Titanium is a vital material in the manufacture of aerospace components. Properties of heat and corrosion resistance and an exceptional strength-to-weight ratio make aerospace titanium alloys essential in the construction of airframes, engine parts, and other aircraft elements. The aerospace industry alone accounts for 90 percent of titanium consumption.
As with all industrial-specific materials, the price of titanium fluctuates with supply chain shifts and market demand. In general, the cost of extracting titanium and processing it into various alloys is expensive and laborious, even with modern techniques. Titanium recycling can provide a lower-cost source, but the necessity of the material means that increased demand and limited supply always have a major impact on the development and manufacture of new aircraft.
Other titanium-based products, such as housing for electronics, specialty fasteners, and orthopedics are also affected. In 2021, a recent resurgence in titanium prices accompanied the aerospace industry’s revival after the earlier effects of Covid-19 lockdowns and travel disruptions. Now, in 2022, titanium price increases have been exasperated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions and boycotts.
Both countries are major exporters of titanium. War-caused supply disruptions and mounting pressure to discontinue the purchase of Russian commodities are affecting aerospace manufacturers of all sizes. Now, there are growing questions on whether global titanium demands can be met and by which suppliers.
Titanium Scrap Price And Providers In Flux
Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and other countries around the world have significant raw titanium deposits, but the only major producers of aerospace titanium and titanium sponge are China, Japan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and India. Russia in particular provides significant quantities of titanium to some of the world’s biggest aerospace producers, including Airbus, Boeing, and Safran.
Whether titanium should be exempt from current sanctions on Russia is being actively debated by these and other aerospace companies in Europe and North America. Boeing recently made the decision to seek an alternative to Russian-owned VSMPO-Avisma and one of its largest sources of titanium. Airbus hasn’t yet discontinued buying from Russian sources but has stated that it will comply with sanctions if they become applicable.
Other aerospace companies have reported moves to reduce reliance on Russian titanium by stockpiling current supplies. With Russia and Ukraine no longer serving as leading exporters, more western countries are turning to Japan as the next best source for certified, aerospace-quality titanium. Japan is already a major player in the high-grade titanium market and provides more than 80 percent of imports to the U.S, but the production capacities of its leading alloy manufacturers are already strained.
Although output could potentially increase to meet ongoing demand, titanium costs will continue to increase.
How High Will Titanium Prices Rise?
Through the earlier months of the Covid-19 pandemic, titanium price per ounce slipped drastically, mainly because air travel and aerospace manufacturing slowed significantly. Aerospace alloys dipped to multi-year lows through 2020, but, as Covid vaccines were distributed, manufacturers returned to regular operations, and travel restrictions were lifted, titanium prices promptly returned to an upswing.
This was highly favorable for scrap sellers, especially prior to gradual supply level steadying. Now, drastic fluctuations have moved in the opposite direction. With Russia and Ukraine mostly removed from their former market roles, forecasters are projecting substantial jumps in price—as much as two-thirds, or $15 per kilogram over the next two years.
This would amount to costs that haven’t been seen since the 2008 financial crisis. Such a market upset is expected to be a major hindrance for aerospace, even as the industry continues to push for a full post-Covid recovery.