Steel Alloys / Niobium: Market Outlook to 2017, 12th edition
- 1. Summary
- 2. Introduction
- 3. World supply of niobium to 2012
- 4. Summary of niobium producers, processors and projects
- 5. Review of niobium production, processing and projects by country
- 6. International trade in niobium minerals and products
- 7. World consumption of niobium
- 8. Use of niobium in steel
- 9. Use of niobium in non-ferrous alloys
- 10. Use of niobium metal and niobium-based alloys
- 11. Use of niobium chemicals
- 12. Niobium prices
- 13. Niobium outlook to 2017
Niobium: Market Outlook to 2017, 12th edition
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Demand for niobium is driven by two sets of factors. One is the overall growth in the global economy, which directly influences the demand for steel, where most niobium is used, and the demand for aerospace superalloys, which are the largest non-steel market. Future demand for niobium will follow the overall economic trend, at the very least. The other factor is the incidence of use in steel, which could be the principal driver of structural increases in demand in the coming years.
The niobium market is comparatively new, dating back only a few decades. In steel, it is consumed in very small amounts – fractions of a percent in terms of gross weight of steel – but contributes enormously to the quality of the steel produced. It is not used in all steels. The main use is in high-strength, low-alloy (HSLA) steel, with a much smaller amount going to 400 series stainless steels. The benefit in HSLA steel is that the addition of a small amount of niobium, representing a very minor part of the overall production cost, considerably increases the strength of the steel. This is of particular importance in the principal market segments where HSLA is used. High-pressure gas pipelines can be made with less steel, and large weight savings can be made in the construction and automotive sectors. In most applications, niobium faces little threat of substitution by other alloying elements.
In some countries, typically the traditional industrial economies, the use of niobium in steel is long-established and the incidence of use is already high. In some other countries, however, there is considerable latent demand. This latter group includes China, India and Russia. Such countries have an incidence of niobium use that is currently far below the global average. They also have the highest forecast rates of growth in steel production and there is an anticipation that they will increasingly move from producing mild steel to HSLA steel. This is the growth area for niobium demand.
Intensity of ferroniobium use in crude steel, 2012
- What factors will drive future demand for niobium?
- Where are the largest increases in niobium consumption expected to occur?
- How will the niobium supply base develop in the coming years?
- What will be the niobium supply-demand balance in 2017?
- What is the outlook for niobium prices?