Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook: Metals, minerals, and fuels 1972
Year 1972, Volume 1 (1972)
Wang, K. P.
Boron, pp. 217-221 ff. PDF (472.6 KB)
218 MINERALS YEARBOOK, 1972 McGee announced plans -to build a $100 million soda ash plant along with additional borate refining facilities. In 1972, Tenneco Oil Co. produced far less colemanite -than it had origin-ally planned from its deposit in the Furnace Creek district of Inyo County, Calif., and its nearby processing plant in Nevada. Tenneco had designed the facilities to produce 150,000 short tons of raw colemani-te, or roughly 70,000 short tons of calcined colemanite, per year, but actually turned ou-t only a fraction of this, because of difficulties in calcining. The 48% B203 grade calcined colemanite was shipped primarily to Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp.'s plants in Anderson, S.C., and Burkette, Ten-n. Although Occidental Petroleum Corp. through its subsidiary Hooker Chemical Corp. was scheduled to become the third borate-producing company on the shores of Searles Lake before yearend 1972, a proposed plant never took shape because of excessive quantities of brines needed. CONSUMPTION AND USES U.S. consumption of boron materials is difficult to estimate because of the wide ran-ge of products and the large tonnages of exports in -the form of both crude and finished borates. Although U.S. Borax is an interna-tional company with farfiung worldwide interests, it does not disclose details on shipments to -foreign countries. KerrMcGee also exports considerable quantities of borates. Water-borne freigh-t charges from Wilmington, Calif., -to Europe are less than those to the east coast United States, because high-cost U.S. bottoms must be used in domestic runs and special low rates are possible on European runs. U.S. Borax's 20,000- to 30,000-deadweight-ton ships carrying borates to Europe often come back with Volkswagens tha-t pay for a large part of the freight charge. Generally spea-king, about one-half of the U.S. output of boron minerals and compounds was consumed at home, and the other one-half was exported. Official U.S. trade statistics do not list crude borates as a separate ca-tegory and imply that none is exported. Actually, shipments of unfinished products to -foreign countries were larger than -those of fully refined products. An estimated 40% -to 45% of the boron compounds consumed were used in manufacturing various kinds of glasses within the United States. Boron materials account for 5% to 10% of many special glasses by weight and 50% to 75% by value. About 15% of all boron consumed went into insulating fiber glass, 10% into textile fiber glass, and 15% to 20% into all other glasses. The manufacture of enamels, fits, and glazes for protective and decora-tive coatings on sinks, stoves, refrigerators, and many other household and industrial ap pliances accounted for another 10% of the boron consumption. Approximately 15% of the boron compounds consumed in the United States, (about one-third in the form of sodium perborate detergents), wen-t into soaps and cleansers during 1972. Herein lies one major difference in U.S. and European consumption pat-terns. In Europe, sodium perborate detergents, used primarily in high-temperature washing, account for more than one-quarter of the boron consumed whereas in the United States, consumption for cleansers is h-igher. Borax and boric acid are used in the cleansing field because of their bactericidal characteristics, easy solubili-ty in water, -and excellent water-softening properties. They also go into toothpaste, mouthwash, and eyewash. Borax added to fertilizers to supply boron as an essential plan-t nutrient accounted for about 5% of the U.S. boron demand. Another 2% to 3% went into the making of herbicides. Substituting colemanite for fluorite in steelmaking did not progress beyond the pilot plant stage. About one--fourth of the boron consumed in the Uni-ted States went in-to many miscellaneous uses. Minor amounts of boron compounds were used as fluxing materials in welding, soldering, and metal refining. Some elemental boron was used as a deoxidizer in nonferrous metallurgy, as a grain refiner in aluminum, as a thermal neutron absorber in atomic reactors, *in delayed action fuses, as an ignitor in radio tubes, and as a coating material in solar batteries. Use of boron compounds in abrasives gained ground, particularly cubic boron nitride produced by synthetic diamond producers. Use of boric acid as a catalyst in
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