Stainless steel and batteries to drive nickel demand

Roskill’s latest nickel report provides an in-depth look at the industry, offering detailed coverage of historical trends as well as ten-year forecasts. The Nickel Market Outlook to 2027 provides an analysis of supply, demand, trade and prices, and offers detailed historical and forecast data that will be ideally suited to the needs of industry participants, traders and investors.

As of 2017, stainless steel production consumed 1,471,000 t of primary nickel, equivalent to 69% of total primary nickel demand. This ratio has increased in recent years thanks to rising Chinese stainless steel production, which uses a high proportion of primary nickel units. As a result, Chinese stainless steel mills consume over two-thirds of global primary nickel consumption by the stainless steel sector. Other major stainless steel producing regions are smaller than China and obtain a greater share of their nickel requirements from stainless steel scrap than from primary sources.

The primary nickel that is not consumed in the production of stainless steel is used across a variety of sectors, such as alloy steels, non-ferrous alloys and plating. However, among the non-stainless steel industries, it is the battery sector that offers the strongest growth potential.

In 2017, the battery sector was one of the smallest consumers of primary nickel. However, this sector offers strong growth potential, thanks to the prospect of increasing battery usage in automotive applications. The drive to reduce exhaust emissions is encouraging the adoption of hybrid engines, which combine a small fossil-fuelled engine with a battery-powered electric motor, while also encouraging the uptake of fully-electric vehicles. By 2027, Roskill expects the battery sector to be a significant consumer of primary nickel. Meeting the needs of the battery industry will require more nickel sulphate to be produced and mining companies have taken notice: several have recently announced investments in battery-grade nickel production.

Picture: Consolidated Nickel Mines Ltd (CNM) is an operating subsidiary of Consolidated Mining and Investments Ltd (CMI). CNM is the nickel focused development vehicle that is restarting the Munali Nickel mine in Southern Zambia.