Nickel consumption growth is underpinned by a wide range of end-use applications and new areas such as batteries for electric vehicle (EV) and new energy use, Anglo American’s Asia nickel sales manager said at Metal Bulletin’s Asian Ferro-alloys conference in Hong Kong on Wednesday March 22.
Zhang cited a Morgan Stanley report that forecasts that by 2025, EV sales will make up 7% of vehicles on the road.
Nickel cathode demand for use in batteries will increase to 400,000 tonnes in 2025 from 180,000 tonnes in 2016, Zhang estimated.
Nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) and nickel cobalt aluminium (NCA) will be the two nickel-containing batteries that will drive this increase in demand.
New energy is another exciting area for nickel demand, Zhang said.
“In Europe in 2016, 86% of the newly installed energy capacity was from renewable sources,” he said adding “A large wind turbine generally contains 500kg of nickel”.
“In 2016, solar power became the cheapest form of energy in 58 lower income countries, including China, India & Brazil,” Zhang said. “The most common solar heat storage technologies are based on using molten salt, needing heat storage tanks, piping, instrumentation and valves to be made of nickel-containing stainless steel.”
The water distribution sector is also a promising area for nickel demand, with nickel-contained stainless steel used to help to conserve water.
For example, in Tokyo, the installation of nickel-contained 316 stainless steel (11% Ni) water distribution pipes has reduced water leakage by 90%.
The City of Toronto is upgrading its water supply system using nickel-contained stainless steel, and doing so in a way that ensures a century or more of maintenance-free delivery of high-quality drinking water, according to Zhang.
New York City’s $6 billion mega–project known as Water Tunnel No. 3 needs valves that provide low- or no-maintenance for 100 years under conditions of 100% relative humidity.
“The nickel-containing stainless steel used for this project offers the best combination of corrosion resistance, lowest maintenance and best life-cycle costs,” Zhang added.
Nickel-contained stainless steel plays an important role in infrastructure and extends life-span while reducing servicing costs of these projects, the Anglo sales manager told delegates.
The USA has $1 trillion infrastructure spend plans while China has budgeted to spend 45 trillion yuan ($6.6 trillion) on infrastructure in 2017.
This is promising for nickel as concrete structures made with stainless steel rebar survive at least twice as long as those made with carbon steel rebar.
Also China is “still well below developed nations on stainless steel per capita consumption so there is scope for growth there”.
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