Regulatory uncertainty, trade tariffs, mergers and acquisitions, and raw material shortages have all been features of the market over the last five years in the activated carbon industry. This latest report from Roskill reviews these changes and examines their impact on the industry. One of the major drivers behind many of them is emerging North American demand for powdered activated carbon in mercury control applications, which grew at a dramatic 101% per year between 2007 and 2012, compared with an average overall growth rate for all applications of 13% per year.
Profiling over 150 activated carbon operations, including coal-based, coconut shell-based and wood-based production, Roskill's 350 page Global Industry and Market Outlook offers a comprehensive review of the whole activated carbon industry. From raw material sources through to developing end-use applications the report covers every aspect of the subject, examining trends and providing analysis to give decision makers clarity and an understanding of the market.
Liquid-phase end uses were still by far the largest application for activated carbon in 2012, accounting for an estimated 80% of total consumption. Gas-phase uses accounted for 20% of the world market in 2012 and their share of the market will increase to 2017. Water treatment was by far the largest individual market for activated carbon in 2012 and is the largest liquid-phase end-use.
It is interesting to note that the relative importance of each application for activated carbon varies significantly from country to country. Activated carbon is a bulky, highly adsorbent material that actually consists mainly of air and is relatively difficult to transport. Its indigenous, domestic uses, however, go back to ancient times. In 2012, gold recovery, for example, accounted for >65% of Australian demand for activated carbon but for only a negligible share of European consumption. Wine treatment accounts for a larger proportion of French demand for activated carbon than of Middle Eastern demand.
Activated carbon markets are entering a period of fast growth. The next four years could see world consumption almost double. Enough new production capacity should be in place by 2017 to meet new demand, but the potential exists for a shortage. Raw materials availability is a concern.
The main reason for the change is a piece of mercury control legislation, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS), which was signed on 16 December 2011 and is designed to reduce mercury, other metals and acid gas emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants. Activated carbon injection systems are the dominant control technology to address mercury emissions in 2013. In October 2013, a new UN Treaty on mercury control will be signed that holds even greater potential for activated carbon consumption.
The corporate landscape is also shifting. Sixteen companies now account for almost two thirds of total activated carbon production capacity and just two countries account for the same proportion of world capacity.
During 2012 activated carbon prices achieved record highs. Roskill examines future supply and demand trends to see if those highs will continue.
China: Exports of act. carbon to Japan compared to
average value of exports, 1995 to 2012
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