Seen elsewhere
Twitter
Support

 

Buy

Click images for more details

Recent posts
Recent comments
Currently discussing
Links

A few sites I've stumbled across recently....

Powered by Squarespace
« Delingpole on the Daily Politics | Main | Black in pay of green? »
Friday
Jun222012

More indium

A few weeks back I looked at a BBC article which raised the spectre of a worldwide shortage of indium, a rare element much in demand for LCD screens. Despite the BBC's alarm, it appeared that people in the industry were in fact quite sanguine about their ability to meet rising demand.

Roger Harrabin has now picked up the baton in this area, discussing a Green Alliance paper that seeks to encourage recycling and considers metal supply as part of this. As Harrabin explains, according to the paper there is a problem with indium.

Iron and aluminium are so abundant they didn't get a mention. There was little concern expressed for copper, silver or chromium.

But there were substantial worries over the minerals that are gold dust for the new economy: antimony, used in flame-retardants and micro-electronics; the platinum group of metals, used in catalytic converters, fuel cells, phones and hard discs; and lithium, used in batteries.

Indium was a greater concern still - it's used in flat screens and touch screens.

This was a bit of a surprise to me, since, as I mentioned above, people in the industry have no great concerns about supply. So I wondered how it was that the Green Alliance might conclude otherwise.

Their report is a meta analysis of seven studies, by bodies such as Defra, the House of Commons Science and Technology COmmittee, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, and the EU. Here are some of the relevant excerpts:

The EU

-more than 81% of the EU’s imports of indium originate in China
- recycling possibilities for indium are limited mainly to manufacturing residues, whereas substitution is possible in some applications only

SEPA

Primary indium production, a by-product of zinc production, may decrease as a result of market zinc surplus. This may also mean that producers are unable to respond quickly to increases in demand. The impact of restrictions on exports by major indium suppliers could also result in market uncertainty. The most critical activity to maintain balance between supply and demand is perhaps the ability of countries to recover indium from electrical components and scrap, although much of the potential reserves for recovery are likely still in use by businesses, and until discarded will not be available for the global market for recovery.

Defra (and do I detect some similarities between the Defra text and the SEPA one?)

Primary indium production, as a by product of zinc production, may decrease as a result of market zinc surplus. This may also mean that indium producers are unable to respond quickly to increases in demand. The impact of restrictions on exports by major indium suppliers could also result in market uncertainty. The most critical activity to maintain balance between supply and demand is the ability of countries to recover indium from electrical components and scrap.

You get the drift. Indium comes from China, it's a by product of zinc production and it's not recycled.

Except the problem is that this appears to be only half the story. EU indium supply may well come from China (why is that a problem?) but there are large indium resources in North and South America amongst other places. And according to this document from the US Geological Survey indium was already being recycled from scrap LCDs in Japan in 2004.

The truth appears to be that there is precisely no problem with indium supply. As if to confirm the point, here is the latest from the Indium Corporation, the world's largest supplier of the metal:

According to the U.S. Geological Survey statistics, the worldwide output of indium metal has increased 7X since 1980. We believe that this trend will continue and supply will expand to meet demand.

The indium supply has been bolstered by continued improvement in recycling programs. In the rapidly growing LCD market, greater than 85% of non-deposited indium is reclaimed and returned to the supply chain.

We believe the currently-observed price fluctuations are primarily due to a time lag between emerging demand and available supply. As has been observed in previous cycles, the Indium Corporation believes higher prices will draw forward additional supplies which will alleviate any scarcity.

It's almost as if the Green Alliance and the civil servants who prepared the underlying reports are all operating in a parallel universe, one which bears no meaningful relationship to the one in which indium is actually produced and bought and sold and turned into useful goods.

I think what we are seeing is environmentalists pushing their ideological agenda, civil servants trying to expand their bureaucratic territories, and the BBC acting as cheerleader. It just leaves you wondering what happened to the public interest in all this.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

Reader Comments (60)

"It's almost as if the Green Alliance and the civil servants who prepared the underlying reports are all operating in a parallel universe, one which bears no meaningful relationship to the one in which indium is actually produced and bought and sold and turned into useful goods.

I think what we are seeing is environmentalists pushing their ideological agenda, civil servants trying to expand their bureaucratic territories, and the BBC acting as cheerleader."

Go on, Bish.

Tell us something new!

And it is reassuring to note that all these crooks, incompetents and fantasists are being paid for from your taxes!

No "Government Cuts" there!

