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8th February 2018

Barytes

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What Is Barytes and Where Do I Use It?

  • Barytes (or barite) is the naturally occurring mineral barium sulphate (BaSO4).
  • It is mainly used (70%) as a weighting agent in drilling fluids by the oil and gas industry where baryte’s high specific gravity assists in containing pressures and preventing blowouts.
  • Barytes and barium compounds are also used as fillers or additives in industrial products including rubber, paint, ceramics and glass, high density concrete and plaster, dielectrics, medical application.

Where is Barytes Produced?

  • World production is broadly linked to oil-well drilling activity and has increased from around 6.0 to 6.5 million tonnes/year in the early 2000s to an estimated 8.7 million tonnes in 2017.
  • During the period 2010-2016, 8.6 million tonnes of Baryte was produced on average annually in the world.
  • China was the largest producer and accounted for 45% of global production. India, Morocco, USA, Iran, Russia and Kazakhstan accounted for further 40% altogether.
  • China is the largest EU supplier but its share has steadily decreased from 61% in 2010 to39% in 2016, whereas Morocco and Turkey have registered an increase in market share during this period (respectively 15% and 4% in 2016).

How much does it cost?

  • Baryte prices depend on the amount of processing needed which is determined by the end-use and the quality required.
  • Drilling grade barytes attracts the lowest prices while filler applications command higher prices, following physical processing by grinding and micronizing. There are further premiums for whiteness and brightness and colour.
  • Prices for Chinese drilling grade barytes have decreased over the past five years, from US$ 131-135/tonne FOB China in 2012 to US$80-90/tonne end-2017.
  • This is largely due to decline in US demand as a consequence of lower oil drilling activity in response to weaker oil prices.
  • Chinese white baryte prices have been relatively stable during the period 2010-2017, due to limited production.
  • The 2015-2016 price decrease is partly due to the depreciation of Chinese yuan against US Dollar.

Specific Issues

  • Barytes has been recognized as a critical raw material in the 2017 CRM report.
  • It was included in a United States Geological Survey (USGS) report on 23 US Critical Minerals in December 2017
  • China and Morocco, the two main suppliers of the EU for Barytes, have imposed export taxes less than 25%.
  • Several EU trade free agreements are in place with other suppliers such as Turkey, Norway and Tunisia.
  • The consumption of barytes fluctuates from year to year as it is principally dependent on the amount of exploration drilling for oil and gas, which depends on oil and gas prices.

Applications

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