Some Theoretical Truths About Lithium Battery Nickel Industry

Some theoretical truths about lithium battery nickel industry

  1. Market size of nickel industry
  2. Market competition pattern of nickel industry
  3. Nickel industry chain
  4. Summary

There are two main categories of nickel and products, which are divided into nickel plates, nickel balls, nickel alloys, nickel salts, etc. according to the shape. According to the lithium battery nickel industry, they can be divided into primary nickel and secondary nickel, among which the primary nickel products are nickel.

The content is above 99.8%, including electro-nickel, nickel balls, etc., while the secondary nickel-nickel content is usually below 98%, including nickel-iron and nickel pig iron with lower nickel content.

The upstream lithium battery nickel industry mainly includes the mining of nickel ore. The specific production technology employed varies with the type of nickel ore and its intended downstream use. High nickel has been widely used in lithium battery nickel industry in recent years. Here is a top 10 high nickel products manufacturers in China article for you to read.

The midstream lithium battery nickel industry mainly includes smelted products (including nickel cobalt sulfide, nickel cobalt hydroxide and high nickel matte) and further processed products (including nickel sulfate, pure nickel and ferronickel).

The downstream lithium battery nickel industry has a wide range of applications, including ternary batteries used in new energy vehicles and stainless steel mainly used in construction and machinery.

Market size of lithium battery nickel industry

Market size of nickel industry

Major nickel mining countries include Indonesia, the Philippines, and Russia. Indonesia and the Philippines are the world’s leading nickel miners, accounting for more than 40% of global production in 2020. After Indonesia banned the export of nickel ore in 2020, global nickel ore exports were concentrated in the Philippines.

From 2016 to 2019, the global nickel mining volume increased steadily from 2.1 million metal tons to 2.6 million metal tons. It subsequently decreased by approximately 4% in 2020. Global nickel mining is expected to reach 2.7 million tons in 2021.

Global nickel consumption increased from 2,122 kMT in 2016 to 2,493 kMT in 2020, representing a CAGR of 4.1% during the period, mainly driven by the development of the electric vehicle market and the increase in stainless steel consumption.

As the sales of electric vehicles and the installed capacity of power batteries are expected to maintain a substantial growth in the future, the demand for nickel in the lithium battery nickel industry will increase, and the global nickel consumption is expected to reach 4,748.5 thousand metal tons in 2026. The growth rate was 11.3%.

Stainless steel has always accounted for the largest share of global nickel product consumption. In 2020, the lithium battery nickel industry consumption of stainless steel was 1,718.0 kMT, accounting for 68.9% of the global nickel consumption, while the nickel consumption of batteries accounted for 9.5%.

In the future, batteries, especially power batteries, are expected to be the main contributors to the growth of global nickel consumption. In 2026, batteries are estimated to rank second in terms of global nickel consumption with a market share of 29.6%.

Market competition pattern of lithium battery nickel industry

Market competition pattern of nickel industry

From the upstream point of view, the concentration of global nickel enterprises is relatively low, with CR7 of 29.4%. Among them, the market share of Russian Nickel and Vale exceeds 5%, accounting for 8.5% and 7.7% respectively. Next are Glencore, BHP Billiton, Sherritt, Anglo American and South32, accounting for 4.5%, 3.1%, 2.5%, 1.6% and 1.5% respectively.

China’s ferronickel production has increased from 374.8 thousand metal tons in 2016 to 541.3 thousand metal tons in 2020, with a compound annual growth rate of 9.6%. China’s leading companies have invested in smelting projects overseas due to Indonesia’s restrictions on nickel ore exports. With the gradual stabilization of energy supply, ferronickel production is expected to remain stable, reaching 573.1 kMT by 2026, with a CAGR of 1.0% from 2020 to 2026.

There are two main drivers for the nickel industry in China:

  • The rapid growth of the new energy vehicle industry. In 2020, China’s power battery loading capacity will reach 63.6 GWh, about twice as much as in 2016.  To get concrete information, you can check our top 10 power battery installations in China article. As one of the necessary raw materials for power batteries, with the accelerated promotion and application of new energy vehicles, the demand for nickel in power batteries is expected to grow further.
  • The application of high-nickel ternary batteries is rising. With its advantage of higher energy density, lithium battery nickel industry which adapt high nickel ternary cathode has become the main choice of lithium battery nickel industry among commercial new energy vehicle manufacturers. Energy density is a key characteristic of NEV batteries, as higher energy density directly translates into higher cruising range.

Nickel plays an important role in improving the energy density of ternary materials. Therefore, high-nickel ternary batteries can effectively increase the cruising range of new energy vehicles and reduce consumer concerns.

In addition, since the price of nickel is significantly lower than that of cobalt, high-nickel ternary materials can effectively reduce the cost of raw materials by reducing the relative percentage of cobalt usage.

Lithium battery nickel industry chain

Nickel industry chain

Downstream of new energy lithium batteries: EV, 3C, energy storage, two-wheelers, power tools. EVs mainly use ternary lithium batteries more, and lithium iron phosphate is rarely used.

In China’s power battery sector, the proportion began to decline in the second half of last year. In the first half of last year, ternary batteries accounted for more than 50% of lithium batteries, and returned to about 40% in the second half of the year.

3c mostly uses lithium cobalt oxide and lithium manganate batteries, and the ternary ratio is relatively small. Lithium iron phosphate batteries are used for energy storage.

Ternary refers to the three metal elements of nickel-cobalt-lithium or nickel-cobalt-aluminum. The four elements of NCMA can also be called quaternary batteries. NC has only nickel-cobalt binary batteries, but we are used to distinguishing lithium iron phosphate batteries from the above types. Statistics are in the ternary battery.

Upstream of new energy lithium battery: The positive electrode of the lithium battery nickel industry is a ternary positive electrode material. The cathode is produced from a ternary precursor and a lithium salt.

The ternary precursor is the front-end material for the preparation of ternary cathode materials, mainly nickel-cobalt-manganese (aluminum) hydroxide, which is simply divided into NCM811, NCM622, NCM523 and NCA according to the molar ratio of nickel, cobalt, and manganese (aluminum). .

The preparation of NCM series precursors uses nickel salts, cobalt salts, and manganese salts as raw materials, while NCA precursors use nickel salts, cobalt salts, and aluminum hydroxide as raw materials, and neutralization reactions occur in ammonia, water and alkali solutions to obtain nickel.

Cobalt manganese (aluminum) hydroxide is precipitated, and the process flow is relatively simple.


At present, the output of pure nickel is basically still in a relatively flat state. By 2023, the entire raw material will still be in surplus, and the surplus will mostly come from NPI. Battery materials are also in a state of growth.

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