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Potential for nickel metal price increases

Electic carManufacturing companies using nickel metal and other nickel-related products will have experienced a sharp rise in prices during recent months.

Dr. Tony Hart, Managing Director of Hart Materials and an acknowledged expert in the nickel supply business, has provided the following information, condensed from a News Release issued recently by Metal Bulletin.

The price of nickel has been relatively stable recently and actually fell between mid-2014 and early 2016, before remaining steady until July 2017. From that date onward and during January 2018, the price posted on the London Metal Exchange rose from around $9,000/tonne to $13,830/tonne on 2nd February 2018, an increase of 53%.

Although the overall world nickel metal supply is predicted to remain in reasonable balance until 2030, availability and price will be determined by which of the two basic classes of nickel is required for any particular application.

  • Class One nickel – includes nickel powders, and nickel used in electrodeposition processes as well as high performance alloy manufacture. Class One nickel is also subject to price premiums due to additional costs involved in its manufacturre.
  • Class Two nickel – in the form of ferro-nickel and nickel pig iron is only suitable for use in the stainless steel industry and therefore not relevant to other applications.

Any further price rises are expected to affect Class One nickel hardest due to the expected explosion of the market for electric vehicles (EV), where Class One nickel powder is essential for battery production. At present, the EV sector uses about 50,000 tonnes of nickel from a total market supply of 2.1 million tonnes but by 2025, nickel demand for EV alone is calculated to reach 400,000 tonnes rising to 750,000 tonnes by 2030.

Increasing the quantity of Class One nickel available will be a capital intensive and long-term project.

Although the EV market growth will be the major factor affecting both price and availability, other vital technologies, such as electroplating and electroforming where the Class One product is essential, will also be similarly affected.

Tony Hart comments: “This is obviously not good news for any nickel-using industry but it is better that those involved appreciate the reason for recent nickel price increases and the future prospects."

For further information, please contact us.

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