Potassium Hydroxide Supply Chain - Executive Summary

Potassium Hydroxide

Direct Use Chemical Precursor Chemical

(liquid or solid)

Inputs to Manufacturing Process:

Potassium Chloride

^ Derivative Water Treatment Chemicals:


Potassium Permanganate

iOi % of Total Domestic Consumption
Attributed to Water Sector:

Less than 10%

Understanding Chemical Supply Chains
Map of Suppliers & Manufacturers

Product Family:


CAS No.: 1310-58-3

Shelf Life:

12 Months

— RISK OF SUPPLY DISRUPTION (Assessed in 2022)


ie-low Moderate.


Concerns are primarily due to
reductions in access to the
raw material, potassium chlo-
ride, which is primarily im-
ported and in high demand
for fertilizers. Potassium hy-
droxide derivative chemical
manufacturing is a primary
application, and demand for
these chemicals sets demand
for potassium hydroxide.


Criticality: Moderate-Low. Application for
pH adjustment, though less widely-used
than other chemicals. Precursor for pro-
duction of potassium permanganate.
Likelihood: Low. No history of supply
chain disruptions between 2000 and 2022.

Vulnerability: Moderate-High. Raw mate-
rial (potassium chloride) is primarily im-
ported and consumed in fertilizer produc-
tion. Domestic manufacturing is distribut-
ed but limited.


Water Treatment Applications

Potassium Chloride

Potassium Hydroxide

pH adjustment

Water treatment chemical production

Other Applications

Input	End Use

Chemical manufacturing

Soaps and detergents
Food production


Domestic Manufacturing Locations (2015):

14, distributed throughout the U.S.

(^) International Trade (2019)

Primary Trading Partner (Imports): South Korea

Primary Trading Partner (Exports): Belgium

Domestic Consumption (2015):
217 M kg

B Domestic Production (270 M kg)

¦	Imports for Consumption (25 M kg)

¦	Export of Domestic Production (78 M kg)


Potassium Hydroxide Supply Chain - Full Profile

Product Description

Potassium hydroxide (KOH) is an inorganic, strong base that is used in water treatment for pH adjustment. It is
primarily manufactured through chlor-alkali production by electrolysis of a potassium chloride brine, yielding
both chlorine and potassium hydroxide. The majority of potassium hydroxide manufactured in the U.S. is used in
organic and inorganic chemical production.

Use in Water Treatment

Potassium hydroxide is used in water treatment for pH adjustment (AWWA, 2017).

Use as a Precursor to Other Water Treatment Chemicals
Potassium hydroxide is used to manufacture potassium permanganate.

Other Applications

Potassium hydroxide is the most common intermediate used to manufacture potassium-based inorganic
chemicals. The most common chemical produced from potassium hydroxide is potassium carbonate, which has
a wide variety of uses in agriculture and manufacturing. Other significant applications of potassium hydroxide
are manufacturing fertilizers and soil amendments, soaps and detergents, food processing, battery production,
deicing, and petroleum refining (NCBI, 2021; USDA, 2016).

Primary Industrial Consumers

Historically, production of derivative potassium-based chemicals, primarily potassium carbonate, has been the
leading use of potassium hydroxide. Application in fertilizer and soil amendments is another primary use.
Potassium chloride is also commonly used to make soaps and detergents, and in food processing (NCBI, 2021).

Manufacturing, Transport, & Storage

Manufacturing Process

Potassium chloride is the primary raw material used to produce potassium hydroxide. The majority of potassium
hydroxide is manufactured using the chlor-alkali process, which involves passing a direct electric current through
a potassium chloride brine (i.e., electrolysis), converting chloride ions to elemental chlorine at the anode while
potassium ions and hydrogen gas collect at the cathode to react and form potassium hydroxide. The general
equation for this process is shown in Figure 1. Potassium hydroxide is separated from the solution using the
membrane method or the mercury method. The resulting potassium hydroxide solution can be sold for
commercial use as a solution or heated and evaporated to produce a solid.

Potassium Chloride Brine -

> Chlorine Gas +

Hydrogen Gas +

Potassium Hydroxide

2KCI + 2H20

> Cl2






Figure 1. Chemical Equation for the Reaction to Manufacture Potassium Hydroxide

An alternative method of potassium hydroxide manufacturing utilizes spent potassium hydroxide recovered
from hydrofluoric acid catalyzed alkylation used in petroleum refining. In this process, potassium hydroxide is
recovered from the wastewater and recycled, primarily on-site in petroleum refining as a base used to neutralize
hydrofluoric acid (U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, 2015).

EPA 817-F-22-039 | December 2022


Potassium Hydroxide Supply Chain - Full Profile

Product Transport

Potassium hydroxide, listed as a hazardous substance, can be transported in bulk or smaller containers by truck,
rail, barge, and ship.

