emerges as another potential market. Environmental concerns also drive the geosynthetic clay liner (GCL) market, with emerging markets in India and China, as governments start to find safer ways to manage waste. The use of bentonite in animal feed as a way to absorb microtoxins is also a growing market, as the world’s population increases and people demand more meat.
July 2008

32

India. tonnes in 2006. Oregon. California. and oil field services) with significant market share in each. ductile iron). Mississippi. though sodium bentonite dominates because of its stability at high temperatures. followed in order of highest production by Montana. depending on the location of the nearest source. calcium (or nonswelling) bentonite decreased from to 260. It can also be treated with soda ash to form sodium-exchanged bentonite (also known as sodium-activated bentonite or synthetic bentonite) with improved swelling bentonite qualities. Bentonite can also be incorporated between layers of synthetic fabric to form a GCL. and a number of downstream businesses including Colloid Environmental Technologies Company (CETCO). decolourise. iron ore pelletisation. tonnes in 2006. Main applications Bentonite is used for drilling muds to provide suspension for weighting agents and drill cuttings. dry bonding strength and high mechanical strength at high temperatures. and leach ferric.000 tpa. which produces environmental products such as GCLs. Utah. Japan. because of its increased swelling capacity. Iowa and a processing facility in St Louis.400m. Iron ore pelletisation (IOP) uses bentonite as a binding agent.75m. This has reduced capacity from around 1m. This covers the fact that although sodium (or swelling) bentonite production increased from 4. fuller’s earth in the UK. Arizona. Turkey and Vietnam. Egypt. which produces nanoclays specifically designed for plastic nanocomposite. Main production areas of calcium bentonite in order of highest production are Alabama. Part of Halliburton Energy Services. tonnes in 2005 to 4. western and montmorillonite) has a high swelling capacity and is stable above 400ºC. is more common in Europe. self-sealing flexible layer. The production of bentonite in the USA is increasing with more than 5. 33 .07m. Overseas operations are undertaken by Volclay International with facilities or joint ventures (j-v) in countries including Australia. it also supplies all major markets of Wyoming bentonite (foundry. from antiviral gels to cholesterol absorption.. and magnesium ions. Bleaching clays have excellent absorptive and ion exchange capacity that is used to clarify. Calcium bentonite (also known as nonswelling. Sodium bentonite is preferred for its excellent plasticity. Russia. regardless of its origin or occurrence”. stabilise walls. to form an impervious coating on the drill hole walls and therefore prevent gas or liquid migration.000 in 2005. by treating calcium bentonite with sulphuric acid (acid-activated bentonite) to dissolve acid-activated bentonite impurities like calcite. dehydrate and/or neutralise liquids. environmental. compared to 4. tonnes. Pet litter producers use both types of bentonite. The uppermost layer is permeable allowing encapsulated bentonite to swell and therefore produce an impermeable. and help lubricate the drill bit.94m. Good plasticity. The main area of sodium bentonite production remains Wyoming. which recently started producing at its Oshoto mine (50. The main producer remains Amcol which operates through American Colloid Co.BENTONITE The beauty of bentonite is the vast number of applications it could have. Colorado. South Korea. producing a total of 1.41m. This may be subdivided into two varieties: either having sodium as the dominate exchangeable ion (sodium bentonite) or having calcium as the dominate exchangeable ion (calcium bentonite). July 2008 Both sodium and calcium bentonite is used in foundry sands. tonnes in 2006 (see Table 2) as well as plants in Waterloo. Nevada. high sheer (GCL) and compression strength and impermeability of sodium bentonite means it makes an excellent fluid barrier. Wyoming bentonite is the global standard grade for drilling applications. with estimated reserves of 4.59m. and Nanocor Inc. aluminium. and Nevada. Sodium bentonite (also known as swelling. and is added to dry iron ore to form pellets. Other applications include the production of bleaching clays from montmorillonite. Calcium bentonite is used on lower temperature processes where it enhances the production of intricate castings (grey iron. Other producers include Black Hills Bentonite LLC. pet absorbents. Missouri. Sodium bentonite. which forms “nonclumping” pet litter. more than twice the bentonite of the next largest mine in Wyoming (see Table 2) and the highest yearly production for over 10 years. tonnes of bentonite being sold or used in 2007. ferrous. Belle/Colony is Amcol’s largest operational mine and produced 1. Texas. Although much of BPM’s business focus is on drilling. Bentonite Performance Minerals LLC (BPM) is the second largest US bentonite producer and also has substantial operations in Wyoming. Applications include wine and edible oil clarification. with more research and development being conducted everyday.000 tpa) after exhausting its Poison Spider bentonite mine a few years ago.000 tonnes in 2006 from 300. Mississippi and Texan) has a lower swelling capacity. Texas. Its uses include toxic landfill and waste dumps. and California. Sourcing highlights USA The USA remains the world’s largest producer of bentonite. accounting for a third of global production.68m. tpa to 650. southern. tonnes in 2006. while calcium bentonite. Bentonite basics A general definition of bentonite is “a clay consisting essentially of smectite minerals (montmorillinite group of some usage). form “clumping” litter and is more common in the USA. As things stand. it’s looking alright for bentonite. Wyoming. replace exchangeable divalent calcium with monovalent hydrogen ions. China. Bentonite is also used in civil engineering applications and geosynthetic clay liners (GCL).

