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2018 Ceramic Raw Materials Review: Abrasives

China was the world’s leading producer of abrasive fused aluminum oxide (alumina) and abrasive silicon carbide in 2016, with producers operating at near capacity. U.S. imports, particularly those from China where operating costs were lower, continued to challenge abrasives producers in the U.S. and Canada. Production of crude fused alumina was flat at 10,000 t for the year and had an estimated value of $1.92 million. Also flat for 2016, silicon carbide production remained at 35,000 t and was valued at about $26.4 million. Foreign competition, again particularly from China, is expected to persist and continue to limit production in North America.

Imports for consumption of fused alumina were down by 4.3% in 2016, to 157,000 t; exports also dropped, by 2% to 14,700 t. Leading import sources for crude fused alumina from 2012-2015 included: China, 84%; Canada, 7%; Venezuela, 5%; and other, 4%. Silicon carbide imports for consumption declined more drastically, by 16.5% to 116,000 t, while exports plummeted 61.5% to 7,580 t. Crude silicon carbide was imported (2012-2015) from: China, 71%; South Africa, 14%; the Netherlands, 9%; Romania, 4%; and other, 2%. Apparent domestic consumption of fused alumina dropped 4.7% to 142,000 t, while consumption of silicon carbide declined by 7.1% to 143,000 t.

One firm in Ohio and one in Pennsylvania accounted for all of the domestic production of industrial diamond in 2016, which was estimated to be 125 million carats valued at $123 million. At least nine companies produced polycrystalline diamond from diamond powder, and three companies recovered used industrial diamond as one of their principal operations.

China was the leading worldwide producer of synthetic industrial diamond in 2016, with production exceeding 4 billion carats. The U.S. is likely to continue to be one of the world’s leading markets for industrial diamond into the next decade, and it will likely remain a significant producer and exporter of synthetic industrial diamond as well.

Apparent domestic consumption of industrial diamond jumped 70.6% to reach 406 million carats; imports for consumption increased by 49.8% to 412 million carats. Exports declined, however, by 18.6% to 114 million carats.

(Via: Media Partner of CERAMICS CHINA 2019, Ceramic Industry Magazine, https://www.ceramicindustry.com/articles/96787-raw-manufactured-materials-2018-overview)