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Global finished nickel demand grew by around 5 percent in 2022

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by Beroe Inc
21 February 2023


Global finished nickel demand grew by around 5 percent in 2022, driven primarily by an increase in the demand for stainless steel and other nickel-based alloys.  

A major contributor was the electric vehicle (EV) market, where a significant quantity of nickel is used for making batteries. It must, however, be noted that this projection is subject to change based on economic and market conditions. 

That said, the global nickel application is currently segmented into the following categories : 

  • Stainless steel - 69%

  • Batteries - 13% 

  • Alloys and superalloys - 7%

  • Electroplating - 5%

  • Special steels - 5%

  • Others - 1%

Currently, the nickel market is facing a supply deficit, driven by a combination of strong demand and disruptions to supply caused by factors such as weather events and government regulations. It has led to a rise in nickel prices. Additionally, there is a growing focus on sustainable nickel mining practices, which could potentially impact the supply of nickel in the future.

However, as the demand for nickel is closely tied to the growth of the EV market, which is highly dependent on government policies, economic conditions, and technological advancements, it is difficult to predict the future market conditions for nickel with certainty.

The demand for nickel is affected by several factors, including economic growth, industrialization, and technological advancements. An increase in economic growth and industrialization generally leads to increased demand for nickel, as it is used in many industrial and manufacturing processes. Technological advancements, such as the development of electric vehicles and renewable energy sources, also increase the demand for nickel, as it is a key component in the production of batteries and other components.

According to calculations of Beroe, various factors contribute to the growth of the global finished nickel demand to reach 2.9 million tons in the year 2022. 

Some of the key factors responsible for the surge in demand for 2022 - 2023 are :

Increase in demand for stainless steel

Historically, nickel has been in high demand for its use in stainless steel production and various industrial applications. However, the nickel market has also been subject to fluctuations due to changes in supply and demand and economic and political factors. 

The production of stainless steel increased by 10.6% annually to 56.3 million metric tonnes in 2021, according to the International Stainless Steel Forum (ISSF).

Increase in demand for EVs (electric vehicles) 

In recent years, there has been an increase in demand for nickel, particularly for electric vehicle (EV) batteries. The increasing popularity of EVs has led to a rise in demand for nickel, as it is a key component in the batteries used in these vehicles. 

Prospects may arise from the rising demand for electric vehicles and the expanding use of nickel in the medical sector.

However, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the forecasted demand for nickel or battery precursors, which is expected to grow at a rate of over 20% per year. This uncertainty is brought on by global inflation and the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Due to the recession, investors have been leaving the metal sector, which has decreased trading activity. The LME does not currently prohibit Russian metal imports. However, a falling U.S. Dollar Index fuels the increase in base metal prices.

Indonesia emerging as a hub for nickel production :

Recent years have seen success in Indonesia by introducing an export restriction, which has increased domestic refined production capability at the expense of Chinese refined manufacturing capabilities. Indonesia surpassed China to become the world's largest producer of refined nickel in 2021.

The world's mining production saw rise from 2.7 million tonnes in 2021 to over 3.0 million tonnes in 2022, with Indonesian production accounting for 90% of this expansion.

As per the category intelligence report published by procurement intelligence SaaS Beroe, the price overview of nickel for the projected period ( 2022-2023) is expected to rise and stabilize in the medium term because opinions are significantly impacted by the global macroeconomic and geopolitical conditions monitored by the global monetary policy. Chinese demand is anticipated to rise because of an increase in EVs now that most smelters have resumed production following maintenance.

In the long run, supply disruption is anticipated with soaring nickel demand from the battery sector in response to soaring EV sales globally. The need for alternate feed has left customers scurrying to fulfill their contractual responsibilities. To meet demand from the manufacturing, oil, gas, and construction industries, nickel prices are anticipated to climb parallel with stainless steel demand. Prices are anticipated to steady as market recovery is anticipated across several sectors.

Supply market dynamics 

Mined nickel production in New Caledonia increased by 50 percent year-on-year in Q1 2022, while the Russian mining production was up 16 percent year-on-year.

Production in the Philippines, however, showed only a marginal improvement against Q1 2021.

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