Global needle coke supply has remained tight in 2019 although the market prices posted mixed performances. China saw 30-40 percent drop in needle coke price from the 2018 level on the falling of graphite electrode price, while its global peers continued to raise sale prices by over 20 percent in the same period.
In 2019, China's demand for needle coke keeps expanding, with the figure estimated to reach 780,000 tons and the growth rate at around 36 percent. The growth of needle coke demand in graphite electrode market is mainly contributed to by the output increase of graphite electrode. China's overall graphite electrode output is expected to reach 1.337 million tons with a year-on-year growth of 39% in 2019. Particularly, the output and export volume of China's large-size UHP graphite electrodes with diameter of 600mm and above have surged in 2019. With the upsizing trend of electric furnaces, the number of manufacturers in China making 700mm UHP electrode is expected to surpass 13. In 2020, China's new electric steel capacities are expected to increase 10 million tons from 2019's level and the overall capacity to reach 194 million tons as capacity replacement programs will be launched intensively in the coming year, which will bring new opportunities to China's graphite electrode market and further boost demand for premium needle coke.
On the anode material front, China's lithium battery anode material output was 257,500 tons in 2018, which contributed to 220,000 tons of purchase for needle coke. In 2019, China's anode materials continue to grow at a high speed. ICC data show manufacturers surveyed posted 137,000 tons of anode material output and a year-on-year growth of 45 percent in Jan-Jun period. On top of the robust demand in domestic market, China's anode material exports also have posted quite impressive performance, which is expected to grow by more than 60 percent this year. Buoyed by the NEV market worldwide, China's anode material output is estimated to reach 650,000 tons by 2021.
China's design capacity of needle coke has also become massive with the rising demand. According to ICC data, China's needle coke capacity is estimated to hit 970,000 tons in 2019 and even to reach as high as 2.01 million tons in 2019, of which the addition of new coal-based needle coke capacities makes up a large part. It raises questions like is there sufficient supply of coal tar in China to prop up the capacity addition of this size? How will the rapid increase of needle coke supply in China impact the country’s needle coke import market and the current global supply pattern? How will the price of needle coke move in 2020?
Meanwhile, the sale prices of 550mm UHP graphite electrode fell blow the cost line in July 2019 in China. Weighed down by the fall of price, 510,000 tons worth of new GE capacity or expansion projects for 2019 have slowed down according to ICC data. So can the 1.884 MnT capacity planned to hit the market in 2019 proceed as scheduled? What kind of impact will the growth of China's graphite electrode bring to the electrode market worldwide?
To this end, ICC News invites you to the beautiful city of Chengdu, the Land of Abundance during 28-30 October, to discuss topics related to needle coke industry chain and the application markets and to seek common development.