000 tonnes). tons in 2005 to 670. M-I Drilling Fluids LLC also focuses on the oil field market and has also been increasing production of its Greybull mine. tonnes in 2007.124 s. in 2005.590 (2005) 220. Tanner Source: Wyoming Mining Association July 2008 .000 723. Following the general trend of global bentonite output.000 tpa from its Zhejian Anji No.000 430.410 14.000 (19%) Absorbants 1.1m.000 243.BENTONITE Like BPM.000 (2006) 220. 3. an Amcol subsidiary.000 (15%) Foundry 969. all US bentonite producers are reporting healthy sales and demand. 8% (192.1m.972 73.1 mine with an estimated reserve of 10m. tonnes. with production at 3.000 tpa and supplies the foundry industry.000 (estimated 2005) 470. It produces 1m. 500. German producer.1m. Black Hills Bentonite Corp. 34 Greece There are three groups of bentonite deposits on Milos in the Aegean Sea. Volclay Dongming also opened a geosynthetic clay liner (GCL) plant to supply the domestic market. (estimated 2005) 1. The site has estimated reserves of 30m. Ltd.000 tonnes) is used in civil engineering and other application.000 Operator American Colloid (Amcol subsidiary) American Colloid (Amcol subsidiary) BPM Minerals LLC BPM Minerals LLC M-I LLC Black Hills Bentonite Corp.000 tpa. commissioned a 60.000 463. making it the largest producer in Europe and second largest in the world. Wyo-Ben Inc. tpa from its Milos deposits Pie Chart 1: Total sales for US bentonite (domestic and export) in 2007 (tonnage) Other 867. with one major producer citing: “These are the good old day for industrial minerals!” China Although China is estimated to be the second largest producer of bentonite.000 tonnes) into drilling applications. also has a subsidiary.188 400. tonnes) of Chinese bentonite went into foundry. Liaoning SüdChemie Redhill Bentonite Co.0m. Volclay DongMing Industrial Minerals Co.1m.309 670. The final 10% (240. Kenneth E. (26%) Drilling mud 1. Jiangping county in 2000 which has since increased capacity to 138.3m. tons in 2006. Currently.000 (2004) 420.2m.24). In 2005.000 tpa during 2002-2006 to 1. from 950. in Jianping which can produce 120.751. tonnes. Ltd is China’s leading bentonite producer.225 830.17m.9m.278 s. Zhejiang Clay Chemicals Co. 25% (600.457 853.1m. Greece has also increased production after five years of flat figures.000 tpa facility in Shahai. Ltd.000 (2005) 450. with proven reserves of around 550m.000 tpa capacity. S&B is the main operator in Greece. Reserve estimates for the two deposits owned by S&B Industrial Minerals SA and one owned by Süd-Chemie range from 35-50m.124 491. mining 350. tonnes (see IM April ’08. Black Hills Bentonite Corp.000 (2006) 360. The largest ever bentonite deposit was found in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region recently.000 (17%) Iron ore pelletisation 765. tonnes. Süd-Chemie AG. from 552.884 757. Latest figures estimated around 50% (1. obtaining accurate data about the producers is difficult because of the sheer numbers of small and medium sized producers which usually have less than 50.000 tonnes) into IOP while cat litter made up only 3% (72.192 202. tons) 1. Source: USGS and BGS Table 2: Wyoming bentonite production in 2006 Mine name Belle/Colony Lovell Lovell Colony Greybull Kaycee Stucco Tensleep Oshoto M-I Drilling Fluids Pit Production (s. 1. p. Around 90% of Chinese production is calcium bentonite with deposits spread over east and central China. again the highest production for over ten years. (23%) Source: USGS Table 1: Top producing countries Country USA China Greece Turkey Russia Italy Brazil Mexico India Japan Germany Argentina Australia Czech Republic Other Countries World Total 2007 bentonite production tpa (unless otherwise stated) 5.867 27.

