Nickel prices are surging, driving up costs of a wide range of alloys and products. As demand for lithium-ion batteries and other nickel products continues to climb, the ability of nickel suppliers to meet that demand in the near future is in question.
Both supply and demand factors are driving the nickel shortage, and unfortunately, the shortage is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. The current nickel shortage has made recycling a very attractive way to help small manufacturers and machine shops mitigate rising prices.
Why Nickel Is Important
Nickel is tough, corrosion-resistant, and 100% recyclable. It is essential for building infrastructure, chemical production, communications technology, energy generation, environmental protection, and food production.
Nickel is most often alloyed with other metals to produce materials that provide both ductility and strength at high temperatures. Some of these superalloys are used in high-temperature or highly corrosive applications such as jet engines, oil and gas facilities, and power plants. Nickel is also an important component of stainless steel.
More recently, nickel has become an essential component of the lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs). With automakers ramping up EV production, demand for nickel has become higher than ever. Now, a global shortage is threatening EV battery manufacturers and every other industry that depends on nickel. But what is causing the nickel shortage, and how can we expect the situation to evolve going forward?
Causes and Effects of the Current Nickel Shortage
While there is plenty of nickel in the Earth’s crust to be mined, the mining and processing industries are struggling to keep up with demand for nickel largely created by the EV ramp-up—and this was true even before metal supply chains were staggered by the pandemic.
Compounding the problem further are the global supply chain disruptions resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia’s Norilsk Nickel is the world’s largest producer of high-grade nickel, and although Russian nickel hasn’t been directly sanctioned, fewer ships are docking in Russian ports, and a growing number of companies are refusing to take on new Russian business. Even before Russia invaded Ukraine, nickel prices were climbing. Now, they have reached record highs.
What does this mean for the future of nickel supplies? The EV industry will certainly struggle to maintain production goals, but automakers are not the only ones who will be impacted by the nickel shortage. Higher nickel prices mean higher prices for all nickel-containing alloys, so we can expect to see effects of the shortage reach metals like stainless steel as well.
When Will the Nickel Shortage End?
The short answer is: nobody knows. The main drivers of the shortage—increased EV production and the war in Ukraine—don’t show any signs of slowing.
Recycling will be key to supplementing nickel supplies in the future as demand continues to rise. One of the most cost-effective ways to use recycled nickel alloys is by purchasing metal remnants.
Large manufacturers often have remnant pieces of material left over after cutting operations. These remnants are still usable and can be found at a significant discount. If you are looking for an affordable source of material during the ongoing nickel shortage, remnants may be the solution.
Beat the Nickel Shortage With Affordable Remnants from a Trusted Supplier
Industrial Metal Service has been in the metals business for more than two decades. In that time, we’ve built a rock-solid reputation among our customers for fast, reliable service and unbeatable prices.
We specialize in buying usable metal remnants, including aluminum, brass, bronze, copper, steel, titanium, and nickel alloys, and reselling them at significantly discounted prices compared to new mill-sourced metals. This can be a great way to beat the current nickel shortage. Odd-sized or angled cuts are trimmed to standard plate, sheet, and bar stock shapes. We also verify the composition of our metal remnants using Thermo-Fisher XRF analyzers so you can have confidence you’re receiving the types and grades of metals you need.
In our view, the process of collecting usable remnants and selling them at a discount is the ultimate way to recycle. There’s no need to melt or reprocess metal scrap, and it saves energy and supports a cleaner environment.