Published April 1998
With nearly 4 million tons consumed per year in the western world, the titanium dioxide (TiO2) industry qualifies as one of the largest specialty chemicals sectors. Three major factors are changing the structure and competitive situation of this global industry: recent acquisitions are rapidly consolidating the industry into fewer global suppliers; technological developments have created a new fast-growing market for nanoparticles; and economic forces continue to shift the positions of low-cost as well as marginal-cost producers.
Structural changes began with the acquisition of Tioxide by Du Pont, which further enhanced Du Pont's position as the largest world supplier of TiO2 pigments. More recent acquisitions, such as Millenium's takeover of Rh�ne-Poulenc's plants in France and Kerr-McGee's purchase of Bayer's plant, indicate a trend toward future acquisitions as medium-size producers attempt to gain critical mass.
Advances in finishing technology continue to receive the most attention from producers worldwide. The introduction of TiO2 nanoparticles has created the fastest-growing market segment in this industry. At the same time, conventional pigments continue to grow at rates that are higher than the rate of increase for global GDP. Overall, the market outlook for this industry is for continuous growth at compound annual rates in excess of 3%, globally, with certain countries in Asia growing at over twice that rate.
Neither of the two prevailing TiO2 process technologies—sulfate or chloride—has a clear economic advantage. Production economics are plant-specific, and local factors such as environmental issues, feedstock availability, and local economics determine cash and total production costs for any given plant.