October 11, 2023: Europe’s demand for lead is expected to rise by nearly 4% this year — as battery production ramps up to power increasing car sales, latest data has indicated.
The International Lead and Zinc Study Group’s (ILZSG) Lead Outlook for 2023 and 2024 report, published on October 9, said European lead demand is to rise by 3.7% in 2023, after falling by 3% in 2022.
Joao Jorge, market research and statistics director of the ILZSG, told Batteries International as the battery sector is by far the main lead-consuming sector, an increase in usage would indicate an increase in battery production.
“Some of our member countries took into account forecast trends in the lead acid battery industry to prepare their lead usage forecast.”
Jorge said lead usage in most countries worldwide was estimated on an ‘apparent’ basis (production + imports-exports + stock) until actual figures are available.
European demand is mainly related to increases in Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy and Poland, which the group said will more than balance a reduction in the Czech Republic.
Apparent lead usage in a number of countries in Europe increased substantially over the first half of 2023, which Jorge said was consistent with a rise in automotive production and sales, with new car registrations rising by 21% in Western Europe between January and August 2023.
“It’s a fact that sales of electric and hybrid electric cars are rising more rapidly than the traditional petrol/diesel cars.
“However, most hybrids use a lead battery to start the ICE engine, therefore the battery would be the same size of that used in traditional non-hybrids and even most full-electric vehicles utilize lead acid batteries for auxiliary duties, although those batteries are smaller because they are not required to start an ICE engine.”
Meanwhile, apparent usage is forecast to rise in India, Mexico, Taiwan and Vietnam but to decrease in South Korea.
In China, the ILZSG anticipates lead demand will increase by 1.9% this year and by a further 2.4% in 2024. Chinese demand has been supported by rises in lead acid battery output that increased by 13.4% over the first seven months of 2023.
In the US, apparent usage is forecast to fall by a significant 6.4% in 2023, however a partial recovery of 3.1% is anticipated next year.
Demand is forecast to rise next year in India, Japan and South Korea.
Jorge said usage of lead in India has been growing steadily in recent years — except in 2020 as a result of the pandemic — with lead battery production for motive and stationary energy storage applications growing rapidly.
ILZSG’s report forecasts an increase in world lead mine supply of 3.3% to 4.58 million tonnes in 2023 and by 2.9% to 4.71 million tonnes in 2024.
In China, production is expected to increase by 1.2% in 2023 and 1.5% next year.
World lead mine output in 2023 will benefit from an expected substantial increase in Australia, where Galena Mining successfully commissioned its 95,000 tonne-per-year Abra mine in January.
Further rises are predicted in Bolivia, Brazil, India, Kazakhstan and the US. Output is expected to be lower in Ireland and Portugal.
The forecast rise in global supply in 2024 will be driven mainly by a further increase in Australia and rises in Bulgaria, India, Russia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, where ILZSG says the new Vares mine should be commissioned by Adriatic Metals this November.
The group expects world refined lead supply to rise by 2.7% to 12.84 million tonnes in 2023, after declining by 1.7% in 2022. A 2.3% rise to 13.14 million tonnes is anticipated in 2024.
The recent restart of Trafigura’s Stolberg lead smelter in Germany should fuel an increase in global refined lead output in 2023, in addition to operations in Australia, China and India, ILZSG said.
Output is also forecast to rise in Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates — which has been the focus of investments in new recycling operations, as reported by Batteries International earlier this year.
But those rises will be tempered by forecast falls in production in Bulgaria, Italy, South Korea and the UK.
In 2024, metal supply is forecast to rise in Australia, Bulgaria, China, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea and the UAE, but fall in Canada and the UK.
The ILZSG overall data from its member countries indicates the global supply of refined lead metal will exceed demand by 35,000 tonnes in 2023, with an increased surplus of 52,000 tonnes in 2024.
Image: Stolberg lead production / Ecobat