detergent and paper markets (see p. Raw materials sources include Greece. This is good news for bentonite producers that specialise in drilling. Ashapura Minechem Ltd is the biggest bentonite producer. Recently exhausted its Poison Spider mine. Around 80% of S&B’s bentonite is exported to Europe and 10% is shipped to the USA for iron ore applications. of which 75% is located in the state of Rajasthan and the other 25% in Gujarat.3m. USA Nicosia.000 650. Bensan is one of Turkey’s leading producers. Other producers include Süd-Chemie & Co.000 tpa processing plant in Turkey. Georgia.1% of the 35 Main markets Drilling Without doubt. a subsidiary of Süd-Chemie.000 506. USA Gao Yu Town. a 90% owned subsidiary of Süd-Chemie. It has identified reserves of 25m. Malaysia Billing. with 350m. with mines near Bhuj and Kutch in west India and processing plants in Bhuj.000 1. India and Indonesia. USA and Morrocco. Germany and Hungary. bentonite and saponite.000 Production capacity includes operations in Greece (1m.000 tonnes) goes into foundry. p. Texas. has also July 2008 decided to expand into Turkey with a 50.000 tpa). to supply the bleaching earths market. Georgia.000 300. By market proportion: 50% (500. last year for $12.000 tpa dried granulated bentonite plant. Bleaching earths in China. exploration has never seemed so lucrative and tempting. such as Wyo-Ben Inc.8% (68. At the SME Annual Meeting and Exhibit 2008 in Utah.3m. Italy. Sweet natural gas Even though there is a shortage of new oil discoveries in the USA. Wyoming. Evidence of this can be seen as US producers start to reopen idled mines. Turkey (60. energy companies. tonnes and 300. Has 35. tpa). Belgium. 250. USA Mumbai.000 tpa and most of the raw materials is shipped to SüdChemie companies for processing. warning prices could climb to $250 by 2009. has reserves of 15m. Notes Also has operations in China (138. Recently announced new 50. Turkey. and Hungary. Production capacity includes crude sepiolite. having effective viscosifying characteristics.000 tpa (see IM August ’07. USA Livorno.7% (157. and the best sealing and filtration properties of any naturally occurring clay. Greece Guadalajara.BENTONITE Major world bentonite producers (> 200. Illinois. tonnes and has production capacity of 60.000 350. a Halliburton presentation suggested continued growth in demand for drilling grade bentonite and that demand could exceed supply. Hellas. the number of new drilling rigs in the USA has grown 50. Ashapura Minechem Ltd Bentonit AD Black Hills Bentonite LLC BPM Minerals LLC Laviosa Chimica Mineraria SpA M-I Drilling Fluids Peletico Ltd S&B Industrial Minerals SA Sepiol SA Süd-Chemie AG Taiko Group Wyo-Ben Inc. with two mines in Ordu province. Laviosa Chimica Mineraria SpA. the attention of energy companies has switched to natural gas. India India has 366m. Turkey Turkey has large reserves of both sodium and calcium bentonite. and Australia (5. China Capacity (tpa) 2. Texas. while sodium and calcium bentonite can be found in Gujarat. tonnes probable reserves.000 tpa processing facility in Antwerp.000 tpa). Located in Fatsa north-central Turkey. Plan to bring idled Thermopolis facility back online.17). such as Russian energy giant OJC Gazprom. Sodium bentonite from Rajasthan is of low quality and is used for foundry sands. Combined capacity is 60.000 tpa). 230. USA Houston. Spain Munich.. making it a good prospect for bentonite producers. India Kardjali. Cyprus Kifissia.000 400. In fact. This has led to a number of investments from different companies. Zhejiang Clay Chemicals Co.000 tonnes) to pet litter and 6.1% since 2002 and US producers have enjoyed increased sales in drilling mud and are bullish about the current market. rising energy prices are driving the drilling market globally. is one of the largest bentonite producers in Turkey.000 tpa) Company Amcol International Corp. tonnes proven and 248m. 300. The bentonite is transported to other Süd-Chemie groups for processing. USA. Italy Houston.10) Süd-Chemie Mining and Trading Inc. which produces 30.000 1. India. 15. Ltd Headquarters Arlington Heights. Sodium bentonite (locally known as Wyoming bentonite) is the most widely used clay for drilling. Germany Perak Darul Ridzuan.000 tonnes) to drilling mud.000 200. it is expected to target the cat litter.000 1m.3m. 10% (100. As crude oil prices rise to over $135/barrel and . 400. expected to be operational late 2008. Italy’s leading bentonite producer.000 tpa from its mine on Milos.000 tonnes) to civil engineering. Montana. The percentage of gas rigs 20 years ago account for 37. bringing its Thermopolis and Lucern facilities back online.5m.000 tpa capacity. tonnes of bentonite reserves. Bulgaria Mills. Zhejiang Province. in addition to mines and plants in Bulgaria. Amcol acquired Istanbul based Bensan Activated Bentonite Co.

