Rare Earths: Worldwide Markets, Applications, Technologies
Global consumption of rare earth materials was more than 87,000 metric tons in 2004 and 96,000 metric tons in 2005. At an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 10.1%, consumption of these materials should cross well over 155,000 metric tons.
Glass and ceramic materials held the highest share of the market in 2004, approximately 18.5%. Permanent magnets overtook this place in 2005 with almost 19% of the total market. This sector will maintain this position through the forecast period, crossing 32,000 metric tons in 2010 at an AAGR of 12.2%.
NiMH batteries held the highest AAGR with 30.5%, reaching over 27,000 metric tons in 2010. The second-highest growth rate through the forecast period was phosphors at 13.4%.
The rare earths are a group of fifteen metallic elements that have unique properties which make them indispensable for many technological applications. While these metals are not found as commodity materials such as steel, aluminum, and copper, they are a critical ingredient in many materials and components used in the electronics, automotive, environmental protection and petrochemical sectors. As these industries grow and as research around the world continues to develop applications for rare earths, demand for these materials is expected to continually increase. The supply of the rare earths is complex and has experienced considerable volatility over the past 2 decades. A thorough understanding of the rare earth elements is needed because of their importance to industry.
The goal of this report is to provide a detailed and comprehensive multi-client study of the worldwide market for rare earth products and technologies and potential business opportunities in the future. The objectives include thorough coverage of the underlying economic issues driving the rare earth business, as well as assessments of new and potential technologies, products, and services that companies are developing. Social, political, and regulatory issues are also covered. Another important objective is to provide realistic market data and forecasts for worldwide rare earth products demand.
This technology/marketing report starts with an overview of the chemistry and physics of rare earths, and the processes to extract and produce rare earth products, and then moves on to specific applications for rare earth materials. It describes the market growth, the developing technology trends, industry leaders, and applications for these rare earth products. World markets are covered next, followed by an analysis of the industry structure and profiles of the leading rare earth companies.
SCOPE OF STUDY
This report contains:
- The rare earth materials market, especially for applications in rechargeable batteries, hydrogen storage, advanced ceramics, permanent magnets, metallurgy, catalysts, lasers, fiber optics, glass, phosphors and superconductors
- An overview of the rare earths materials market, with precise definitions and terminology important to understanding the market
- Global market forecasts through 2010
- Profiles for all the major companies involved in the market
- A detailed patent analysis.
A comprehensive and exhaustive search of the literature on rare earths was conducted. These secondary sources included chemical and mining journals and related books, trade literature, marketing literature, other product/promotional literature, annual reports, security analyst reports, and other publications.
After the initial literature review was conducted, a series of interviews were conducted with marketing executives, engineers, business unit managers, research engineers, and other personnel at the rare earth material and product companies. Other sources included technology suppliers, technical experts, trade association officials, and government officials. BCC wishes to thank those companies, government agencies, and university researchers who contributed information for this report. When appropriate, information from previously published sources is identified to allow a more detailed examination by clients. Subsequent analysis of the documents and interview notes was iterative. Most current and potential market assessments are based on a common understanding as derived from the above research methodology. That is, it reflects a consensus scenario that assumes no unanticipated technological advances or unexpected legislation.
Dr. Sinton is the principal of CW Sinton Consulting and an adjunct professor of Geology at the University of Vermont. He is the former director of the Center for Environmental and Energy Research at Alfred University in Alfred, NY. He holds a PhD and MS from Oregon State University and a BA from Middlebury College.
Total worldwide production of rare earths will reach 91,325 million tonnes in 2007.
Asia, excluding Japan, will have the fastest average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 4.8%.
Future strong growth for rare earths will be for rechargeable batteries, medical applications, sensors and dental/surgical lasers.
Magnetic refrigeration also will emerge as a commercial market.
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.