NANJING, China Lead might
have disappointed many toward the latter half of the year, but
industrial experts and officials at the 2012 China
International Lead and Zinc Conference remained bullish about
"The lead-acid battery sector is
booming, but the demand for lead is so bad (that) there is just
no hope this year for lead prices to turn around," a lead
trader said on the sidelines of the conference in Nanjing.
A major lead-acid battery maker
and exporter that consumes about 8,000 to 10,000 tonnes of lead
per month said that it was operating at full capacity from
January to August this year, but noted that its export booking
orders unexpectedly shrank about 40 percent in September.
However, the fall hasnt
dampened the outlook of all market participants.
Beijing Antaike Information
Development Co. Ltd. expects Chinas lead consumption to
rise 12.6 percent to 4.51 million tonnes in 2012 and to 4.9
million tonnes in 2013. By 2015, the countrys annual
demand will reach 5.46 million tonnes.
Some participants are looking at
the electric bicycle sector, the biggest lead consumer in
China, to drive growth.
There are 150 million electric
bicycles in China; the number is growing by 30 million per
year. More than 95 percent of these bicycles use lead-acid
batteries, according to Liu Yanlong, general secretary of the
China Industrial Association of Power Sources.
"There is a huge demand for
lead-acid battery from the e-bicycle sector," Liu said, as
these bicycles need new batteries every year. He added that the
Chinese could have 200 million electric bicycles by 2015, with
annual output rising to about 40 million units.
Chinas lead-acid battery
output could rise by 15 percent annually from 2011 through
2015, Liu said. The electric bicycle sector accounted for
around 39 percent of Chinas lead consumption in 2011.
Other participants point at the
automobile industry, especially low-speed electric cars, as a
source of demand.
In Shandong province, the
leading region for electric cars, sales surged 74.8 percent
year on year in the first six months of 2012 to 43,900 units.
The city of Zibo in Shandong plans an annual output of 100,000
units by 2015. An electric car consumes about 441 pounds of
lead, according to Chen Hongyu, a professor at South China
Normal University in Guangzhou.
Energy-storage batteries are
also expected to post growth in the coming years.
"The government has been
encouraging the use of energy-saving lead-acid batteries on
buildings. The use of such batteries will grow. We also need to
thank anti-dumping measures by other countries, as it reminds
us that there is demand in the domestic market," Cao Guoqing,
deputy secretary-general from the Beijing-based China Battery
Industry Association, said.
"This is the dawn of the lead industry, as another spring of
lead-acid is about to come," Chen added.
A version of this article was first published by AMM
sister publication Metal Bulletin.