Silica sand is primarily quartz that has been broken down over time by the actions of wind and water, until it exists as fine granules. The main use of silica sand is in the creation of industrial concrete, as it makes up the bulk of concrete production globally.
Australia has been a user of silica sand for its construction industry, with sand mined in Sydney, Broken Hill and Newcastle in New South Wales and North Stradbroke Island in Queensland, together with Cape Bedford.
Silica sand is currently enjoying healthy growth, with a CAGR of nearly 8.7% in value terms from 2009 to 2016 and a market value of US$6.3 billion (source: IMARC Group). This has been fuelled by its applications across a range of industries, including glass making, foundry casting, water fibration, chemicals and metals, along with the hydraulic fracturing process. IMARC expects the demand for silica sand to exhibit a CAGR of 7.2% through to 2022, reaching revenues of US$9.6 billion.
As one of the major consumers of high purity silica, the global glass market has recently realised significant growth due to increased demand from the construction and automotive markets, along with expanding per capita income and technological advancements.
Currently there are no direct substitutes for silica sand in the majority of its applications. As a result, the threat of competitor products remains low.
Expanded growth is being enjoyed in the Asian market, especially China, which is seeing rising glass manufacturing in line with construction and infrastructure growth.
Emerging economies in the Asia-Pacific region also require specialised plate glass for double glazing, with the aim of reducing energy needs. In the Asia-Pacific region alone, demand for silica sand is seen reaching 138 million metric tonnes in 2018, constituting some 47% of global demand, ahead of North America’s 20% and Western Europe’s 16%.
The end uses of silica sand include five major markets comprising glass, foundry, hydraulic fracturing, filtration and abrasives, as shown by the following graph:
IMARC expects high growth in demand from North America, Latin America and Western Europe through to 2022 due to increasing hydraulic fracturing activities that use silica sand as a proppant, due to its low cost. Growth is also expected to be driven by emerging markets such as China and India, where the demand for silica sand in the foundry and construction industries is expected to be high.
Overall, it sees the silica sand market expanding at a CAGR of 4.2% from 2017-2022, reaching around 230.6 million tonnes and revenues of US$9.6 billion by 2022.