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Global lithium demand seen outpacing production in 2023: OCE

Highlights

Demand-supply mismatch to continue until 2027

Lithium prices likely peaked, to ease in coming years

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Global lithium demand is expected to outmatch lithium production in 2023 by around 3% at a time of growing adoption of electric vehicles in countries even as major producers boost output, Australia's Office of the Chief Economist said in a report.

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According to the agency, global lithium demand will reach 989,000 mt of lithium carbon equivalent in 2023, above the 964,000 mt of production expected in the same year.

The current demand-supply mismatch situation will only go away in 2027 when production will outpace global lithium demand, data from the agency's quarterly report showed.

Global lithium demand by 2028 is forecast to double to over 2 million mt from the 2023 level, with Asia remaining the biggest consumer, despite new battery output capacity in Europe and the US.

Robust demand for EV batteries has supported lithium demand; demand for lithium batteries equated to nearly 80% of all lithium use in 2022, the OCE said.

This ratio will only grow, moving up to 90% by 2028, as EVs add market share in the globe passenger car market, led by lower EV prices.

Meanwhile, global lithium production is expected to rise to 2.1 million mt in 2028, with most of the increase coming from higher output in Australia, Chile and Argentina, the agency said. Additional supply from countries such as China, Brazil and Canada will also help elevate production.

Australia will continue to be the largest lithium producer, accounting for around 32% of global lithium carbonate equivalent production by 2027-28.

In 2022-23, Australia's lithium production will rise by around 30% year on year, the agency said.

Prices

Lithium prices globally have appeared to peak and will fall to more sustainable levels in the coming years, the agency said.

"Spot prices for lithium commodities have eased since the start of the year, after reaching record highs late last year," the OCE said.

Platts, part of S&P Global Commodity Insights, assessed lithium hydroxide CIF North Asia at a 13-month low of $62,500/mt on April 4, down from an all-time high of $84,700 mt in November.

Spot prices have continued to affect long-term contracts, with Australian producers reporting spot prices now flowing more rapidly into contract prices, the agency said.

"Over the next two years, as new spodumene suppliers come on stream, [spodumene] prices are expected to decline to more sustainable levels -- around $1,700[/mt] in 2025," the OCE said.

The OCE said it expects lithium hydroxide prices to rise from $44,090/mt in 2022 to $61,520/mt in 2023, but then ease to $36,220/mt by 2028.