The plant, which is located in Qinzhou city in southwest China’s Guangxi province, has a nameplate capacity of 80,000 t/yr nickel metal equivalent for high nickel matte, a feedstock to produce nickel sulphate, a key raw material to manufacture lithium-ion cathode active material (CAM) precursors. It has produced high nickel matte for more than 50 consecutive days. CNGR in February last year launched a 60,000 t/yr nickel sulphate workshop in the same city.
“This is the world’s first plant that produces high nickel matte from low nickel matte, using the oxygen-enriched side-blowing furnace (OESBF) process,” CNGR said. “This project also marks that CNGR has established an integrated product chain from laterite nickel ore, low nickel matte, high nickel matte, nickel sulphate to high nickel-containing ternary battery precursors.”
The nickel pig iron (NPI)-to-matte and the OESBF are the two main processes used to produce nickel matte. More nickel supplies are expected to go to the battery industry in 2023 after some Chinese firms such as CNGR launched production that adopts the OESBF process in Indonesia, market participants told Argus.
CNGR in January also launched a low-nickel matte feedstock project in Indonesia, with a 27,500 t/yr nickel metal equivalent capacity, at the Weda Bay Industrial Park (IWIP) in North Maluku province’s Halmahera island.
CNGR is one of the world’s largest lithium-ion battery cathode precursor manufacturers, and it is on target to expand its ternary precursor capacity to more than 500,000 t/yr by the end of this year.
China imported 120,544t of nickel matte during January-June, up sharply from 17,774t a year earlier, customs data show, with Indonesia being the largest matte supplier to China at 116,177t during this period, accounting for 96pc of China’s total imports.
Firm demand from the electric vehicle (EV) battery sector has encouraged many Chinese firms to invest in nickel matte production projects in Indonesia. Argus on 4 July launched a payable indicator for nickel matte based on London Metal Exchange nickel cash official prices, with the latest assessment at 80-83pc on 27 July. Argus forecasts nickel demand from the EV sector will rise above 900,000 t/yr by 2028.