Titanium sponge, the basis for titanium metal, is lighter and tougher than steel and is essential for the aerospace industry.
The U.S. has become increasingly more concerned with supply constraints around titanium sponge as China could become the dominant maker of the raw materials, while per the Wall Street Journal, Russia produces the most aerospace-grade titanium metal.
What Happened: As Ukraine is one of only seven global producers of titanium sponge, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, there are efforts for the country to become an alternative supplier. If Russia restricts Ukraine’s exports as it has in the past with energy and grain, it could force Western nations to look for other suppliers.
This allows China and Russia to use aerospace-grade materials as a geopolitical tool, especially as American manufacturers are less likely to restart titanium sponge production.
Since the U.S. receives all of its titanium sponge from abroad, the Commerce Department has repeatedly warned this is causing a threat to national security, even more so now that the sought-after titanium materials are no longer held in the National Defense Stockpile.
Domestic manufacturers of titanium sponge might no longer match the low prices China and Russia were able to produce. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, China was the world’s largest producer of titanium-sponge last year, although not always up to Western aerospace standards, accounting for 57% of the global output in 2021.
Why It Matters: The U.S. aerospace and defense manufacturer Boeing Co BA has a joint venture with Russian manufacturer VSMPO-Avisma, the world’s largest titanium exporter, but has not made any order since the invasion began, reported the Wall Street Journal.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and recalls on the 737 MAX and 787 Dreamliner, Boeing has stockpiled its titanium inventory in raw materials and finished goods, but it will not last forever.
Lastly, Airbus SE EADSF lobbied and won against the European Union’s proposal to sanction VSMPO lithium exports, as that is where Airbus sources over half of its titanium metal, reported by the Wall Street Journal.
As Ukraine could be well-positioned to become an alternative supplier of titanium, Russia may do everything in its power to block the exports of these raw materials.
Photo: Billion Photos via Shutterstock
Image and article originally from www.benzinga.com. Read the original article here.