Increasing Demand from Solar Energy Products to Drive Growth in the Global Silicon and Ferro Silicon Market

The global silicon industry has continued to register robust growth in the last couple of years, primarily driven by its usage in numerous end-use applications such as solar energy products.

Amidst an increasing demand from end-markets and a surge in production capacity, the global market for silicon metal to a large extent recuperated from the limp endured from the economic conditions in the past.

The major markets for silicon metal include its application as an alloying element with other metals, in silane and silicone chemicals, and PVs. As the demand for solar grade polysilicon continues to grow, prices in the silicon and ferro silicon markets rebounded. Ferrosilicon finds application as an alloying agent in the manufacture of steel and cast iron. It is also valued as an excellent deoxidizer, a reducing agent and an inoculant, which are crucial requirements in the iron and steel industry.

Demand for photovoltaic cells, and ultimately silicon, is poised to increase in the near future. The booming demand for mobile PCs, set-top boxes and 3G phones are also expected to increase demand for silicon in the near future. With respect to polysilicon, overcapacity and rising production costs of solar-grade high quality polysilicon would serve as a major growth inhibitor. Semiconductor and automobile industries constitute a large portion of the demand for polysilicon and are anticipated to steer demand for silicon metal in the coming years. Shortage of polysilicon supplies in 2008 raised its prices. In 2009, growth in demand from major end-use segments such as solar and semiconductor industry prompted polysilicon manufacturers to raise respective production capacities. This growth in demand was followed by an oversupply scenario, which led to reduction in the prices.

Polysilicon is primarily used as a feedstock and finds applications in solar and the semiconductor industry. Over the recent past, shortage of polysilicon supply troubled end-user applications such as solar energy products such as semiconductor wafers and PV cells. Prices of polysilicon shot up following the deficit in supply and ultimately impacting production of semiconductors and solar products. However, in 2009, polysilicon production capacity entered an exponential growth phase that resulted in oversupply, production capacity expansion and recuperation in demand from end-use markets. Oversupply of polysilicon triggered a decline in costs and a subsequent increase in demand for polysilicon from various user segments. Growth in demand for renewable source of energy such as solar power is a major factor contributing to this surge in demand. Hemlock Semiconductors and Wacker Chemie dominate the supply of high purity silicon required by the semiconductor and solar industry. More recently, lucrative market prospects have managed to draw new participants in Asian countries such as China. Established firms and the new entrants are engaging themselves in aggressive capacity expansion programs to remain competitive. Despite various efforts taken by polysilicon producers based in China, they still lag behind in terms of technology and existing business issues.

Silicon wafers represent the primary building blocks for semiconductors. All electronics ranging from telecommunications products and computers to consumer electronics are composed of semiconductors. The global silicon wafer industry was jolted by the sluggish macro-economic conditions during 2008-2009. In the year 2009, global shipments of silicon wafer declined by a huge margin compared to the previous year. Recession weakened growth momentum in the global silicon wafer market, as it levied economic and business pressures resulting in declined growth in semiconductor industry. This consequently had an obvious impact on the silicon wafer shipments and revenues. Global silicon wafer area shipments declined in 2011compared to the same period the previous year. Despite this decline, global revenues derived from silicon wafers increased during the year.

As stated by the new market research report on Silicon and Ferro Silicon, Asia-Pacific represents the largest regional market for silicon and ferro silicon in terms of volume consumption. Asia-Pacific also emerges as the fastest growing regional market worldwide surging ahead at a compounded annual rate of over 10% over the analysis period. China is the single largest manufacturer of silicon and ferro silicon in the world. However, power supply shortages, Governmental restrictions on exports and low quality feedstock have diluted the demand. Segment-wise, Ferro silicon represents the largest segment, while silicon is expected to emerge as the fastest segment during the analysis period. In terms of end-use market, chemicals represent the largest market for silicon, while semiconductor is projected to spearhead growth in the market over the analysis period. On the other hand, ferrous foundry represents the largest as well as the fastest growing market for ferro silicon worldwide during the analysis period.

Key players profiled in the report include AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group N.V., China National BlueStar (Group) Co, Ltd., Elkem AS, Dow Corning Corporation, Globe Specialty Metals, MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc., Mitsubishi Materials Corporation Renewable Energy Corporation ASA, and Shin-Etsu Chemical Co. Ltd., among others.

The research report titled “Silicon and Ferro Silicon: A Global Strategic Business Report” announced by Global Industry Analysts Inc., provides a comprehensive market overview, impact of recession, current market trends, key growth drivers, recent industry activity, and profiles of major/niche global market participants. The report provides annual consumption estimates and projections for the years 2010 through 2018 in volume terms (thousand tons) for geographic markets including the US, Canada, Japan, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Middle East, and Latin America. Key end-use segments analyzed for the silicon market include Metallurgy, Chemicals, Semiconductors and Others. Ferro silicon is analyzed by segments such as Ferrous Foundry, Steel Industry and Others. The study also provides historic data for an insight into market evolution over the period 2004 through 2009.

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