Nickel: The Secret Driver of the Battery Revolution
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Nickel: The Secret Driver of the Battery Revolution

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Nickel: The Secret Driver of the Battery Revolution

Nickel: The Secret Driver of the Battery Revolution

Commodity markets are being turned upside down by the EV revolution.

But while lithium and cobalt deservedly get a lot of the press, there is another metal that will also be changed forever by increasing penetration rates of EVs in the automobile market: nickel.

Today’s infographic comes to us from North American Nickel and it dives into nickel’s rapidly increasing role in lithium-ion battery chemistries, as well as interesting developments on the supply end of the spectrum.

Nickel’s Vital Role

Nickel’s role in lithium-ion batteries may still be underappreciated for now, but certainly one person familiar with the situation has been vocal about the metal’s importance.

Our cells should be called Nickel-Graphite, because primarily the cathode is nickel and the anode side is graphite with silicon oxide.

– Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and co-founder

Indeed, nickel is the most important metal by mass in the lithium-ion battery cathodes used by EV manufacturers – it makes up about 80% of an NCA cathode, and about one-third of NMC or LMO-NMC cathodes. More importantly, as battery formulations evolve, it’s expected that we’ll use more nickel, not less.

According to UBS, in their recent report on tearing down a Chevy Bolt, here is how NMC cathodes are expected to evolve:

CathodeYearNickelManganeseCobalt
NMCPresent33%33%33%
NMC201860%20%20%
NMC202080%10%10%

The end result? In time, nickel will make up 80% of the mass in both NCA and NMC cathodes, used by companies like Tesla and Chevrolet.

Impact on the Nickel Market

Nickel, which is primarily used for the production of stainless steel, is already one of the world’s most important metal markets at over $20 billion in size. For this reason, how much the nickel market is affected by battery demand depends largely on EV penetration.

EVs currently constitute about 1% of auto demand – this translates to 70,000 tonnes of nickel demand, about 3% of the total market. However, as EV penetration goes up, nickel demand increases rapidly as well.

A shift of just 10% of the global car fleet to EVs would create demand for 400,000 tonnes of nickel, in a 2 million tonne market. Glencore sees nickel shortage as EV demand burgeons.

– Ivan Glasenberg, Glencore CEO

The Supply Kicker

Even though much more nickel will be needed for lithium-ion batteries, there is an interesting wrinkle in that equation: most nickel in the global supply chain is not actually suited for battery production.

Today’s nickel supply comes from two very different types of deposits:

  • Nickel Laterites: Low grade, bulk-tonnage deposits that make up 62.4% of current production.
  • Nickel Sulfides: Higher grade, but rarer deposits that make up 37.5% of current production.

Many laterite deposits are used to produce nickel pig iron and ferronickel, which are cheap inputs to make Chinese stainless steel. Meanwhile, nickel sulfide deposits are used to make nickel metal as well as nickel sulfate. The latter salt, nickel sulfate, is what’s used primarily for electroplating and lithium-ion cathode material, and less than 10% of nickel supply is in sulfate form.

Not surprisingly, major mining companies see this as an opportunity. In August 2017, mining giant BHP Billiton announced it would invest $43.2 million to build the world’s biggest nickel sulfate plant in Australia.

But even investments like this may not be enough to capture rising demand for nickel sulfate.

Although the capacity to produce nickel sulfate is expanding rapidly, we cannot yet identify enough nickel sulfate capacity to feed the projected battery forecasts.

– Wood Mackenzie

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Oil and Gas

How Affordable is Gas in Latin America?

This graphic looks at gas affordability in Latin America, showing how much a liter of gas costs in 19 countries, relative to average incomes.

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How Affordable is Gas in Latin America?

As gas prices have risen around the world, not each region and country is impacted equally.

Globally, the average price for a liter of gas was $1.44 USD on June 13, 2022.

But the actual price at the pump, and how affordable that price is for residents, varies greatly from country to country. This is especially true in Latin America, a region widely regarded as one of the world’s most unequal regions in terms of its income and resource distribution.

Using monthly data from GlobalPetrolPrices.com as of May 2022, this graphic by Latinometrics compares gas affordability in different countries across Latin America.

Gas Affordability in 19 Different Latin American Countries

To measure gas affordability, Latinometrics took the price of a liter of gas in 19 different Latin American countries and territories, and divided those figures by each country’s average daily income, using salary data from Statista.

Out of the 19 regions included in the dataset, Venezuela has the most affordable gas on the list. In Venezuela, a liter of gas is equivalent to roughly 1.3% of the country’s average daily income.

