Multi-channel efforts to "cool down" lithium prices

  Recently, the price of battery-grade lithium carbonate has risen sharply, which has attracted market attention.

What will be the impact of the surge in lithium prices?

How to deal with price increases?

The reporter interviewed relevant experts in this regard.

  Jia Mingxing, vice president of the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association, said that at this stage, the price of lithium carbonate has increased significantly. Although there has been a slight correction recently, the price of battery-grade lithium carbonate in the market remains around 420,000 yuan per ton.

The rising price of lithium represented by lithium carbonate has greatly stimulated the investment and production expansion of lithium projects from the perspective of supply. The capital expenditure of enterprises has increased, and the enthusiasm for recycling lithium has also increased.

However, from the perspective of the entire industry chain, the continuous rise in raw material prices has increased the manufacturing costs of mid- and downstream industries such as lithium battery materials, lithium power batteries, and lithium-ion new energy vehicles. In addition, the market transmission mechanism of prices is not sufficient, which will inevitably affect the entire lithium industry chain. Smooth circulation in the supply chain.

  The reason for the rise in lithium prices is mainly due to the substantial increase in the demand for lithium from new energy vehicles.

New energy vehicles account for a large share of lithium consumption. Whether it is the current lithium-ion battery, the next-generation lithium solid-state battery, or the possible future lithium-air battery, the core of the power battery is "lithium".

Since last year, the global demand for new energy vehicles has achieved ultra-high growth, and the production capacity of lithium batteries and the production of key materials such as cathode materials and electrolytes has expanded rapidly, resulting in an increase in the demand for lithium carbonate and other lithium salts, thus driving up lithium prices.

  From the perspective of market supply, about 60% of my country's lithium mines are imported. Due to the unobstructed supply channels, some countries have successively introduced some policies for lithium mine mining. For example, some lithium concentrates from the Piabara lithium mine in Australia are in the spot. In the market auction, the transaction price increased significantly, resulting in a strong expectation of long-term lithium price increase.

In addition, the epidemic has caused various delays in the restart of Australia's lithium concentrate capacity, and logistics obstructions have affected shipments, raising lithium prices.

  Xu Aidong, chief expert and chief engineer of Beijing Antaike Information Co., Ltd. believes that the fundamental reason for the high lithium price is the mismatch between supply and demand. The direct factor for this round of lithium price rise is the demand-side pull, and the growth rate of supply is far behind the growth rate of upstream and downstream consumption. .

In 2021, my country's new energy vehicle sales will increase by 160%, power battery production and installed capacity growth rates will be 163% and 143% respectively, and the output growth rate of the four major domestic cathode materials will be 97%, but my country's lithium salt supply growth rate is only 60% Left and right, stimulated the price of lithium soared.

  How to deal with rising lithium prices?

Xu Aidong said that government departments and relevant associations are urging enterprises to strengthen self-discipline, promote cooperation between upstream and downstream enterprises, and "cool down" lithium prices.

  In March 2022, the National Development and Reform Commission held a symposium for upstream and downstream enterprises in the lithium industry to exchange views on the price formation mechanism, production and supply bottlenecks, and policy measures to ensure supply and stabilize prices, which inhibited the expected rapid rise in lithium prices.

  Zeng Tao, chief analyst of the Dianxin public environmental protection industry in the research department of CICC, suggested that, on the one hand, in order to hedge against the pressure of rising lithium prices, many lithium battery companies and car companies have begun to deploy lithium resources, in addition to directly deploying upstream ores, salt lakes, etc. In this process, lithium battery recycling is becoming an important supplement to lithium resources.

On the other hand, from the perspective of technological innovation, the development of new electrochemical energy storage devices that do not rely on lithium, such as sodium-ion batteries, is also an important way to alleviate the tight supply of lithium resources.

With the continuous increase in the development of lithium resources in the industrial chain, the continuous improvement of the development speed, and the industrialization breakthrough of superimposed new technologies, the tight supply situation of lithium resources in the medium term is expected to be reversed, and the price is expected to fall.

  Jia Xingxing said that the Nonferrous Metals Association and the Lithium Industry Branch are studying related work and hope to establish a mechanism to ensure stable lithium prices as soon as possible.

In terms of supply and demand, relevant companies should increase their investment in technological innovation in the exploitation of lithium ore resources to make the supply more abundant, so that the price adjustment of lithium carbonate batteries can return to the industry itself.

  Jia Mingxing said that in terms of supply, the current lithium price has exceeded the industry cost by as much as 10 times, which will definitely stimulate the development and expansion of a large number of lithium resources.

Although it will take a long time for the new production capacity to reach production capacity, there is a lot of room for expanding production as much as possible under the existing production capacity conditions.

  "Now that the price of lithium is so high, all companies in the lithium industry want to run at full capacity and increase production." Xu Aidong believes that for lithium industry companies, it is necessary to increase investment in research and development and use more advanced technologies to improve production efficiency.

For example, salt lake development enterprises have increased the proportion of raw halogen to extract lithium to break through the limit of potassium and magnesium production.

Mica development enterprises should increase the utilization of tailings resources to ensure the healthy and sustainable development of the industrial chain.

  At the same time, Xu Aidong appealed that the company also has some problems that cannot be solved by itself in the actual operation. It is hoped that the relevant departments will speed up the issuance of domestic mining rights certificates, the progress of environmental assessment and energy assessment, coordinate the development of both domestic and foreign resources, and allow the conditions to open up the use of waste lithium. The import of nickel-cobalt-lithium primary raw material products produced by ion batteries relieves supply pressure through multiple channels and "cools down" lithium prices.

  Cui Guoqiang

  Cui Guoqiang