Jun 22, 2012 at 8:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

Shortages of anything can always be attributed by the Green Movement to us 'raping Mother Gaia'.
In the same vein WWF would claim that we are running out of Polar Bears and Tigers.
Monbiot has the solution however, get rid of 'man' .

Jun 22, 2012 at 8:45 AM | Unregistered Commentertoad

Is it too much of a tin-foil theory to see this as part of wide-ranging meme in the "conversation" between the politico/financial/media elite and us poor proles?

Namely that there is not "enough to go round" and that therefore the little people must curb their expectations?

Harrabin and the like will not suffer from any "shortages" either now or in the future, be sure of that.

Jun 22, 2012 at 8:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

When it comes to the BBC public interest only comes in to it if it aligns with what interests the BBC.

The sooner the BBC is broken up, the better!

Mailman

Jun 22, 2012 at 9:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Toad says 'Monbiot has the solution however, get rid of 'man' .'

Alternatively, swap the placement of 'Monbiot' with that of 'man'.

Jun 22, 2012 at 9:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan E

The end justifies the means.
The end: All proles to live in mud huts with a turnip diet.

Jun 22, 2012 at 9:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid C

Sigh.

Indium can also be extracted from lead processing. And the wastes of aluminium processing.

A rough calculation is that there's tens of millions of tonnes or so of indium in the Earth's crust. We use perhaps 500 tonnes a year, something like that.

There's a technological problem of extraction, an economic one of the price at which we do it. But no actual shortage of the element in anything like reasonable timescales.

Jun 22, 2012 at 9:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterTim Worstall

Once all power production switches to using Rossi's E-Cat, zinc demand will increase and indium production will not be an issue.

So all we need now is for Rossi's E-Cat to be real.

Jun 22, 2012 at 9:26 AM | Unregistered Commentersteveta

Shouldn't it be renamed "Chinium"?

(I'll get my coat!)

Jun 22, 2012 at 9:50 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

I think the problem is that 'enough Indium to go round' doesn't make a very arresting headline.
A bit like 'Climate behaving normally'...

Jun 22, 2012 at 10:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Indium is 50 times more abundant than gold in the earth's crust. There is four times more gold mined per year than indium, and we've been mining gold for thousands of years, over which time we've extracted around 170,000 tonnes.

Indium is almost as abundant as silver in the earth's crust. There is 40 times more silver mined per year than Indium, and we've been mining silver for thousands of years, over which time we've extracted around 1,400,000 tonnes.

Extraction of indium is around 600 tonnes per year. I think it's safe to say there is no likelihood of running out of indium for centuries, if not millennia.

Jun 22, 2012 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

And why is China the major producer, because of enviromental restrictions in the West mean its uneconomic to refine Zinc and Lead which then give you the Indium as a by product. So lobby for enviromental restrictions and then put any resulting shortages down to scarcity instead of the real reason.

PS the LCD manufacturers have been burnt in the past and they now stockpiled Indium so they can only need to buy at the low price dips.

Jun 22, 2012 at 10:37 AM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

The Club of Rome is desperately trying to impose mass panic to trigger the World Aristocracy of the Bureaucrats. Expect more of this.

Jun 22, 2012 at 10:41 AM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

They do not seem to be bothered about Neodymium from China. Or the associated environmental damage in mining it.

I wonder if that has something to do with its use in wind turbines? LOL

Jun 22, 2012 at 11:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

The ignorance shown by the green lobby is truly amazing. ITO which is Indium Tin Oxide a transparent conductor used to connect the TFT (Thin Film Transistors) inside LCD screens, has already been replaced in demonstration screens 2 years ago, by Graphene. Oh and that was invented in Manchester, England. Another application for Graphene is to make the transistors in the TFT's.

One day these morons might read Julien Simons book The Ultimate Resource, or even read some of the writings of ElChiefio included in his letter to Dr Bain. An interesting aspect of the Simon/Ehrlich bet was after loosing the bet, which by the way would still hold today on an adjusted basis, Ehrlich proposed another bet but this time based on the quality of human welfare. Nice and abstract.

That itself is interesting as Ban Ki Moon put it on a more concrete basis by stating that "In a world of plenty, no-one, not a single person, should go hungry," Adding clean water and air would take us to Lomborg.

As Richard North would say "Why don't we just rise up......" But the Bish don't do violence mores the pity.

Jun 22, 2012 at 11:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrianJay

"Defra, the House of Commons Science and Technology COmmittee, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, and the EU"

So 4 government agencies (3 if SEPA is just boilerplating Defra) and nobody from the industry.

Once again government manufacturing a false scare story and the state broadcasrer puffing it.