Xiangrui Bentonite Co. producing bentonite Montmorillonite clay Japan Mexico Romania South Africa Spain Turkey 100.000 164. Ltd Hellenic Mining Co. Ltd Houyou Bentonite Co. has estimated reserves of 15m.000 20.BENTONITE Other bentonite producers (< 200. tonnes. Ekosis Maden San Tic Ltd Capacity (tpa) 32. 60. Kenneth E. Formed a j-v with Laviosa.000 80.000 183.000 27. Settimoi Cinicola Valdol SpA Hojun Kogyo Co.000 80.000 65.000 25.000 50.000 (processed) 25.000 60.000 40.000 60.000 168. has licences for estimated 5m. Gimpex Ltd Jumbo Mining Ltd Star Bentonite Group Italy CECA Italiana SpA Eredi Dr. Milwhite Inc.000 (processed) 80.000-50.000 30. Inc.000 45. Ltd Nippon Kasseihakudo Co. Ltd Volclay DongMing Industrial Minerals Co.000 36.000 108.000 tpa sodium activated bentonite Cyprus Hungary India Capacity includes attapulgite and ball clay Sodium and calcium bentonite Supplies Süd-Chemie for production of bleaching clays in Indonesia and Malaysia.000 tpa calcium bentonite.000 150.000 (actual) 100. unit of PDSCo Inc. Turkey expected to be operational by late 2008 Calcium and white bentonite Part of Tolsa SA.000 60.000 35.000 80. Ltd Czech Republic Egypt Germany Keramost AS Egypt Mining and Drilling Chemicals Erbsloh Lohrheim GmbH Karlicher Ton-und-Schamotte-Werke Mannheim & Co.000 24. Asia Bentonite Co.000 100.000 >50. called Laviosa Bentonite Co Pvt. Evergreen Bentonite Inc. Ltd Arcillas Procesadas Barcosta Barmex FVR Minerales Industriales Tecnica Mineral SA de CV Bega Minerale Industriale SA G & W Base & Industrial Minerals (Pty) Ltd Tolsa SA Bensan Activated Bentonite Co.000 60. Ltd in Jianping.000 40. Ltd.000 50. 15.000 tpa processing plant Amcol subsidiary 40.000 20.000 Calcium and sodium exchanged bentonites Notes Plans to increase capacity by four-fold in one year Together with affiliated enterprise.000 >50.000 (processed) 50.000 50. KG S&B Industrial Minerals Kft Gexmin Co. 50.000 (capacity) 35. Tanner Matcon Corp.000 30.000 UK USA Rockwood Absorbents Ltd Steetley Bentonite and Absorbents Ltd Cowboy Mining Co.000 tpa sodium exchange bentonite. New drying and grinding plant in Ordu. Unimin Australia Ltd Bentonit Uniao Nordeste SA (BUNE) Canadian Clay Products Inc.000 30. Ltd Kunimine Industries Co. tonne bentonite reserve and 100. bought by Imerys in 2007.000 36 July 2008 .000 60. Pes y Cia SAFIAMI Clay Resource Co.000 (processed) 70. KG (KTS) Marx Bergbau GmbH & Co.000 55.000 20.000 175.000 37.000 (processed) 45. Esan Eczacibasi Endustriyel Hammaddeler San Tic AS 30. Chaoyan Hangzhou Choushan Bleaching Earth Co.000 150.000 tpa) Country Argentina Australia Brazil Canada China Company Castiglioni. Ltd Drapia Mining Co. Redmond Minerals Inc.000 160. Teague Mineral Products Western Clay Co.000-80.000 tpa natural calcium bentonite Purchased by Amcol in 2007.

