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Silicon Feedstock Price: What to Expect in the Second Half of 2023

One of the prevailing topics at the inception of this calendar year was the phenomenon of cost mitigation. Wang Bohua, honorary president of the China Photovoltaics Industry Alliance, concluded as such at a recent conference titled “An Appraisal of Progress Within the Photovoltaics Sector During the First Half of 2023 and a Prognosis for the Second Half”:

Indeed, while there was a transient adjustment at the commencement of the year, the price of silicon feedstock saw a momentous plunge throughout the initial six months, dropping over 78% from its highest cost the preceding year. The fundamental driver of the cost mitigation was a reversal in the relationship between supply and demand. Silicon feedstock has consequently become an exemplary link experiencing pricing declines along the industrial chain owing to the hasty proliferation of the photovoltaics field.

Nonetheless, the cost of silicon materials, which had recently halved, has ultimately entered a stable operative cycle, stabilizing and incrementally ascending for three successive weeks.

As per the most recent figures published by the Silicon Industry Branch of the China Nonferrous Metals Association on July 19th, the price of silicon feedstock continued its slight uptick this week, with the increase in P-type silicon materials surpassing that of N-type silicon materials. The cost range of N-type materials is 70,000-82,000 yuan/tonne, with an average transaction price of 76,000 yuan/tonne, growing 2.01% week-on-week; the price range of monocrystalline dense materials is 63,000-74,000 yuan/tonne, with a mean transaction price of 67,400 yuan/tonne, escalating 2.59% week-on-week.

Based on this, will the price of polysilicon in the second half of the year maintain its ascent, or will it reverse downwards? Where will Qiantu’s prosperity proceed?

Silicon: the most abundant elemental semiconductor on Earth’s crust

Silicon is the most plentiful semiconductor element within the earth’s crust. It possesses superior properties and a relatively matured technology. It has become the principal raw material of solid-state electronic devices.

Silicon feedstock is an important semiconductor material, with the chemical element symbol Si. Silicon employed in the electronics industry necessitates heightened purity and exceptional electrical and mechanical qualities. Silicon feedstock represents the semiconductor material with the largest output and widest program. Its manufacturing and application denote the technological level of a country.

Categorized by conductivity type, silicon feedstocks can be separated into P-type hole conduction and N-type electron conduction.

Regarding structure, silicon feedstocks can be bifurcated into monocrystalline silicon, polycrystalline silicon and amorphous silicon.

Judging by purity, it can be split into alloy-grade silicon, metallurgical-grade silicon, solar-grade silicon and electronic-grade silicon.

Photovoltaic silicon feedstock: the core raw material for photovoltaic power generation

At present, domestic silicon feedstocks are principally used within the photovoltaic industry chain.

My nation’s photovoltaics sector has evolved for many years, possessing a comprehensive and lucid industrial chain, separated into five principal components: silicon feedstocks, silicon wafers, batteries, modules, and application products. Among them, the silicon feedstock is polysilicon, and the purity of polysilicon requisite by the photovoltaics field is over 99.9999%, situated at the upstream of the photovoltaics industrial chain.

Photovoltaic silicon feedstock represents the core raw material of photovoltaic power generation systems. Photovoltaic silicon feedstock, namely solar grade polysilicon (SoG-Si), constitutes the most upstream raw material within the photovoltaics industrial chain. It is a grayish-black strong with metallic luster, with a lofty melting point (1410°C), elevated hardness, chemically inactive and other traits, and possesses semiconductor properties, it is an extremely significant superb semiconductor material, renowned as the “black gold” within the photovoltaics industrial chain.

Within the photovoltaics industrial chain, polysilicon plays a substantial role and can be split into metallurgical grade, solar grade and electronic grade as per its purity. There are two principal processes for its generation: improved Siemens method and silane fluidized bed method. Currently, the silicon feedstocks produced by most manufacturers globally adopt the conventional improved Siemens method, which is the most mature and widely used procedure technology.

