Source: historical data from Brook Hunt, projection data from Alcoa
China's demand for aluminum will continue to grow, but it will likely be more in balance with the rest of the world, Alcoa Inc, the largest US aluminum producer, forecast.
Alcoa estimated China's need for primary aluminum this year to hit 16.5 million metric tons, while the rest of the world combined will probably need 22.75 million metric tons of this light metal, based on data from Brook Hunt, a metal industry information provider.
China's demand for primary aluminum in the past ten years will have grown at 15.2 percent annually, while the compound growth rate for the rest of the world will have been 1 percent.
China's role as the world's leading consumer of aluminum will continue for the foreseeable future since China's auto industry, nuclear power industry and high-speed rail industry, all of which need large amounts of aluminum, are keep developing rapidly in the near future, said Chen Jinya, president of Alcoa Asia Pacific at the second China Overseas Investment Fair on Nov 3 in Beijing.
Auto sales are estimated to hit 17 million vehicles this year and to amount to 22 million vehicles in 2012, according to data provided by Alcoa. And the government will spend a total of 100 billion yuan in the clean energy vehicles sector.
There will likely be more than 7,055 kilometers of high speed railway in China by 2010 and more than 13,000 kilometers by 2012. The government will spend a total of 2,000 billion yuan in this sector in the next five years, said Chen.
Nuclear power capacity in China will reach 10,000 megawatts (MW) in 2010 and 84,000 MW in 2020, according to data from Chen. The capacity may increase even to 112,000 MW under the planning of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) by 2020. Over the next ten years, the government will spend 600 billion yuan in the nuclear power sector, Chen said.
However, over the next twenty years, China's demand for primary aluminum will slow to 4.8 percent annually, while the rate for the rest of world will advance to 4.2 percent, Chen forecast.
In the year 2030, China will probably need 42.4 million metric tons of primary aluminum, less than the 52 million metric tons needed by the rest of the world, according to Alcoa's prediction.
China's economy will shift from infrastructure-driven to consumer-driven and this will result in less demand for the metal, said Chen.
In addition, more supply of recycled aluminum will also reduce the need for primary aluminum, Chen added.
Alcoa's forecast is realistic in the short and medium term, but there's a danger, especially its long term forecast will be off, because it is basing its forecast on government planning of the economy and the economy does not always follow the government's intentions, said economist Robert Blohm.