Jun 22, 2012 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

In any economy, shortages are just another way of saying "caused by bureaucratic meddling".

Jun 22, 2012 at 11:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterAC1

Scotland and Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental research (SNIFFER)
"Never trust a sniffer"
With apologies to one of Steve Wright's phone-in characters (Sid the Manager?)

Jun 22, 2012 at 11:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

That itself is interesting as Ban Ki Moon put it on a more concrete basis by stating that "In a world of plenty, no-one, not a single person, should go hungry," Adding clean water and air would take us to Lomborg.
OK, Brian, so what are you doing about it (removes tongue from cheek)?
There are charities with "boots on the ground" in Africa doing their damnedest to provide clean water and proper drainage. There are others trying to feed/educate the poor. My favourite, as people on here will know, is Mary's Meals — a Scots charity working mainly in Zambia that guarantees any child that turns up at least one square meal. The catch is they have to sit through some lessons to get it! Works a treat; they love it!
Half-a-dozen sources have maintained that South Sudan only needs the technology to be able to feed the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. Famine — as they rightly point out — is political. It is not inevitable even in drought conditions. Look at the work done by Mohammed Gill and the Thal Development Authority (and others) in Pakistan in the 1950s.
But we prefer to pour our money into Oxfam and CAFOD and other NGOs who would rather ponce about pontificating about climate change than really get their hands dirty while the UN wrings its hands about the situation in the Horn of Africa will concentrating on "sustainability" (which means poverty) and a re-distribution of wealth that will impoverish the better off while doing sod all for the poor.
And, whatever we may say politically about organisations like the EU, we at least turn a blind eye to the protectionism of the EU and the US and policies like the CAP which keep our food prices high and block our access to cheap food from countries that could hoist themselves out of their poverty if only there were a level playing field.
And (nearly done!) we stand by while our governments pour aid into countries where they know it is going to end up in the pockets of corrupt dictators and claim to be doing it to meet some fantastical UN target, set by an organisation which is very largely run by those same corrupt dictators. (You don't believe me? Have a look at where the power lies in the UN!)
There is a solution but it requires the sheeple to wake up and realise what is being done in their name and take political action to stop it. It would only need Germany, France, UK and US to elect governments prepared to say 'no more' to set the ball rolling.
Don't hold your breath, but!

Jun 22, 2012 at 11:41 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Breaking News

World shortage of alarmists

Not coming to a newsstand anytime soon.

Jun 22, 2012 at 11:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndy scrase

Too many Chiefs and not enough Indiums.
.....................................................

Why don't these ignorant [snip] stick to their knitting (if they have any idea of what they are personally good at) and let the shackles off free enterprise, which has a long track record of delivering metals on time. It's elementary that the required substances can be obtained. It's just a matter of cost of production.
....................................................
The chant of "Leave uranium in the ground" became a nothing when it was demonstrated that it could be extracted from sea water, at a $ cost that nations were prepared to pay. This happened in the mid-1970s, but the chant goes on. What frightening intellects. GIST - Garbage in, Stays there.

Jun 22, 2012 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

From the Ecclesiastical Uncle, an old retired bureaucrat in a field only remotely related to climate with minimal qualifications and only half a mind.

It is not likely that the EU and DEFRA reports were intended to expand bureaucratic territory. Why should any bureaucrat want that? It would be normal for the bureaucrat to want to shed responsibility in the expectation of an easier life without a corresponding reduction in pay.

The EU and DFRA extracts appear to be written by junior high flying graduates (a) cutting their teeth, (b) under pressure not to bother anyone with questions, and (c) to be finished by – yesterday. Evidently, nobody took what they were doing seriously.

The SEPA extract is from the report of a wide ranging contracted-out investigation, evidently produced for an inadequate fixed fee. The result reads rather like a graduate (or maybe post-graduate) thesis. Being unkind – pay peanuts, buy monkeys. Being kind –yes, good, have an honours degree! Either way, a grasp of reality is not guaranteed.

Harrabin and the Green Alliance grow fat on the scraps provided by the bureaucracy.

Jun 22, 2012 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterEcclesiastical Uncle

"(indium) has already been replaced in demonstration screens 2 years ago, by Graphene."

So what if run out of Graphene? It's not like we can make it out of thin air, is it?

Jun 22, 2012 at 12:31 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta

Re: steveta

Cheers. I've learnt something new today.

Jun 22, 2012 at 12:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

In fact silver nanowire looks even more promising than graphene. Either way, speaking as someone who's worked in the indium business for >20 yrs, I agree with Indium Corporation - there isn't a shortage, and there isn't going to be a shortage.