The improved Siemens method, also known as the sealed Siemens method, is enhanced from the Siemens method and realizes the sealed-loop cycle of polysilicon manufacturing…

“One of the hot words in the first half of this year is price reduction.” Wang Bohua, honorary chairman of the China Photovoltaic Industry Association, concluded at the recently held “Review of the Development of the Photovoltaic Industry in the First Half of 2023 and Outlook for the Second Half of the Year”.

Indeed, although there was a short-term correction at the beginning of the year, the price of silicon materials fell sharply in the first half of the year, a drop of more than 78% from the highest price last year. The root cause of the price reduction is the reversal of the relationship between supply and demand. Silicon materials have thus become a typical link in the price decline of the industrial chain due to the rapid expansion of the photovoltaic industry.

However, the price of silicon material, which has been halved recently, has finally entered a stable operation cycle, stabilizing and rising slightly for three consecutive weeks.

According to the latest data released by the Silicon Industry Branch of the China Nonferrous Metals Association on July 19, the price of silicon materials continued to rise slightly this week, and the increase in P-type silicon materials exceeded that of N-type silicon materials. The price range of N-type materials is 70,000-82,000 yuan/ton, with an average transaction price of 76,000 yuan/ton, a week-on-week increase of 2.01%; the price range of single crystal dense materials is 63,000-74,000 yuan/ton, with an average transaction price The price was 67,400 yuan/ton, a week-on-week increase of 2.59%.

Based on this, will the price of polysilicon in the second half of the year maintain its rise, or will it turn down? Where will Qiantu’s fortune go?

Silicon: the most abundant elemental semiconductor on Earth’s crust

Silicon is the most abundant element semiconductor on the earth’s crust. It has superior properties and relatively mature technology . It has become the main raw material of solid-state electronic devices.

Silicon material is an important semiconductor material, chemical element symbol Si, silicon used in the electronics industry should have high purity and excellent electrical and mechanical properties. Silicon material is the semiconductor material with the largest output and widest application. Its output and usage mark the electronic industry level of a country.

Classified by conductivity type, silicon materials can be divided into P-type hole conduction and N-type electron conduction.

According to the structure, silicon materials can be divided into single crystal silicon, polycrystalline silicon and amorphous silicon.

According to the purity, it can be divided into alloy-grade silicon, metallurgical-grade silicon, solar-grade silicon and electronic-grade silicon.

Photovoltaic silicon material: the core raw material for photovoltaic power generation

At present, domestic silicon materials are mainly used in the photovoltaic industry chain.

my country’s photovoltaic industry has developed for many years, and has a complete and clear industrial chain, which is divided into five major links: silicon materials, silicon wafers, batteries, components, and application products. Among them, the silicon material is polysilicon, and the purity of polysilicon required by the photovoltaic industry is above 99.9999%, which is in the upstream of the photovoltaic industry chain.

Photovoltaic silicon material is the core raw material of photovoltaic power generation system. Photovoltaic silicon material, that is, solar grade polysilicon ( SoG-Si), is the most upstream raw material in the photovoltaic industry chain. It is a gray-black solid with metallic luster, with a high melting point (1410°C), high hardness, Chemically inactive and other characteristics, and has semiconductor properties, it is an extremely important excellent semiconductor material, known as the “black gold” in the photovoltaic industry chain.

In the photovoltaic industry chain, polysilicon plays a significant role and can be divided into metallurgical grade, solar grade and electronic grade according to its purity. There are two main processes for its production: improved Siemens method and silane fluidized bed method . At present, the silicon materials produced by most manufacturers in the world adopt the traditional improved Siemens method, which is the most mature and widely used process technology.

The improved Siemens method, also known as the closed-loop Siemens method, is improved from the Siemens method and realizes the closed-loop cycle of polysilicon production. The first step is the reaction of industrial silicon powder with hydrogen chloride or silicon tetrachloride SiCl4 and hydrogen to prepare trichlorosilane SiHCl3, the second step is the separation and purification of trichlorosilane, and the third step is the reduction of trichlorosilane and hydrogen in the polysilicon furnace at 1100 ℃ The surface of the silicon core is deposited and grown into polysilicon rods, which increases the tail gas recovery process.

