Investing in Iodine

Iodine is a halogen. Prices for iodine have increased in recent years owing to high demand, which has led to high capacity utilization. The average c.i.f. value of iodine imports in 2010 was estimated to be $24.18 per kilogram. Domestic and imported iodine were used by downstream manufacturers to produce many intermediate iodine compounds, making it difficult to establish an accurate end-use pattern. Of the consumers that participate in an annual U.S. Geological Survey canvass, 17 plants reported consumption of iodine in 2009. Iodine and iodine compounds reported were unspecified organic compounds, including ethyl and methyl iodide, 51%; potassium iodide, 11%; crude iodine, 11%; povidine-iodine (iodophors), 7%; ethylenediamine dihydroiodide, 5%; sodium iodide, 4%; and other, 11%.

Import Sources (2006–09): Chile, 82%; Japan, 17%; and other, 1%.

Events, Trends, and Issues: Demand for iodine has been driven in recent years by consumption for liquid crystal displays (LCD) and x-ray contrast media. With increased demand in these two sectors and global iodine production remaining constant, an imbalance between supply and demand was created and resulted in iodine prices increasing by 19% from 2008 to 2009. As consumption of iodine in biocides, LCDs, and nylon declined owing to the global economic downturn, prices remained relatively firm. The prices in 2010 were estimated to decrease slightly from those of 2009, but were projected to be more than 10% greater than those of 2008. With an economic recovery expected, demand for iodine used in biocides, iodine salts, LCDs, synthetic fabric treatments, and x-ray contrast media was expected to increase at a rate of between 3.5% and 4% per year during the next decade.
As in previous years, Chile was the world’s leading producer of iodine, followed by Japan and the United States. Chile accounted for more than 50% of world production, having two of the leading iodine producers in the world. The largest Chilean producer reported a 20% decrease in sales from 2008 to 2009, which was attributed to the global economic downturn. In response to the downturn, the company announced the suspension of operations at one of its mining facilities. The third largest Chilean producer initiated a new project at Algorta, Chile, which was expected to replace its current operation at Lagunas, Chile.

Several governmental programs were expected to affect future iodine demand. The European Union prohibited its 27 member countries from using or selling iodine for the purpose of disinfecting drinking water. China’s Ministry of Health announced the reduction of iodine content in salt owing to fears that iodized salt is causing a rise in thyroid disease. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the restricted use of the soil fumigant iodomethane (methyl iodide) as an alternative to ozone-depleting methyl bromide. Australia and Belgium required bread manufacturers to use iodized salt with the intent of limiting iodine deficiency in their populations.

World Resources: In addition to the reserves shown above, seawater contains 0.05 parts per million iodine, or approximately 34 million tons. Seaweeds of the Laminaria family are able to extract and accumulate up to 0.45% iodine on a dry basis. Although not as economical as the production of iodine as a byproduct of gas, nitrate, and oil, the seaweed industry represented a major source of iodine prior to 1959 and remains a large resource.

Substitutes: There are no comparable substitutes for iodine in many of its principal applications, such as in animal feed, catalytic, nutritional, pharmaceutical, and photographic uses. Bromine and chlorine could be substituted for iodine in biocide, colorant, and ink, although they are usually considered less desirable than iodine. Antibiotics can be used as a substitute for iodine biocides.

Iodine Companies
Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile S.A. (NYSE: SQM) - - The world's largest producer of iodine, with an estimated 25% of world production in 2009. SQM is also one the largest producers of lithium.
ACF Minera - iodine project in Algorta, Region II, Chile
Atacama Minerals - Aguas Blancas mine in northern Chile
International Isotopes (OTC: INIS) - - Provides radiochemical products including iodine-131, cobalt-60, cobalt-57, and barium-133.

MDS Nordion (NYSE: MDZ) - - Iodine-123, iodine-125, and iodine-131, as well as bromine-76, cobalt-57, copper-64, gallium-67, indium-111, molybdenum-99, palladium-103, rhenium-186, strontium-82, rubidium-82, technetium-99m, thallium-201, xenon-133, and yttrium-90

Covidien (NYSE: COV) - - Covidien supplies a number of nuclear medicine products including iodine-131, iodine-123, gallium-67, phosphorus-32, indium-111, chromium-51, thallium-201, xenon-133, and technetium-99m

(wiki) - Iodine on Wikipedia

Iodine News
2011-06-28 - (im) - Iodine prices rise further on winter production shortfalls
2011-06-14 - (im) - Chile producers maintain high iodine prices
2011-06-03 - (im) - SQM boosts first quarter iodine production amid tight market
2011-05-23 - (im) - Market sources disagree on softening of iodine prices
2011-05-10 - (im) - Iodine market remains tight on Japan supply constraints
2011-04-08 - (im) - Iodine price hikes continue in aftermath of Japan earthquake
2011-03-23 - (im) - Iodine price spikes on panic buying of radiation pills
2011-03-17 - (im) - Japan radiation fears trigger panic buying of iodine tablets
2011-02-15 - (im) - Iodine prices rise as demand recovers to pre-recession levels
2010-11-30 - (im) - Record iodine output for Atacama Minerals
2010-11-19 - (gn) - Nuclear dispute has a human price

Learn more:

Back to Element Investing