The global needle coke market stood at 1,209.52 kilo tons in 2020 and is estimated to register a CAGR of around 12%, over the forecast period (2021-2026). The major factors driving the growth of the market studied are the growing demand for lithium-ion batteriesâ€‹ and the rising availability of steel scrap in China.
- On the flipside, the impact of COVID-19 is acting as a roadblock to the growth of the market studied.
- An increase in lithium-ion battery production in Europe is likely to act as an opportunity for the market studied over the forecast period.
- Asia-Pacific region is expected to dominate the market and is also likely to witness the highest CAGR during the forecast period.
Key Market Trends
Graphite Electrodes Segment to Dominate the Market
Needle coke is used as a primary raw material for graphite electrodes in an electric furnace. It is a premium grade, high-value petroleum coke used in the manufacturing of graphite electrodes of a very low coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) for the electric arc furnaces in the steel industry. When making the electrodes, it takes up to six months to make with processes, including baking and rebaking to convert the coke into graphite. Graphite has high thermal conductivity and is very resistant to heat and impact. It also has low electrical resistance, which is needed to conduct the large electrical currents necessary to melt iron, and thus can sustain sustaining the extremely high levels of heat generated in EAF (Electric Arc Furnace).
Graphite electrodes are divided into 4 Types: RP Graphite electrodes, HP Graphite electrodes, SHP Graphite electrodes, and UHP Graphite electrodes. The Graphite electrodes are primarily used in the electric arc furnace steel manufacturing, alloy steel, various alloys, and nonmetals melting. These electrodes can provide high levels of generated heat, and they are also used in the refinement of steel and similar smelting processes. These graphite electrodes can melt iron scrap in an electric arc furnace at a temperature of about 1600â„ƒ.
China is the both the largest manufacturer and consumer of the graphite electrode across the world. Over the past few years, graphite electrode witnessed a significant rise in prices. The COVID-19 outbreak has negatively affected the production of graphite electrode across the world and has caused major supply chain disruptions. The above-mentioned factors are likely to affect the demand for needle coke for graphite electrode application during the forecast period.
China - The Largest Producer and Consumer of Needle Coke
In Asia-Pacific, China is the largest economy, in terms of GDP. In 2019, the country witnessed about 6.1% growth in its GDP, despite the trade disturbance, due to the trade war, with the United States.â€‹ The country was by far the worst affected nation in the first few months of 2020 with the virus outbreak originating in the country itself. All the major manufacturing industries have taken a major hit as the entire nation has gone into the self-quarantine situation to contain the virus outbreak during most of Q1 2020 and early periods of Q2 2020. According to the International Monitory Fund (IMF) projections, the Chinese GDP growth was forecasted to be 1.9% in 2020, due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. It is expected to recover and reach 8.2% by the end of 2021. According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, in the first three months of 2020, the total industrial output in the country has fallen by 13.5%, 13.5%, and 1.1%, respectively. China's industrial production rebounded sharply in April due to the government's push for work resumption and easing lockdown measures. In April 2020, total industrial output in the country witnessed 3.9% growth Y-o-Y over April 2019.
Although China is the first country affected by the COVID-19 and its related lockdown, it is the first country that has come out of the lockdowns and is starting its long journey toward normalcy. However, as a major chunk of the Chinese economy is linked to foreign exports, where demand is still low will negatively affect the Chinese industry in the near future. China holds the largest share in terms of consumption and production capacity of graphite electrodes in the global scenario, thus, presenting the scope for the steel production in the country, thus, further displaying the demand in the needle coke market during the forecast period. Chinese manufacturers rushed to install capacity for graphite electrodes from the time the country began to commit heavily to higher rates of steel production via electric arc furnace in 2017. The capacities of electric arc furnaces have increased in recent times, with an increase of nearly 70 million metric ton in 2019. In addition to it, the Government of China is also focusing on developing eco-friendly means of producing steel. Several hundred thousand metric ton of new capacity of electric arc furnace is already in the pipeline. Currently, about 20% of the steel is produced from electric arc furnaces in the country.
China is one of the largest consumers as well as the importer of needle coke, because of its higher graphite electrode manufacturing capacities and vast market. The graphite electrode manufacturers are mainly focused on the production of UHP graphite electrodes for steel manufacturing, thereby, propelling the market for needle coke during the forecast period. China is the largest steel manufacturing country in the world. In 2019, China produced around 996.3 million ton of steel compared to the total global steel production of 1868.8 million ton which is more than 50% of the global steel production. China is the single largest producer of lithium-ion batteries in the world. In 2019, the was more than 316 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of global lithium battery manufacturing capacity. China is estimated to hold more than 70% of this capacity indicating the country occupying a significant share of the demand for the needle coke. The newly installed capacities of batteries reached 5.9 GWh till October 2020.
The growing demand for graphite electrodes and lithium-ion batteries is expected to drive the market during the forecast period. The COVID-19 pandemic presented a problematic situation in the production of graphite electrodes and lithium-ion batteries in the country earlier in the year. However, the conditions are better now, which has strengthened the probability of market recovery over the forecast period.
The needle coke market stands to be a consolidated market, and the top 7 players accounted for over 48% of the global production capacity in 2020. While the market had been highly concentrated till 2018, with numerous capacity additions observed in 2019 and 2020 (majorly in the Chinese market), the market shares held by major players in the global market also witnessed noteworthy adjustments. Some of the major players in the market include Phillips 66 Company, Shandong Jingyang Technology Co. Ltd, C-Chem CO., Ltd., Shanxi Hongte Coal Chemical Co., Ltd., and Shandong Yida Rongtong Trading Co. Ltd, among others.
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