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SMM Forum: 2021 China Rare Earth Permanent Magnets Market Application & Development
Sep 27,2021 11:39CST
Source:SMM
The 2021 China Rare Earth Permanent Magnets Market Application & Development Forum organised by SMM was held from September 23 – 24 in Anhui, Hefei, which gathered senior executives, industrial veterans and elites from the rare earth industry to discuss the development on the back of dual-carbon strategy with focus on industry policies, price trends and end applications.

SHANGHAI, Sep 27 (SMM) - The 2021 China Rare Earth Permanent Magnets Market Application & Development Forum organised by SMM was held from September 23 – 24 in Anhui, Hefei, which gathered senior executives, industrial veterans and elites from the rare earth industry to discuss the development on the back of dual-carbon strategy with focus on industry policies, price trends and end applications.

Panel Discussions

Permanent magnet materials: New technology promotes new development

Market Analysis and Price Outlook of China's Rare Earth Permanent Magnet Industry

Speaker: Hou Jinchen, SMM analyst

Rare earth permanent magnet materials are widely used in many fields like automobiles, consumer electronics, home appliances and industrial robots. For the upstream end, the direct rare earth raw materials for permanent magnets are rare earth metals, which are derived from smelted rare earth oxides, while rare earth ore is the final raw material.

In recent years, China's overall quotas for rare earth mining, smelting and separation have shown an upward trend in a bid to meet stronger downstream demand for rare earth. The increase in the quotas for light rare earth mining is more noticeable. In 2021, the first batch of quotas for rare earth mining increased by 27% year-on-year to 84,000 mt, while the quotas for the mining of medium and heavy rare earth ore increased by only 20% year-on-year. SMM predicts that the domestic quotas for rare earth ore mining in 2021 will increase 20% year-on-year to 168,000 mt.

In addition to the domestic supply, a large volume of rare earth ore is derived from imported cargoes. In recent years, China's rare earth ore imports have shown an overall upward trend. The key rare earth ore products are generally divided into two categories, including light rare earth ore as well as medium and heavy rare earth ore. SMM expects China’s rare earth ore imports to rise 11% on the year to 125,000 mt in 2021. The rare earth metal ore shown in the picture is a typical light rare earth ore, almost all of which is imported from the United States. In 2020, 99% of China's rare earth metal ores was imported from the United States. In the first half of 2021, China's rare earth ore imports fell slightly by 6% year-on-year to 35,708 mt.

Mixed rare earth carbonates, unspecified rare earth oxides and rare earth metal compounds are typical medium and heavy rare earth ores, which are mainly imported from Myanmar.

The rare earth ore exports by Myanmar are not optimistic this year due to the disruptions from the pandemic. In the first half of the year, China's imports of mixed rare earth carbonate from Myanmar plunged by 77.5% year-on-year. China’s imports of unspecified rare earth oxides from Myanmar in July and August fell sharply by 53% and 93% year-on-year, respectively, due to the pandemic factor. As such, China’s supply tightness of medium and heavy rare earth ore has intensified. Many rare earth separation plants in the south reported difficulties in purchasing raw materials.

In addition to the shrinking supply of overseas medium and heavy rare earth ores, domestic rare earth separation plants also experienced more output cuts and shutdowns in the second half of the year due to the factors like power rationing, environmental protection inspections and equipment maintenance. Under such a general environment, the prices of didymium oxide hit a new high in the second half of this year, with the average price standing close to 650,000 yuan/mt at one point. And the prices of praseodymium-neodymium alloy were close to 800,000 yuan/mt. The supply of raw materials is tight, and downstream procurement is very cautious, suppressing the liquidity of the entire rare earth market. At present, the prices of didymium oxide still hover at high levels, fluctuating around 600,000 yuan/mt. And the prices of praseodymium-neodymium alloy hover around 740,000 yuan/mt.

The acceptance of the current prices is low by rare earth permanent magnet enterprises, which are the largest downstream enterprises of rare earth. This prevented the price gains from being passed onto the end-user field.

Analysis of China's rare earth permanent magnets downstream market

High-performance rare earth permanent magnets have been popular among automobiles, inverter air conditioners, energy-saving elevators, and industrial robots in recent years. More companies are expected to transform into the high-performance field in the future.

Auto sector

China's NEVs output continued to grow at a high rate in August, with monthly output exceeding 300,000 units for the first time, according to data released by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. China's NEVs output is expected to increase by 104% year-on-year to 2.78 million units, and the corresponding demand for high-performance NdFeB to increase to 9,043 mt.

The NEVs output is likely to stand at 14.22 million units by 2030. From 2021 E to 2030 E, the compound annual growth rate of the domestic NEVs output is expected to be 20%. The NEVs output totalled 1.37 million units in 2020.

China’s traditional vehicle output is expected to decline slightly by 2% to 25.138 million units in 2021 amid less popularity and the Covid-19 pandemic. Its demand for high-performance NdFeB is expected to be 6,963 mt, down 0.5% year-on-year.