These green idiots simply don't understand the metals business.

Jun 22, 2012 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterSebastian Weetabix

Graphene?
Shock, horror, but that's that EVIL carbon stuff, spread very thin, so we'll never get rid of it.

Interesting that much of the west seems incapable of understanding that this stuff is not 'rare', just as 'rare earths' are not rare. It's just that there's no money to be made in extracting and refining the stuff.
If and when there is enough demand, there'll be a plentiful supply.

Is it perhaps the same mindset that decides that we must have droughts and water shortages, so that we can reduce our consumption of this 'limited resource', and labours constantly to create the conditions to make it so?

Jun 22, 2012 at 1:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

I assume steventa's question about the abundance of graphene is a joke. If not I suggest he looks up just what graphene is. It's got to be a joke hasn't it?

Jun 22, 2012 at 2:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeA

Wasn't it Matt Ridley who pointed out not long ago that we have never yet run out of a — so-called — non-renewable resource?
It's amazing that no-one has yet called the bluff of the "we must save it for our grandchildren" maniacs with the simple question, "is that so they can 'save' it for theirs?"
"I am not using coal so that in 50 years time it will still be there for my great-grandchildren not to use" is so patently stupid even an enviromentalist should be able to see the flaw.

Jun 22, 2012 at 2:12 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

"Why don't these ignorant [snip] stick to their knitting...".

A somewhat gratuitous abuse of innocent knitters there, unless you mean it in a Madam Defarge sort of way?

click, click, click..

Jun 22, 2012 at 2:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterIsabelle

MikeA, the clue was right there: "It's not like we can make it out of thin air, is it?" - well. yes we can.

Jun 22, 2012 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta

Spiked has just put out an article comparing the reality of Poland and the Ukraine with the scares generated by the BBC's Panorama.

This is too much really. I wonder when we will be forced to be skeptical of the clock signal, on the BBC.

Jun 22, 2012 at 3:06 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Teck in British Columbia is a major producer of indium in north america. A byproduct of the lead/zinc smelter, and also from electronics recycling.

Jun 22, 2012 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterEric Gisin

Lithium shortage? LITHIUM? Vide:
At 20 mg lithium per kg of Earth's crust,[36] lithium is the 25th most abundant element. Nickel and lead have about the same abundance.

Jun 22, 2012 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimB

MikeA, the clue was right there: "It's not like we can make it out of thin air, is it?" - well. yes we can.

Chakrabarti, A; Lu, J.; Skrabutenas, J. C.; Xu, T.; Xiao, Z.; Maguire, J. A.; Hosmane, N. S. (2011). "Conversion of carbon dioxide to few-layer graphene". Journal of Materials Chemistry 21 (26): 9491–9493.

Jun 22, 2012 at 3:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Is it just me or does Roger Harrabin have a lousy writing style?

Paragraphs are short and disjointed and usually only contain one sentence.

Fisheries will be affected as water warms.

It's unclear whether each one-sentence paragraph is related to the previous one or not.

He's at it again with another doom-and-gloom report on shortages today.

Of course the dire consequences of climate change feature prominently.

Fortunately he says this is the last in the series on shortages.

He tweets that he hopes climate science is wrong - shall we let him into the secret and put him out of his misery?

Jun 22, 2012 at 3:46 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

I'm surprised RH doesn't have hy-phens be-tween the syll-a-bles as well.

Jun 22, 2012 at 4:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Spiked has just put out an article comparing the reality of Poland and the Ukraine with the scares generated by the BBC's Panorama.
The article is actually on spiked+ which is behind a paywall. Unless that's a different article.

Jun 22, 2012 at 4:13 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

... by bodies such as Defra, the House of Commons Science and Technology COmmittee, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, and the EU.

All these synonyms for parasitism: case closed.

Jun 22, 2012 at 4:55 PM | Unregistered Commenterdread0

LOL, it's just more of the usual shrieking silliness.

Don't these Chicken Little types ever wear themselves out??? Yes there can be price and supply volatilities, but at the right price we will get earth's crust to supply us indefinitely..... for centuries and much more.