Storage and Shelf Life

Potassium hydroxide is highly reactive and corrosive, and thus should be stored in non-reactive storage vessels
at room temperature in a dry, cool place to avoid contact with moisture. When stored properly, potassium
hydroxide can have a shelf life of 12 months, depending on storage as a liquid or solid (Puritan Products, 2017).

Domestic Production & Consumption

Domestic Production

Production data was collected from the 2016 EPA Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Chemical Data Reporting
(CDR) for the year 20151, while trade data was collected from the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC)
Dataweb, as characterized in Table 1. Both production data and trade data are specific to potassium hydroxide.

Table 1. Potassium Hydroxide Production and Trade Data Sources

Production and Trade Data


Data Source



Domestic Production

2016 TSCA Chemical Data Reporting

CAS No.: 1310-58-3

Potassium Hydroxide

Imports and Exports

U.S. International Trade Commission

HS Code: 2815.20

Potassium Hydroxide

Total U.S. domestic manufacturing of potassium hydroxide was approximately 270 million kilograms (M kg) in
2015 (EPA, 2016); however, several manufacturers claimed confidential business information and did not report
production volumes to EPA. Leading domestic manufacturers of potassium hydroxide include Olin Corporation,
tnneos, and ERCO Worldwide. Domestic commercial manufacture of potassium hydroxide takes place at facilities
located throughout the contiguous U.S., though captive consumption may predominate at some of these
facilities, and some, as noted in the alternative manufacturing method description, may recover potassium
hydroxide from on-site processing. Historically, the domestic production market has been concentrated, with
top producers accounting for the majority of domestic production volume (FTC, 2005). The number of domestic
manufacturing locations shown in Figure 2 represents operating facilities as of 2015. Supply of NSF/ANSI
Standard 60 certified potassium hydroxide for use in drinking water treatment is distributed throughout the U.S.
(NSF International, 2021). For a more current listing of manufacturing locations and supplier locations, visit the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Chemical Locator Tool (EPA, 2022a).

1 Although 2019 CDR data is available, reporting is less complete when compared to 2015 data due to an increase in the number of
companies claiming confidential business information (CBI). In both instances, CBI may account for a significant volume of potassium
hydroxide produced that is not reflected in CDR reporting.



Potassium Hydroxide Supply Chain - hull Profile



- -M ' _ °

O o

# yD^T' ifa- -	•-> ~*k	~rwr*~2 z*

: kV. V ¦ ° «fc>




Domestic Supply and Manufacturing of Potassium Hydroxide
O 34 NSF/ANSI Standard 60 Certified Suppliers (NSF International, 2021)

0 14 Domestic Manufacturing Locations (EPA Chemical Data Reporting, 2016)

Figure 2. Domestic Supply and Manufacturing of Potassium Hydroxide
Domestic Consumption

U.S. consumption of potassium hydroxide in 2015 is estimated at 217 M kg. This includes production of 270 M
kg, import of 25 M kg, minus export of 78 M kg (EPA, 2016; USITC, 2021), as shown in Figure 3.

Domestic Consumption (2015):

217 M kg

¦	Domestic Production (270 M kg)

¦	Imports for Consumption (25 M kg)

¦	Export of Domestic Production (78 M kg)

Figure 3. Domestic Production and Consumption of Potassium Hydroxide in 2015

Trade & Tariffs

Worldwide Trade

Worldwide import and export data for potassium hydroxide are reported through the World Bank's World
Integrated Trade Solutions (WITS) software, as a category specific to potassium hydroxide. In 2021, the U.S.



Potassium Hydroxide Supply Chain - Full Profile

ranked third worldwide in total exports and tenth in total imports of potassium hydroxide. In 2021, Belgium
ranked first worldwide in total exports and Germany ranked first worldwide in total imports (WITS, 2022), as
shown in Table 2.

Table 2. WITS Worldwide Export and Import of Potassium Hydroxide in 2021

2021 Worldwide Trade
Potassium Hydroxide (HS Code 2815.20)

Top 5 Worldwide Exporters

Top 5 Worldwide Importers


403 M kg


152 M kg

South Korea

218 M kg


97 M kg

United States

111 M kg


75 M kg

Czech Republic

91 M kg


67 M kg


90 M kg


55 M kg

Domestic Imports and Exports

Domestic import and export data are reported by USITC in categories specific to potassium hydroxide. Figure 4
summarizes imports for consumption2 and domestic exports3 of potassium hydroxide between 2015 and 2020.
During this period, the overall quantity of exports have varied with a high in 2018 while the quantity of imports
has remained relatively steady. Domestic exports have consistently exceeded imports for consumption. Over
this five-year period, through 2017 Canada was the primary recipient of domestic exports , and since 2018
Belgium has been the leading recipient of domestic exports. South Korea and Belgium have been the primary
sources of imports (USITC, 2021).