tonne cat litter market.5m. In Europe.2 57. There remains a shortage of natural gas in the USA and there has been an increase in exploration since 2004. and many have grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Nick Syriopoulos.” July 2008 In the past. tonnage into that arena is as good as it’s been in 20 years. including sepiolite. perlite and silica gels. the oil industry accounted for 30% of the 4. told IM that he did not expect “a heck of a lot of growth” over the next few years.8 % Gas rigs 37. vice president of Black Hills Bentonite said to IM Black Hills Bentonite supplied IM. diatomite. told IM “With oil prices IM: at a record high and natural gas drilling activity at a fever pitch. though China does have the potential to produce high quality drilling bentonite in the future. Growth has generally been strong over the past few years.1m. calcium bentonite (also known as non-clumping) dominates while in the US.7 80. some fear the market has been maturing. Some 30 years ago. Table 3: Market opportunities: increasing gas rigs % Oil rigs Feb 1988 Feb 1991 Feb 2002 Feb 2008 60.21).000 tpa in the last six years. previously thought to be too expensive to exploit. Despite this. the European cat litter industry has become well developed and very competitive.” said Larry Madsen. Sivomatic BV. but demand might increase in the future. European pause Even though bentonite holds a 41% share of a 1. are now viable and this type of extraction also requires minimum amounts of bentonite. bentonite sources influencing pet litter manufacturers. This shortage in demand has led to illegal bentonite mining in neighbouring countries like Vietnam (see IM June ’08. Bentonite accounts for 85% of the cat litter market. vice president of Wyo-Ben Inc. although most still expect steady growth and look to Asia to increase demand. it lacks the necessary technology. 37 .000 tpa of bentonite for the cat litter market. only a small percentage of Chinese bentonite was used for drilling. Asian oils Other drilling hotspots include Asia and the Middle East. the quality is not as high. high energy prices has made it economically viable to drill for “unconventional” natural gas.7 Source: Baker Hughes Energy Table 4: Number of active rigs in Asian regions Region Middle East India China No. meaning the proportion of rigs have gone to locations outside the USA and therefore creating huge opportunities of overseas drilling markets. the next 5-10 years.7% (see Table 3).5m.. Other light-weight and eco-cat litter is produced from other materials. tonnes of bentonite mined in Wyoming. Meanwhile. In the 1970s. Despite previous bullish growth. of active rigs (Jan ’08) 380 132 43 % increase in active rigs since Jan ‘07 15 14 50 13 Source: M-I Swaco LLC South-east Asia 103 general manager of special clay producer Geohellas. 71% of all rigs worldwide were operating in the USA. These consumption trends can be explained by the availability of local. p.BENTONITE total.1 41. “The cat litter market is doing extremely well. more than doubling raw material consumption since the 1990s. According to some industry experts. whereas this year it accounts for 80. Peletico Ltd. with cat ownership increasing from 93m. today. Part of the reason for the drop in consumption is the trend in exploiting existing fields for oil and gas (which does not require bentonite) while new technology such as intelligent wells and use of super deep offshore drilling also reduce the amount of bentonite used. has increased capacity from 100. in 1990 to 113m. and therefore cheaper. explained to IM “Eastern Europe has not IM: seen as much growth as western Europe. tonnes. the nature of drilling has changed which could affect bentonite usage. Although European companies can activate calcium bentonite with soda ash to produce sodium bentonite.” US kitty The US cat litter market has also experienced strong growth over the past few years. High energy prices also means that oil sand and oil shale.1 81. senior manager of International Marketing at Ashapura told IM “and this should continue over IM. sales director of Danish moler and pet litter producing company. while Cypriot bentonite producer. with sodium bentonite taking 60% and calcium bentonite making up 25%. estimating a steady rate of 34%. The number now stands at 50%. in 2005. sodium bentonite (clumping) is more prevalent. As Lars Sorensen. Damolin AS. 455.” Avijit Mukherjee. some think the European market is stagnating.” In a twist Despite strong recent resurgence.4 18. The location of rigs has also changed. and estimates suggests it accounts for less than 10% of market.000 tpa to 200. Bob Stitchman. “We predict an increase of more than 10% using in drilling minerals in these areas. others think there maybe some unexploited opportunities left in eastern Europe. which includes gas saturated in rock which usually requires a higher proportion of directional drilling.2 18. with Dutch cat litter producer. it is 26% of 4. Pet Litter The stellar rise in the amount of bentonite used in pet litter over the past few years has created a major market for many European and US producers.