Industrial robot

The industrial robot industry has been growing across the world in recent years, which has attracted much attention. China's industrial robot industry will embrace the huge development opportunities amid the intensified population ageing and higher labour costs. SMM expects China's industrial robot output to increase by 46% to 347,300 units in 2021, of which the demand for high-performance NdFeB will rise to 8,682 mt.

Elevator

Elevators have become the standard equipment in newly-built houses with the continuous urbanisation. SMM believes that the future development prospects of the elevator industry are broad. China's elevator output in 2021 is expected to increase by 8.7% year on year to 1.39 million units, and the corresponding demand for high-performance sintered NdFeB will reach 5,186 mt.

Inverter air conditioner

The output of inverter air conditioner has increased rapidly in the home appliance sector due to the energy conservation and emission reduction. The output of inverter air conditioner in China is expected to increase by 62% year on year to 134.72 million units in 2021, and the corresponding demand for high-performance NdFeB will reach 16,166 mt.

Wind power

Unlike the rapid market penetration of inverter air conditioners, the wind power market may shrink this year. In 2021, China’s wind power prices start to stand basically flat over the coal power. There’s basically no crash schedule in the wind power projects in 2021, except for a small amount of offshore wind power installation with government subsidies. China's newly installed capacity of wind power is expected to be 51GW in 2021, a slight decline of 3.8% year on year. The corresponding demand for NdFeB will drop from 12,892 mt to 12,406 mt.

Consumer electronics

The consumer electronics sector is usually overlooked. It mainly includes mobile phones, mechanical hard drives, personal computers, televisions, etc. The output of mechanical hard disks has declined year by year since 2017 due to the rapid development of solid hard disks. The output of mobile phones also declined in recent years amid the lower replacement frequency. However, the overall output of TV sets and personal computers is rising. It is expected that the demand for NdFeB in China's consumer electronics sector will increase by 17.4% year on year to 4,961 mt in 2021.

Price forecast of China's rare earth permanent magnet raw material

Since the beginning of 2021, the prices of mainstream rare earth products such as praseodymium neodymium, terbium, and dysprosium have hit a 10-year high. However, it becomes more difficult for the price increase to be smoothly transmitted to the downstream products, and the transactions have gradually fallen into a stalemate. Some small and medium-sized magnetic material companies have reduced production.

In the second half of this year, the power rationing, environmental inspections, and Myanmar's customs closure have led to the increasingly tighter supply of rare earths. Therefore, the rare earth prices still have strong support despite the cautious downstream purchase. The consumption continuously improves in end sectors such as as air conditioners, automobiles, and energy-saving elevators, and the demand has exceeded the supply, which will push up the rare earth prices.

SMM expects the prices of neodymium praseodymium oxide to reach 700,000 yuan/mt, the prices of terbium oxide to reach 8-10 million yuan/mt, and the prices of dysprosium oxide to reach 3 million yuan/mt. (end)

Application of Magnetic Materials in Synchrotron Radiation and Free Electron Lasers

Speaker: He Yongzhou, Senior Engineer, Shanghai Institute for Advanced Study, Chinese Academy of Sciences-Shanghai Light Source Science Centre

Development history and the status quo of domestic insertion device

The large magnet gap planar undulator is fully mastered; the vacuum undulator and the elliptical polarized undulator are basically mastered, but they are not mature; the low-temperature permanent magnet undulator is in the initial development stage; most permanent magnet insertion devices have not fully meet the designed purpose, which is closely related to the sophistication of domestic industrial technology. The development project of superconducting undulator has just been initiated.

In short, China's insertion device technology has just started, and there is still a big gap with the international level.

Development Trends of Magnetic Materials for Electron Accelerator

In more than a decade, the design and manufacturing technology of rare earth permanent magnets has made great progress, with some new products made by innovative technologies as follows:

NdFeB: Grain boundary diffusion [including PrFeB diffusion], microcrystalline technology, high orientated technology, low oxygen technology, low content rare earth technology, one-time molding, hot press molding, finishing technology, etc. The main purpose is to improve the homogeneity, Hcj, stability, and to reduce the costs.

Samarium cobalt: the main purpose is to improve the magnetic properties and homogeneity of samarium cobalt, and reduce the costs.

New materials: rare earth-free permanent magnets, high-iron samarium cobalt preparation technology, new atomic ratio samarium cobalt.

These new technologies have many advantages, but also have disadvantages of varying degrees. They must be treated dialectically in the process of design, development, and application.

China is generally in lack of research experience in the application of advanced science and engineering of magnetic materials. Therefore, the property and quality of permanent magnet under development is "occasional". In other words, there has not been a complete and systematic design and development methodology of how to achieve high-quality magnetic materials. The basic research on the application of magnetic materials for accelerators has "common characteristics", which will directly promote the development of the technology in some fields of China's magnetic materials industry. The intensive research has played an important role in promoting the "application of independent intellectual property rights” in the industry as a whole.

Technical Profile and Development Direction of NdFeB Rapid-setting Alloy

Speaker: Xia Ning, Senior Engineer, Inner Mongolia Baotou Iron and Steel Rare Earth Magnetic Materials Co., Ltd.

