CRU: Tin's 'New Energy' Potential at Risk as Supply Concerns Grow

CRU: Tin's 'New Energy' Potential at Risk as Supply Concerns Grow

PR Newswire

LONDON, April 2, 2019

LONDON, April 2, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Tin has been in the spotlight in recent months as research into its use in the new energy revolution has revealed much potential. The metal has positive electrochemical qualities that make its use advantageous on a technical level for all sorts of energy-related applications. That said, market participants interested in commercialising the soft metal's new uses, have a major concern fundamental to any resource market: will there be enough supply? This Insight explores the resurgence of interest in tin along with the current supply outlook, including a review of the major risks.

Tin’s ‘new energy’ potential at risk as supply concerns grow
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Tin is a vital ingredient in the production of a wide range of products, though rarely represents more than a few grams per kilogram of final product. This includes computers and other consumer electronics, packaging, and in our automobiles. Due to this wide range of applications, total tin demand is driven by a combination of developments in the broader world economy. More specifically, tin demand is driven by the metal's main use in the manufacture of solders, chemicals and tinplated steel, which account for just under 80% of total tin consumption.

In recent years, manufacturing sectors around the globe have seen lower growth rates than found in the latter half of the 20th century and first decade of the 21st century, especially in developing nations where consumer electronics, along with many other tin-containing products, are concentrated. This has affected tin demand growth directly, especially in chemical and construction end uses.

Potential demand growth for tin sits tantalizingly close
Tin's final role in new energy applications is far from set today, but the outlook is positive. Specifically, the International Tin Association's (ITA) research has continued to support the potential for tin's use in new energy. The ITA details its recent research on potential new market opportunities for tin, including in the soft metal's potential use in upcoming versions of the increasingly adopted lithium ion batteries, as well as in improved versions of the lead-acid battery. Growing production of electric vehicles could potentially increase demand of tin in lithium-ion batteries as well as in connecting the myriad new wiring needed in electric vehicles. Beyond this, 2018 saw the publication of the results of a report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), sponsored by Rio Tinto's New Ventures Team, which also points to tin's potential in new energy applications beyond the automobile. This includes the potential extended use of tin in robotics, renewable energy, as well as advanced computers and IT. With the publication of these studies, among others, there has been much recent interest in tin's technical potential. It is expected that much of the new demand will include increasing uses of solder and other tin-containing materials for contact points, which are expected to rise exponentially in new energy uses.

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