and is expected to grow at a steady rate. 38 July 2008 . Even though India’s foundry industry has experienced immense growth in the Table 5: Metal casting production in 2006 Country China USA Japan India Germany Grey Iron 13. Oiled up: demand for edible oils is increasing in developing countries. reporting growth.000 tpa to supply the Chinese foundry market while Süd-Chemie also intends to expand its Chinese operations. including China. producers said the foundry market was flat. with several existing manufacturers ramping up capacity in India and opening new plants globally over the next few years. South Korea. 2. some believe external factors may play a part in the future.1m. tonnes in the same period. ie. Smelting pot Asia remains the fastest growing foundry market. Source: 41st Census of World Casting Production .” explained Madsen “including odour control.9m.27m. but not the infrastructure nor domestic market at present.” Far East The pet population is growing in Asia.0m. Ashapura. the automobile sector is likely to come under a number of external impacts. 4. Taiwan. tonnes to 6. however. He added: “Our bentonite market share (currently around 65%) for the Indian foundry markets had been steadily growing at a pace of 10-15% for the last several years and we expect this growth to continue.200 1. with its car market set to eclipse the US market within the next ten years.6m.5m.” explained Mukherjee of Ashapura.9m. 2. especially in Japan and China.000 tpa to 138. “It [clumping cat litter] has a number of advantages.8m.2006 past few years. tonnes in 2004 to 13. with large metal casting countries. and Thailand. responsible for exporting sodium bentonite into the European market. Close up: bentonite from mines near Bhuj. India.8m. Grey iron production increased from 11. but were relieved it had stopped declining and showed some potential for growth in the future. with grey iron casting production overtaking the USA in 2006 (see Table 5).” In the USA.3m.” Ashapura also sees increasing opportunities in iron ore pelletisation (IOP).8m. Volclay DongMing has increased bentonite production over the past few years from 60. Ductile Iron 6. 2. Courtesy Ashapura. China’s car industry and construction continue to drive the market. also exports to Asian countries including China. in 2006 while ductile iron production rose from 5. one of the growth areas for casting. “The foundry industry output in India had been growing at approx 15% for the last several years. so growth in these areas might be affected. Madsen has seen an extra 8-10% increase in demand as pet owners switch to “clumping” types for convenience and ecological reasons. Although only a small proportion of Chinese bentonite goes into the cat litter industry. Mukherjee said to IM “Our main focus is the IOP IM: market and we expect it to expand rapidly over the next few years with a number of pelletisation plants starting production in 2009 and 2010.8m. Sri Lanka. 4. India and Japan. 762.7m. 4. Courtesy Olives101. producers are also reporting signs that the US foundry market is stabilising after years of shrinkage and the European market is finding niche application in manufacture of high tech products. cleanliness and it also takes up small landfill. Foundry and IOP While the foundry market is booming in Asia. Malaysia.BENTONITE Though US cat ownership is only expected to increase by 2% over the next few years. it has the reserves to supply the Asian market.