The opportunity for industry development is coming

Among the rare earth functional materials in China, rare earth permanent magnet materials account for 75%, with an output value of about 50 billion yuan. To be more specific, the output value of the entire industry chain from NdFeB rare earth raw materials to NdFeB finished products takes up more than 60% of the total output value of China's rare earth industry.

The prosperity of rare earth permanent magnet industry: the cost competition of low and medium-end products has intensified, and the technical focus has shifted to the optimization of the composition ratio; the high-end products have been pursuing breakthroughs in the application field, and the technical focus has shifted to performance improvement; the influx of funds and talents provides support for technological progress; and the establishment of technological innovation centres and R&D centres facilitates technological innovation.

Changes in the focus of technology research

The technical research is centred on two aspects, naming cost reduction and performance improvement:

First, as the manufacturing and automation of the industry continue to improve, the cost reduction is focused on the optimization of the composition ratio and the quick-setting alloy;
Second, under the promotion of new technology applications, the maximum magnetic energy product of NdFeB has reached more than 90% of the theoretical value, and the coercivity is less than 30% of the theoretical value. Thus, the technical focus of performance improvement is also placed on how to optimize the composition ratio and quick-setting alloy;

Cost control: middle and low-end areas: competition of market shares in application fields; competition in cost control.

Intellectual property rights: high-end areas: competition for the expansion of application areas; competition for performance optimization.

Key Issues of Silicon Carbide Driven Flat Wire Motor

Speaker: Cheng Yuan, Assistant to the Dean, School of Electrical Engineering and Automation, Harbin Institute of Technology

Cheng Yuan, assistant to the dean of the School of Electrical Engineering and Automation of Harbin Institute of Technology, conducted a comprehensive analysis on the key issues of SiC-driven flat-wire motors for vehicles. The analysis mainly focuses on the insulation of the SiC-drive flat-wire motors, the comprehensive optimization design, and the problem of galvanic corrosion of the bearing.

Macro policy and raw materials: price trend shaping the development landscape

Development Status of International Rare Earth Industry

Speaker: Badrinath, President of Rare Earth Industry Association

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, President Badrinath delivered a video speech.

The current lack of transparency in the rare earth industry has created volatility in prices. Therefore, it is very important to establish a sustainable supply and demand chain.

At present, these materials are increasingly important along with the climate change, and the downstream industries are also increasing the application of rare earth materials. Therefore, if the upstream can also participate and establish a healthy cooperation relationship with the downstream sector, the whole industry will gear towards a more sustainable development trajectory.

In recent years, the export of permanent magnets from China has been increasing, so it is even more important for everyone to work together to establish a very sustainable and transparent value chain, which is conducive to promoting the development of these green technologies.

Discussion on Rare Earth Dressing Related Industries, Environmental Protection Policies and Pollution Prevention Measures

Speaker: Song Wentao, Senior Enginner of China ENFI Engineering Corporation

Prospects for the environmental protection in the rare earth separation industry

(1) Both new and old rare earth separation companies have begun to treat high-salt waste water; increase high-salt waste water pretreatment and evaporation facilities to recover high-purity industrial salt (ammonium chloride; sodium chloride, etc.), and sell high-purity industrial salt and such benefits will substantially compensate for waste water treatment costs. The technology will give birth to green rare earth separation enterprises with zero discharge of waste water.

(2) The standard system related to rare earth separation has been further developed, and there will be independent standards for industrial salts such as industrial ammonium chloride and sodium chloride as by-products.

(3) The indicators in the Rare Earth Industry Pollutant Emission Standards are further improved.

(4) The extraction workshop will introduce a fresh air system for operation in enclosed spaces.

(5) The separation and production of rare earth will be fully automated, and unmonitored emissions such as acid mist will be greatly reduced.

(6) Acid soluble residues will not be stored in the factory for a long time; the government has issued measures of low-level radioactive waste transfer and disposal; all provinces will establish low-level radioactive waste disposal centres.

(7) The management of NdFeB waste recycling companies is similar to that of rare earth separation companies, and the total production capacity will be controlled.

End-use: New applications open up new markets

Introduction to the Application and New Requirements of Rare Earth Permanent Magnet Motors in the Wind Power Industry

Speaker: Gao Yazhou, Technical Project Manager of Xinjiang Jinfeng Technology Co., Ltd.

China leads the world in terms of wind power generation. At present, the world is in the transition into the era of carbon neutrality. In the next 40 years, wind power generation will maintain rapid development.

The domestic onshore wind power has great potential for future development.

While offshore wind power will be a powerful supplement to the domestic wind power market with broad market prospects.

The future for renewal and transformation is bright.

New energy vehicles' demand and technical requirements for rare earth permanent magnet motors

Speaker: Song Zhihuan, Senior Manager of Electrical Engineering Division, Technology Center Huayu Automotive Electric System Co., Ltd.

The technology trend of the driving machine:

High voltage: In order to meet the needs of fast charging of new energy vehicles, the voltage of motors will be increased from 400V to 800V.

Oil cooling technology: The use of oil cooling technology further enhances the power density of the motor.

High rotate speed: At present, the rotate speed of the drive motor is around 15000rpm. In order to increase the power density, the rotate speed will be further increased in the future.

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