If the price increases enough there will be plenty of Indium. In any case it seems that there are also feasible substitutes on the near horizon (click passage for PDF report from USGS, Mineral Commodity Summaries 2011):

[Indium] Substitutes
Indium’s recent price volatility and various supply concerns associated with the metal have accelerated the development of ITO substitutes. Antimony tin oxide coatings, which are deposited by an ink-jetting process, have been developed as an alternative to ITO coatings in LCDs and have been successfully annealed to LCD glass. Carbon nanotube coatings, applied by wet-processing techniques, have been developed as an alternative to ITO coatings in flexible displays, solar cells, and touch screens. Poly(3,4-ethylene dioxythiophene) (PEDOT) has also been developed as a substitute for ITO in flexible displays and organic light-emitting diodes. PEDOT can be applied in a variety of ways, including spin coating, dip coating, and printing techniques. Graphene quantum dots have been developed to replace ITO electrodes in solar cells and also have been explored as a replacement for ITO in LCDs.
Researchers have recently developed a more adhesive zinc oxide nanopowder to replace ITO in LCDs. The technology was estimated to be commercially available within the next 3 years. Gallium arsenide can substitute for indium phosphide in solar cells and in many semiconductor applications. Hafnium can replace indium in nuclear reactor control rod alloys.

Jun 22, 2012 at 5:32 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

http://www.hdtvtest.co.uk/news/tv-viewing-carbon-footprint-201110241475.htm

Check this story out (Shock or huh)

Now the BBC can get even more smug
So does this mean that to reduce its own Carbon Footprint and those of its 18 Million viewers the BBC wont now be screening the EURO 2012 quarter final match between England and Italy on Sunday night

Jun 22, 2012 at 5:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterJAMSPID

omnologos said:


This is too much really. I wonder when we will be forced to be skeptical of the clock signal, on the BBC.

Well, I'm wandering off-topic, but if you have an analogue radio tuned to radio 4, and have a TV in the same room playing the radio 4 digital audio channel at the same time, you'll notice something interesting when the time signal pips come on the hour...

Digital signal processing in transmission and reception is not instantaneous.

Jun 22, 2012 at 7:14 PM | Unregistered Commentermalcolm

If Zubrin's book (Merchants of Despair, half way through it) is right then the people behind all this sutainability stuff are not saying it because they believe it, they are saying it because they think most people will believe them. History says they are probably right.
Anyone know why they Nahle experiment is not making more waves? I cant find fault with it provided he is honest which means he proved conclusively that the Greenhouse Effect is total fiction.

Jun 22, 2012 at 7:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung

Memo to the Green Alliance.
The Stone-age didn't end because we ran out of stones....

Jun 22, 2012 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

According to Kaye & Laby tables, Indium is 100x more abundant that gold in the earth's crust coming in at 0.2 ppm of the crustal rocks.

Jun 22, 2012 at 8:11 PM | Unregistered Commenterphilip foster

I can't understand why greens are worrying about an indium shortage.

It's not as if they needed technology or anything.

Give 'em some bean seeds & a composting toilet and their life's complete.

Jun 22, 2012 at 8:26 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

@Malcolm 7:14 PM

If you're watching/listening on a satellite-fed telly, remember the signal also has to get to geosynchronous orbit and back.

@Dung 7:32 PM

Got a link?

Edited - my Google turned out not to be broken:

http://climaterealists.com/index.php?id=8073&linkbox=true&position=2

Jun 22, 2012 at 8:43 PM | Registered Commenterwoodentop

In The Avengers, Loki wanted iridium, not indium, so at least we're safe on that aspect.

Jun 22, 2012 at 10:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeN

Wasn't it Matt Ridley who pointed out not long ago that we have never yet run out of a — so-called — non-renewable resource?

Dodos were eaten for food.

But in general the point stands. I can never work out why glass, steel, brick and concrete buildings are "unsustainable". They last longer than the alternatives and, realistically, we are never going to run out of any of those four.

Jun 23, 2012 at 1:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterMooloo

Jun 22, 2012 at 3:06 PM | omnologos

I wonder when we will be forced to be skeptical of the clock signal, on the BBC.>/i>

Well ... if you have a DAB radio; yes indeed! The decoding delay in the radio means that the clock signal is late. Try listening to an FM radio and a DAB radio at the same time. Same with the BBC 'Listen now' on the internet - the clock signal is late.

You really shouldn't trust the BBC at all - and I say that in all sincerity.

Jun 23, 2012 at 2:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

For every element there will be either too little, or too much, for their liking.
It appears they are slowly working their way through the periodic table of the elements, possibly because they didn't pay much attention the first time round during school chemistry classes.

And no, Paul Matthews, it's not just you. I thought the same thing yesterday. I may be no better, but then I'm not yet paid by the BBC to scaremonger whilst pretending to write about science.

Jun 23, 2012 at 2:17 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>