Domestic Trade of Potassium Hydroxide
HTS Code 2815.20











2 Imports




2 Imports













S Imports


¦	Imports from South Korea	¦ Exports to Belgium

¦	Imports from Belgium	¦ Exports to Canada

¦	Imports from Other Countries	Exports to Other Countries

Figure 4. USITC Domestic Import and Export of Potassium Hydroxide between 2015 and 2020

2	Imports for consumption are a subset of general imports, representing the total amount cleared through customs and entering
consumption channels, not anticipated to be reshipped to foreign points, but may include some reexports.

3	Domestic exports are a subset of total exports, representing export of domestic merchandise which are produced or manufactured in
the U.S. and commodities of foreign origin which have been changed in the U.S.



Potassium Hydroxide Supply Chain - Full Profile


There is no general duty for import of potassium hydroxide (USITC, 2022), as summarized in Table 3. Imports
from China, historically one of the top five countries of origin for potassium hydroxide imports, have decreased
by an estimated 85% since 2018. There is an additional 25% tariff on imports from China.

Table 3. Domestic Tariff Schedule for Potassium Hydroxide in 2022

HS Code

General Duty

Additional Duty-China
(Section 301 Tariff List)

Special Duty





Market History & Risk Assessment

History of Shortages

While chlor-alkali producers utilizing sodium chloride as a raw material generally set chlor-alkali production
around demand for chlorine, demand for potassium hydroxide derivative chemicals tends to set demand for
chlor-alkali production using potassium chloride as a raw material. Direct landfall of Hurricane Ida in Louisiana in
August 2021 resulted in a temporary closure of the largest domestic production facility in Louisiana, causing a
temporary loss of significant production capacity. In 2022, reductions in worldwide supply of the primary raw
material, potassium chloride, have led to significant price increases for this raw material on the international

Risk Evaluation

The complete risk assessment methodology is described in Understanding Water Treatment Chemical Supply
Chains and the Risk of Disruptions (EPA, 2022b). The risk rating is calculated as the product of the following three
risk parameters:

Risk = Criticality x Likelihood x Vulnerability
Criticality	Measure of the importance of a chemical to the water sector

Likelihood Measure of the probability that the chemical will experience a supply disruption in the
future, which is estimated based on past occurrence of supply disruptions

Vulnerability Measure of the market dynamics that make a chemical market more or less resilient to
supply disruptions

The individual parameter rating is based on evaluation of one or more attributes of the chemical or its supply
chain. The ratings and drivers for these three risk parameters are shown below in Table 4.



Potassium Hydroxide Supply Chain - Full Profile

Table 4. Supply Chain Risk Evaluation for Potassium Hydroxide

Risk Parameter Ratings and Drivers


1 Likelihood Low

Vulnerability Moderate-High 1

Potassium hydroxide has application
for pH adjustment, though less
widely-used than other chemicals. It is
a precursor in the production of
potassium permanganate.

The water sector has not experienced
potassium hydroxide supply
disruptions between 2000 and 2022.

Supply of the raw material, potassium
chloride, is largely import-dependent,
and primarily from one geographic
region (Saskatchewan, Canada).
Consumption of the raw material is
dominated by demand for use in
fertilizer. Domestic manufacturing of
potassium hydroxide is limited.

Risk Rating: Low

te-Low Moderaj



1 1


American Water Works Association (AWWA), 2017. B511 Potassium Hydroxide. Denver, CO: American Water
Works Association.

EPA, 2016. 2016 TSCA Chemical Data Reporting, retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/chemical-data-

EPA, 2022a. Chemical Suppliers and Manufacturers Locator Tool, retrieved from


EPA, 2022b. Understanding Water Treatment Chemical Supply Chains and the Risk of Disruptions, retrieved
from https://www.epa.gov/waterutilitvresponse/water-sector-supplv-chain-resilience

Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 2005. Docket C-4139: In the Matter of Occidental Petroleum Corporation
and Vulcan Materials Company, retrieved from https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-

National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 2021. PubChem Compound Summary for CID 14797,
Potassium Hydroxide, retrieved from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/14797

NSF International, 2021. Search for NSF Certified Drinking Water Treatment Chemicals, retrieved from

Puritan Products, 2017. Product Shelf Life/Expiration Date Policy, retrieved from


U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, 2015. Achieving a Circular Economy: How the Private Sector Is
Reimagining the Future of Business, retrieved from




Potassium Hydroxide Supply Chain - Full Profile

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 2016. Potassium Hydroxide Handling/Processing, retrieved from
https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/Potassium%20Hydroxide%20TR%201 22 16%20Fi

U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), 2021. USITC DataWeb, retrieved from

U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), 2022. Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) Search, retrieved from

World Integrated Trade Solutions (WITS), 2022. Trade Statistics by Product (HS 6-digit), retrieved from