SHANGHAI, Mar 24 (SMM)—Nickel prices continued to fluctuate at a low level last week. The market quotation of battery-grade nickel sulphate (crystal) was lowered to 34,000-34,500 yuan/mt. Spot supply remained tight. Premiums of nickel sulphate over nickel sulphate produced with nickel briquettes narrowed. Sellers sold actively in anticipation of lower nickel sulphate prices despite no spot cargoes, signing orders for next-month in advance. Most of the buyers remained on the sidelines. Trades are expected to improve due to regular purchases at the end of the month.
Prices of battery-grade nickel sulphate are expected to move between 33,000-34,500 yuan/mt this week. The economics of nickel briquette will increase as nickel prices fluctuate at low levels. This combined with tight spot supply of Nickel sulphate is expected to lower battery-grade nickel sulphate.
Supply of battery-grade nickel sulphate has fallen short of demand in recent months amid tight raw material supply (mainly intermediate products) and strong downstream demand. Meanwhile, dissolution capacity of nickel briquettes is limited despite ample supply.
Profit margin of nickel sulphate produced by MHP and nickel briquette hit a two-year high, with 21% of nickel sulphate produced with nickel briquette and 17% of nickel sulphate produced with MHP.
On March 15 the ore washing workshop of the Liqin hydrometallurgical nickel intermediate products project on Indonesia’s OBI Island began trial operation; it is expected that all workshops produced by the project will be opened at the end of April and samples will be available at that time; the design capacity of the first phase of the project stands at 36,000 mt of Ni content. SMM predicts that the project will produce 8,000-10,000 mt of intermediate products with Ni content in 2021, and is unlikely to reach full production in the short term.