Companies try to protect their innovations by producing parts in Europe before shipping to lower cost countries for assembly. Süd-Chemie has said sulphuric acid prices were a “major factor” in bleaching earth production. told IM IM. palm oil in Asia is also being used for biofuels. deputy chairman of Süd-Chemie managing board to IM “and this is especially IM. “We see fluctuation in the US biofuel market. supplies “several thousand tonnes” of bentonite for food application and cited Indonesia’s palm oil as doing particularly well. that could previously produce enough sulphuric acid for domestic use.000 tpa processing plant to produce bleaching earths. more and more are switching to vegetable oil instead of animal fats and butter. The reasons behind rising sulphuric acid prices include the increased consumption in the production of copper. The main driver behind the IOP market is the investment in infrastructure from the oil and gas revenue. “With our six plants worldwide producing GCLs from bentonite for landfill protection. technology may mean second generation cars may used a different type of biofuel and reduce the need for bentonite. Biofuels are also behind some growth. production of fertiliser and for water treatment. as well as being in rude health in Spain and Italy. Reasons behind the buoyant European market include the fear western and Japanese end product manufacturers have that their high tech products could be copied by Chinese rivals if they used foundries in China. Süd-Chemie’s Orlowski said to IM: “The biggest influence to this market is people in Asia eating like Americans. China is a target and we feel it’s important to take part in the growth in Asia.” 39 . now has to import to meet demand. India (via a j-v with Ashapura). Despite recent reports predicting demand slowing down to 1. Süd-Chemie also predicts a healthy growth demand of over 10%.” Amcol remains a player in the vegetable oil filtration market. The growing market in GCL.” Jochen Orlowski.” explained Dr. the enforcement of stricter regulations [in India] will continue to drive the market. is driven by concerns for the environment and government regulations.” said Amcol’s Washow. but Brazil is currently very strong. “The manufacture of high tech goods is driving the foundry market. although recent concerns about food shortages may curtail the production of biofuels in the future.28). As people in developing countries become more health conscience. while Ashapura said they were “directly linked with costs”. China. The price of sulphuric acid has risen sharply over the past few months. like Brazil or in Asia. India and Brazil. increases in chemical prices (especially sulphuric acid) has squeezed margins and driven up costs. instead of the predicted 4-5% in the USA (see IM May ’08. though some bentonite producers consider beer filtration a possible market to enter when considering all the established microbreweries. opening a 30. which will push the need for more foundries. the world’s largest bleaching clay producer. especially in countries with established biofuel infrastructure.” As the world’s population increases.” Vassillis Vontitsos. “It also becomes the case. Also. with best performer Germany. making it safer for consumption. we’ve wound up with an almost 50% market share and see major openings in China. “With intensive farming. they prefer the clearer oil. Larry Washow. seeing a 7% growth in the past year. then the demand also increases.” explained Mukherjee of Ashapura to IM “and IM. where bentonite can be used to remove impurities before it is pumped into cars. Sulphuric acid is used to dissolve impurities like calcite and alter crystal structures to increase absorbability in bleaching earths. and the UK. which mainly supplies the IOP market. Poland. from $90/tonne in October 2007 to $329/tonne in March 2008. South Korea. and they are on a major path to growth and development. Süd-Chemie also reports a growing use of bentonite in animal feed.” said Amcol’s Washow. corporate communications manager of Süd-Chemie. increasing the consumption of bentonite. p. China and India are seen as markets with potential growth. New casting Russia has been hailed as a growing market for foundry and IOP and is proving tempting. Acid activated bentonite is used to clarify edible oils for consumption. when they see the clearer product can be purchased. Hans Jürgen Wernicke. telling IM “Russia is booming with a IM: growing car industry.BENTONITE Germany rising The European foundry market is also generally in good shape. Bentonit Group. account executive of S&B’s bentonite division. July 2008 Süd-Chemie. with news that Amcol has bought a 25% stake in Russian bentonite company. “China has started using GCLs in a significant way. and has a 50-50 j-v with Ashapura in India. Once again. “We’re finding that if people [in developing countries] can afford it.” Wine clarification remains a niche well developed market with little growth. the industrialisation of China and India means these two countries. Every cloud has a clay lining GCLs are another area for potential growth in developing countries. Our product has the ability to absorb the microtoxins. Acid burn Despite the increase in demand for bleaching earths and related products.” S&B’s Vassillis Vontitsos agreed. true in humid countries.” said Orlowski. Again. especially in India.7%. president and chief executive officer told IM “We believe IM: Russia has tremendous opportunity for growth.” New markets Food and fuel Growing populations and changing tastes are driving the bleaching clay markets in Asia. “Companies are doing there high quality iron and aluminium casting here [Germany] and some are even exporting the parts to low cost countries. Amcol currently has GCL production facilities Australia. also reported to IM that the foundry market is doing well in Germany. the chance of fungus on feed is increasing.