The Growing Global Demand for Nickel

Though chromium is the primary alloying element used in the production of stainless steel, nickel also plays a vital role in enhancing its various qualities such as ductility, weldability and formability. According to the Nickel Institute, around 75% of the world's stainless steel production is accounted for by grades containing nickel.

The demand for nickel is growing at an increasing pace. Figures from the INSG (Inter­national Nickel Study Group) in Portugal showed that the global nickel demand stood at 1.4m metric tons in 2010, an increase of 21% from the figure of 1.1m metric tons in 2000. In the decade from 2010-2020, demand for nickel grew by a further 41%.

The WBMS (World Bureau of Metal Statistics) revealed that the production of nickel has so far been unable to meet the growing demand, reporting a deficit of over 41,000 metric tons in the first two quarters of this year. Data from the bureau suggested that the demand for refined nickel in the first six months of 2021 exceeded output by almost 100,000 metric tons and that further increases were expected in comparison with the previous year.

A large amount of the growing demand for nickel is due to rising consumption by the market for electric vehicles (EVs). The properties of nickel allow EV batteries to deliver an increased storage capacity and higher energy density, meaning that metal is a key material in lithium-ion batteries. NMC (nickel manganese cobalt) batteries contain around 33% nickel while NCA (nickel cobalt aluminium) batteries contain up to 80% nickel.

The EDTA (Electric Drive Transpor­ta­tion Association) has predicted that new EV sales will rise to around 8.5m units by 2025, a growth of 10%. This trend for growth is projected to continue, reaching 26m EVs by 2030 (a growth of 28%) and 54m EVs by 2040 (a further growth of 58%). The Nickel Institute published growth projections suggesting that 58% of lithium-ion batteries will contain nickel by 2025, in comparison to the current figure of 39%.

It is unclear at the moment how the growing demand for nickel will affect the production and price of stainless steel. Tim Collins, the Secretary-General of the ISSF (Inter­national Stainless Steel Forum) has pointed out that the development of and increased demand for nickel-free stainless steels and low-nickel duplex could balance out the overall demand.

The stainless steel market is always changing, influenced by a complex, diverse and numerous array of different factors. Throughout all of the changes, you can rely on BS Stainless to continue providing premium-quality materials and products at a consis­tently-competitive price.

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