CountryGas price as of May 2022 (USD)% of average daily income
🇳🇮 Nicaragua$1.3714.0%
​🇩🇴​ Dominican Republic$1.4112.6%
🇧🇷​ Brazil$1.4312.5%
🇵🇾​ Paraguay$1.3912.2%
🇵🇪 Peru$1.5310.2%
🇺🇾 Uruguay$1.929.8%
🇸🇻​ El Salvador$1.149.2%
​​🇭🇳​ Honduras$1.338.6%
🇲🇽​ Mexico$1.177.8%
🇬🇹​ Guatemala$1.447.7%
🇦🇷 Argentina$1.066.7%
​🇨🇱​ Chile$1.376.6%
🇨🇷​ Costa Rica$1.425.9%
🇨🇴 Colombia$0.585.7%
​🇵🇦 ​Panama$1.275.0%
🇪🇨 Ecuador$0.674.1%
🇧🇴 Bolivia$0.543.2%
🇵🇷​ Puerto Rico$1.352.2%
🇻🇪​ Venezuela$0.021.3%

This isn’t too surprising, as Venezuela is home to the largest share of proven oil reserves in the world. However, it’s worth noting that international sanctions against Venezuelan oil, largely because of political corruption, have hampered the once prosperous sector in the country.

On the other end of the spectrum, Nicaragua has the least affordable gas on the list, with one liter of gas costing 14% of the average daily income in the country.

Historically, the Nicaraguan government has not regulated gas prices in the country, but in light of the current global energy crisis triggered in large part by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the government has stepped in to help control the situation.

As the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues with no end in sight, it’ll be interesting to see where prices are at in the next few months.

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Energy

Mapped: Which Ports are Receiving the Most Russian Fossil Fuel Shipments?

Russia’s energy exports have become a hot topic. See which ports received fossil shipments during the first 100 days of the Ukraine invasion

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As the invasion of Ukraine wears on, European countries are scrambling to find alternatives to Russian fossil fuels.

In fact, an estimated 93% of Russian oil sales to the EU are due to be eliminated by the end of the year, and many countries have seen their imports of Russian gas plummet. Despite this, Russia earned €93 billion in revenue from fossil fuel exports in the first 100 days of the invasion.

While the bulk of fossil fuels travel through Europe via pipelines, there are still a number marine shipments moving between ports. The maps below, using data from MarineTraffic.com and Datalastic, compiled by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), are a look at Russia’s fossil fuel shipments during the first 100 days of the invasion.

Russia’s Crude Oil Shipments

Much of Russia’s marine shipments of crude oil went to the Netherlands and Italy, but crude was also shipped as far away as India and South Korea.

world map showing the top ports receiving russian crude oil

India became a significant importer of Russian crude oil, buying 18% of the country’s exports (up from just 1%). From a big picture perspective, India and China now account for about half of Russia’s marine-based oil exports.

It’s important to note that a broad mix of companies were involved in shipping this oil, with some of the companies tapering their trade activity with Russia over time. Even as shipments begin to shift away from Europe though, European tankers are still doing the majority of the shipping.

Russia’s Liquefied Natural Gas Shipments

Unlike the gas that flows along the many pipeline routes traversing Europe, liquefied natural gas (LNG) is cooled down to a liquid form for ease and safety of transport by sea. Below, we can see that shipments went to a variety of destinations in Europe and Asia.

world map showing the top ports that received Russian liquefied natural gas

Fluxys terminals in France and Belgium stand out as the main destinations for Russian LNG deliveries.

Russia’s Oil Product Shipments

For crude oil tankers and LNG tankers, the type of cargo is known. For this dataset, CREA assumed that oil products tankers and oil/chemical tankers were carrying oil products.

world map showing the top ports that received Russian oil product shipments

Huge ports in Rotterdam and Antwerp, which house major refineries, were the destination for many of these oil products. Some shipments also went to destinations around the Mediterranean as well.

All of the top ports in this category were located within the vicinity of Europe.

Russia’s Coal Shipments

Finally, we look at marine-based coal shipments from Russia. For this category, CREA identified 25 “coal export terminals” within Russian ports. These are specific port locations that are associated with loading coal, so when a vessel takes on cargo at one of these locations, it is assumed that the shipment is a coal shipment.

world map showing the top ports that received Russian coal shipments

The European Union has proposed a Russian coal ban that is expected to take effect in August. While this may seem like a slow reaction, it’s one example of how the invasion of Ukraine is throwing large-scale, complex supply chains into disarray.

With such a heavy reliance on Russian fossil fuels, the EU will be have a busy year trying to secure substitute fuels – particularly if the conflict in Ukraine continues to drag on.

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