Compared with the Siemens method, the improved Siemens method has multiple advantages, and has become the mainstream production technology in the industry.

1) Energy saving: Since the improved Siemens method uses multiple pairs of rods and a large-diameter reduction furnace, it can effectively reduce the power consumption of the reduction furnace;

2) Reduced material consumption: the reduction tail gas is the mixed gas discharged from the reduction furnace after reaction. The improved Siemens method recycles all the components in the tail gas, which greatly reduces the consumption of raw materials;

3) Pollution reduction: Since the improved Siemens method is a closed loop system, various materials in polysilicon production are fully utilized, and very little waste is discharged. Compared with the traditional Siemens method, the impact of waste pollution on the environment is effectively controlled.

The silane fluidized bed method is the same as the first half process of the improved Siemens method, both of which obtain trichlorosilane through industrial hydrosilation and separate tail gas, but the silane fluidized bed method hydrogenates trichlorosilane into silane in the second half , and pass it into the fluidized bed reactor for continuous thermal decomposition, and then vapor deposition reaction occurs on the prefabricated silicon seed crystal in the fluidized bed reactor to produce granular polysilicon products.

Silane is easy to separate from other chlorosilanes. Its decomposition temperature is low, its decomposition rate is high, and there are few side reactions. Therefore, the silane fluidized bed method has the following advantages: rectification and tail gas treatment processes are simple, energy consumption and monomer investment are greatly reduced, and reaction conversion The efficiency is close to 100%, and the power consumption of the fluidized bed is only 10% to 20% of the improved Siemens method.

Oversupply, stable at a reasonable low level

Lu Jinbiao, an expert of the Expert Advisory Committee of China Photovoltaic Industry Association, made a prediction on the price trend of silicon materials in the second half of the year: in the second half of this year, polysilicon prices will have some corrections, but the range will not be large, and the overall supply will remain sufficient. will stabilize at a reasonably low level.

According to the latest data disclosed by the China Photovoltaic Industry Association, in the first half of this year, polysilicon production exceeded 600,000 tons, a year-on-year increase of more than 65%. In Lu Jinbiao’s view, the increase in supply was an important driver of the sharp drop in silicon material prices in the first half of the year, but at the same time, changes in trading methods were also one of the reasons.

Lu Jinbiao traced the polysilicon trading trend from 2021 to the present and found that after several price increases, the polysilicon trading methods of upstream and downstream companies are mainly long-term orders. “The price of polysilicon began to decline at the end of November last year. At that time, the cooperative enterprises that should have fulfilled the long-term orders did not implement them, and they did not resume purchases until the end of December.” Since the beginning of the year, no company has implemented long-term orders. The rhythm of on-demand purchases for a week or 2 to 3 days has amplified the drop in silicon material prices.

Overall, polysilicon projects will increase in the second half of the year, with an estimated production scale of 1.4 million tons, and heavy production is expected to reach 900,000 tons. Actual output of 700,000 tonnes is expected in the second half of the year, taking into account possible load adjustments due to demand constraints.

According to Lv Jinbiao’s forecast, the annual consumption of polysilicon this year will be about 1.3 million tons, and the capacity utilization rate of the polysilicon industry will reach more than 80%. From this point of view, for some time to come, the main theme of oversupply in the polysilicon market will not change , and prices will stabilize at a reasonable low level.

In the eyes of industry insiders, including the photovoltaic industry, surplus will eventually be an inevitable state. Although the price of silicon materials kept falling in the first half of the year, companies have not withdrawn or stopped production on a large scale, and there has been no inventory dumping regardless of cost. From the second half of the year to next year, the rational bottom area of ​​silicon material prices will be 60,000 to 70,000 yuan per ton.

With the rise of photovoltaic installed capacity, the photovoltaic industry has entered a brutal involution mode, and silicon materials are also affected by the industry. Since the beginning of this year, the overall price of silicon materials has fallen sharply. Although there is a slight increase, the overall situation is still insufficient Optimistic, it is expected that it will stabilize at a low level for a long time in the future, and the future of money is uncertain.