Global demand for silica sand is forecast to climb 4.4 percent annually through 2016 to 278 million metric tons, valued at $8.5 billion. Hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) is expected to represent by far the fastest growing market, spurred by a large increase in its use as a well stimulation technique, particularly in the US. The building products market will see the next fastest gains, bolstered principally by rising construction expenditures in the Asia/Pacific region. Consumption will be further stimulated by increases in world glass production and foundry output.
The Asia/Pacific region will account for the largest share (56 percent) of additional silica sand demand between 2011 and 2016, driven by increased construction expenditures and foundry output, particularly in China and India. Robust increases in the use of silica sand in glass production will also contribute to sales advances in the region. North America will contribute nearly one-fourth of additional silica sand demand between 2011 and 2016, spurred by gains in the hydraulic fracturing market, as silica sand is expected to remain the dominant proppant material in terms of volume, largely due to its low cost compared to other proppants. China will continue to represent the largest national market for industrial sand, accounting for 34 percent of all global demand in volume terms in 2016. However, the US will remain the most significant silica sand market in value terms, with product demand totaling $2.3 billion in that year. Overall sales gains will be tempered by meager growth in Western Europe, hindered by nominal increases in glass output and minimal fracking activity.
Demand for silica sand can be segmented into five major markets: glass, foundries, hydraulic fracturing, building products, and chemicals, as well as other smaller markets. Glass is the largest market, accounting for 37 percent of global silica sand consumption (in volume terms) in 2011. With 32 percent of overall sales,
foundries represent the next largest market, followed by hydraulic fracturing, building products, and chemicals, with other applications (such as abrasives and recreation) accounting for the remainder of demand. However, due to the disparity in silica sand prices, the glass and foundry markets are less significant in value terms when compared to the hydraulic fracturing segment. Additionally, in 2016 the glass and hydraulic fracturing markets will be equivalent in terms of market value, and they will account for the majority of the industrial sand market in dollar terms 27 percent share ($2.3 billion) of overall sales.
International trade in silica sand is limited due to the high cost of transporting silica sand relative to its value. As a result, quarries and processing facilities are typically located near major centers of demand. However, foreign markets are important to producers in such countries as the US, Australia, Italy, and Germany, which were the four largest exporters of industrial sand in 2011.
This Freedonia industry study, “World Industrial Silica Sand”, presents historical data (2001, 2006, 2011) plus forecasts for 2016 and 2021 for supply and demand, as well as demand by market, for six regions and 18 countries. The study also assesses market environment factors, examines industry structure, evaluates company market share and profiles global industry players.