YIBIN, Apr 29 (SMM) – China’s primary nickel market, including refined nickel, nickel pig iron ferronickel and nickel salts, is expected to flip into a supply surplus in 2019 as greater NPI capacity in China and Indonesia drives supply to grow faster than demand, said Gao Yin, analyst from SMM.
Primary nickel supply in China is estimated to exceed demand by 23,800 mt in Ni content this year, compared with a deficit of 26,700 mt in Ni content in 2018, Gao delegates at the SMM Nickel-Cobalt-Lithium-Manganese Summit on Monday April 29 in Yibin, Sichuan province.
NPI production in Indonesia will maintain high-speed expansion, bolstered by new capacity of Tsingshan, Delong and Jinchuan. The Southeast Asian country is expected to see its NPI capacity to expand to 590,000 mt in Ni content/year from 350,000 mt in Ni content/year, with production for the year growing by 105,000 mt in Ni content to 350,000 mt in Ni content.
Greater NPI output from Indonesia will grow flows into China, which is likely to see an increase of 75,000 mt in Ni content in Indonesian supplies in 2019. A total of 150,000 mt in Ni content of Indonesian NPI is expected to enter the Chinese market this year.
China's NPI capacity will grow and about 100,000 mt in Ni content/year of capacity is likely to be phased out. Output of NPI is expected to gain 89,000 mt in Ni content to 540,000-550,000 mt in Ni content this year. This will grow overall NPI supply by over 160,000 mt in Ni content in 2019, and widen the discount of NPI against refined nickel.
China’s production of 300-series stainless steel, however, is likely to grow at 3% in 2019, versus an increase of 6% in 2018. While output in the first quarter registered a peak in years and rose 9% from a year ago, the growth for the whole year will be smaller as thin profits prompt producers to scale back production in May-June.
Stainless steel accounts for about 80% of primary nickel consumption in 2018-2019.
NPI is estimated to account for 53% of raw materials for stainless steel in 2019, up from 45% in 2018, while the proportion of refined nickel will likely fall from 19% to 15%.
Consumption of primary nickel in the production of stainless steel is estimated to increase by 79,000 mt in Ni content in 2019.