The global aluminum market deficit may increase by 400,000-500,000 mt this year to 1.6 million -1.7 million mt, supporting metal prices in 2022, Russian aluminum producer Rusal said Feb. 9.
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Rusal sees global aluminum demand around 71.3 million to 71.7 million mt this year, representing an increase of 3.4%-3.9%, or 2.3 million-2.7 million mt, from 2021, while supply could top 70 million mt at best.
In 2021, global primary aluminum demand grew 8.8% on the year to 69 million mt. Rusal estimated that the market was in a 1.2 million mt deficit last year compared to a 1.9 million mt surplus 2020, it said Feb. 9.
Demand in China, although a little suppressed in the August-November period due to power rationing policy, increased 6% to 40.4 million mt in 2021. For the rest of the world, it grew by 13% to 28.6 million mt.
Rusal previously told Moscow-based brokerage BCS Global Markets that it expected Chinese aluminum demand to rise 3%-3.5% on the year in 2022 on economic stimulus, and that it expected a deficit of 300,000 mt outside of China.
The worldwide supply of primary aluminum continued to grow too in 2021, but increased more modestly –- than demand -- by 3.9% on the year to 67.8 million mt, said Rusal. Of this, 28.9 million mt, or 43%, was from outside of China, where production increased by 2.8% as high gas prices were disrupting smelting operations across Europe.
Nine European aluminum smelters announced production cuts equivalent to nearly 14% of EU's 5 million mt/year capacity, starting Q4 2021.
China's aluminum supply grew 4.7% in 2021 to 39 million mt. Power supply tightness has eased in the country and domestic thermal coal prices have seen a correction, but some smelting capacity cuts remain in place due to power constraints in certain provinces and stricter controls over decarbonization, Rusal said in a statement.
Chinese unwrought aluminum and semis exports grew 15.6% to 5.6 million mt, on attractive export arbitrage and rising overseas demand. At the same time Chinese imports of unwrought aluminum and products, including primary and alloyed aluminum, set a new record of 3.2 million mt, up 19% from 2020, the statement read.
Rusal also forecasts no risk to primary aluminum producers from metal recycling, telling BCS previously that it would not generate substantial supply additions in the medium term. China recycles volume equivalent to 15%-16% of its aluminum output, versus 40%-50% in developed markets, and imports most of its aluminum scrap.
There remain concerns that Russian aluminum exports to global markets could be disrupted in the event of an escalation of the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
But BCS Global Markets said earlier in February that the probability of direct sanctions against Rusal is negligible amid the standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine.
Rusal sees low possibility of direct sanctions against Russia's aluminum industry as it may strain the global aluminum market since Russia provides 30% of the ex-China supply, BCS said this month.