Rare Earths: Worldwide Markets, Applications, Technology

Published - Mar 2000| Analyst - Anna Welch Crull| Code - AVM018C
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Report Highlights

  • In terms of market value, the leading rare earth end use is for high power permanent magnets. In 1999, $1.2 billion worth of rare earth-containing magnets will be sold. These magnets included 25,300 tons of rare earth materials (based on rare earth oxide content). Under an optimistic market scenario, this could grow to more than $2 billion over the next 10 years.
  • In terms of tonnage, the leading rare earth application is for catalysts, including gasoline cracking catalysts and air pollution abatement catalysts. In 1999, this represents a 30,000-ton market. This market is stable, and little growth is likely.
  • The fastest-growing market could be for rare earth-containing room temperature superconductors. From a commercial market of essentially zero, the rare earth-containing superconductor market in 1999 should be on the order of $25 million. Over the next 5 years, under an optimistic scenario, this could grow to a $200 million market. By 2009, $0.5 billion worth of rare earth-containing superconductors could be sold. In terms of tonnage, this could mean a 200-ton market within the 10-year scope of this report.


INTRODUCTION

STUDY GOAL AND OBJECTIVES

Rare earth materials represent a growing market and group of technologies. These materials have expanding applications in markets as diverse as rechargeable batteries, advanced ceramics, permanent magnets, metals, optical data storage, lasers, fiber optics, glass, phosphors and superconductors.

Although some rare earth applications have been around since before 1900, the growth and diversity of applications over the last 10 years is remarkable, assuring opportunities for continued growth for the next 10 years and room for new products and competitors. As with rare earth markets in earlier times, there remain risks associated with changes in material choices for a particular application. These are often due to the economic effect of new suppliers, processes and developments, which impact the availability and pricing of rare earth materials.

The growing availability of these materials will aid in the growth of applications and materials usage. For many of the applications that presently use rare earths, the rate of usage will increase because of the expectation of wide application of technology developed in the last 10 years. These applications include wider use of lasers, wide-spread use of fiber-optic communication, widespread use of newer, less expensive rare earth permanent magnets, and growth in the use of rare earth-based nickel-metal hydride batteries and fuel cells.

Rare earths remain a global market. For many of the companies that produce rare earth materials in the U.S., the upside potential is not excellent because of competition from non-U.S. producers. However, for companies marketing products and services, rather than rare earth primary producers, the potential for growth could be significant.

This technology/marketing report covers an overview of the chemistry and physics of rare earths, processes to extract and produce rare earth products, and specific applications for rare earth materials. It describes the market growth, the developing technology trends, industry leaders, and applications for rare earth products. The study is directed toward understanding the present and potential markets for the materials involved.

Although this technology/marketing report provides a brief overview of the chemistry and physics of rare earth materials that make for unique applications, the overall emphasis is on the rare earth markets, technology and applications.

REASONS FOR DOING THE STUDY

The present state of the rare earth industry is changing rapidly. There are several active industry organizations with good access to technical advancement, both in the area of new methods for producing rare earth products, and in evaluating rare earth materials in various applications. There is, however, some continuing concern about the use of rare earth materials because of the term "rare earth," coupled with concerns about the use of exotic, expensive materials that have limited availability. With the rapid changes in the industry structure and in the accelerated rise of new, expanding applications, a technology/marketing report update with a unified view of materials and applications is needed.

This revised Opportunity Report is intended to be the most complete technical, economic and document of this type on this subject and is designed to provide information of a professional nature. The technical data are dependent on the accuracy of the manufacturers and technical sources that helped to make up the BCC database. This report is not intended to constitute a legal or accounting doc-ument, nor is it an endorsement of any given product or process. The authors, and BCC, Inc. as the publisher, assume no liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on this material.

CONTRIBUTION OF THE STUDY AND FOR WHOM

This report is intended to provide a unique analysis of the international market for rare earths, and will be of interest to manufacturers of rare earth-containing products. Current and potential rare earth producers and consumers can determine existing or potential markets. This report will be valuable to those involved in the of supplying rare earth materials by assisting them in evaluating opportunities and technology trends. It will also be useful to those firms in the producing end of the by helping them evaluate further integration possibilities and joint operations. The report should prove useful to firms in understanding the state and growth of the market and in understanding and reacting to market changes. BCC wishes to thank those companies, government agencies, and university researchers who contributed information for this report.

SCOPE AND FORMAT

First, this report organizes the rare earth industry into the following market sectors:

  • Magnets
  • Metallurgical
  • Hydrogen storage and separation
  • Catalysts and other chemical applications
  • Nuclear
  • Glass
  • Ceramics
  • Lighting and lasers
  • Superconductors.

Each rare earth market sector is defined, leading companies for each sector are identified, and the market sectors are analyzed (including a 5- and 10-year market prediction).

Rare earth-producing and consuming companies are profiled in this report's Company Profiles section.

METHODOLOGY

This report is based on a literature review, patent examination, and discussions with commercial and government sources. Throughout the report, past market data are expressed in current dollars, and estimates and predictions in constant 1999 dollars. Wholesale markets for 1998 and predictions for 1999, 2004 and 2009 are provided. Most market summaries are based on a consensus scenario that assumes no unan-ticipated technical advances and no unexpected legislation. Totals are rounded to the nearest million dollars. When appropriate, information from previously published sources is identified to allow a more detailed examination by clients.

INFORMATION SOURCES

Although many segments of the rare earth industry are well documented, much of this information is based on estimates, not hard facts. The distinction between these estimates and hard facts can be vital, and wherever possible, sources are identified.

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