China Needle Coke Prices Reverses the Global Trend

China's Needle Coke Price Trend

The upheaval in graphite electrodes demand in past two years and a steady surge in the requirements for graphite anodes for lithium-ion batteries in China has boosted the needle-coke demand in the country.

In 2018, the overall performance of China’s needle coke market was relatively stable with prices showing an uptrend and reaching to its high in the month of November. However, towards the end of 2018, the plunge in steel demand from downstream sector in China adversely impacted the country’s graphite electrode requirement and so does the needle coke demand and prices.

With the start of 2019, China’s domestic needle coke prices have been falling and have registered a plunge of 35% in the time span of six months. However, the price of high-quality needle coke required for UHP grade GE (usually imported) have been rising continuously recording a surge of 22% during Jan-Jun’19. The domestic needle coke prices in China are currently trending in the range of RMB 19,000-20,000 (USD 2,750 – 2,900/MT) whereas imported needle coke prices are at 4,200 – 4,600/MT.

According to customs data, in first four months of 2019, China’s petroleum-based needle coke import volume was 46,413 tonnes, 70% of which came from the United Kingdom, 15.3% from the United States, and 9.5% from Japan whereas country’s coal-based needle-coke imports were 27,819 tonnes of which 62% came from South Korea and 38% from Japan.

Although, the domestic needle coke produced in China still has some time to match the global standards, with the help of some research and development, the quality of the same have improved to some extent and few products have been able to mark their entry in the international market also.

At present the production capacity of domestic needle coke in China is in the period of rapid expansion and in 2019 some new projects will be officially put into operations:

China’s upcoming capacities in case of coal-based needle coke:

Company Name Planned Capacity Estimated year of operation Type
CNPC Jinzhou Company 100,000 2019 New expansion
Shandong Yida New Material 70,000 2019 New expansion
Shandong Jingyang Tech 70,000 2019 New expansion
SinoPec Maoming Company 100,000 2020 New entry
Sinopec Jinling Company 100,000 2020 New entry
Liaoning Baolai Bio-energy 120,000 2020 New entry
Total 560,000

China’s upcoming capacities in case of petroleum-based needle coke:

Company Name Planned Capacity Estimated year of operation Type
Kaifeng carbon Anshan thermal-energy new material 20,000 2019 New expansion
Henei Kaifeng Carbon New Material 40,000 2019 New expansion
Shanghai Baosteel Chemical 100,000 2019 New expansion
Anshan Steel Holding 40,000 2019 New entry
Zaozhuang Thriving Carbon Tech 40,000 2019 New entry
Pingdingshan Risun New Material 40,000 2019 New entry
Baoshun Chem 50,000 2019 New entry
Tsdr New Energy 100,000 2019 New entry
Shanxi Jinzhou Chem 40,000 2019 New entry
Shanxi Fuma Carbon Material 40,000 2020 New entry
Ningxia Baichuan new material 50,000 2020 New entry
Total 560,000

With the new capacities coming up in China’s needle coke sector and tepid graphite electrodes demand due to sluggishness in downstream sector, the country’s domestic needle coke prices are anticipated to fall further.

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