However, advances will be constrained by a contraction in the paper markets of North America and Western Europe, as the increasing digitization of media erodes demand for kaolin-intensive coated paper products. These and other trends are presented in World Kaolin, a new study from The Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industry research firm.
The paper market will continue to be the largest global outlet for kaolin, accounting for more than one-third of global demand in 2020. However, the importance of the paper market has declined significantly since 2005, when it accounted for almost half of world kaolin consumption. Production of uncoated paper and paperboard grew between 2005 and 2015, but output of coated paper products, which consume kaolin more intensively than do uncoated products, declined. The demand for paper coated with alternative materials, particularly calcium carbonates, has become increasingly important since the 1990s.
Demand for kaolin in ceramics production, the second largest market, grew at an above average rate between 2010 and 2015. Gains in this market were supported by a boom in demand for ceramic proppants used in hydraulic fracturing applications, particularly in the US. A fall in global oil prices beginning in 2015, though, cast petroleum industries into a state of uncertainty, and rapid gains for ceramic proppants are not expected to be repeated through 2020.
The Asia/Pacific region accounted for the largest share of kaolin demand in 2015, due to China and several other major kaolin consumers, including Japan, India, and South Korea. Through 2020, growth in kaolin demand in the region is forecast to outpace the global average, with the fastest gains in India, Malaysia, and China. However, regional growth will be restrained by a contraction in Japan, where kaolin consumption in the paper market is expected to fall.