The price drop of silicon materials has become a hot topic in the market recently. The price drop of silicon materials is conducive to driving the growth of demand for downstream photovoltaic installations, thereby driving the growth of demand for materials related to the photovoltaic industry chain.
As an important consumable in the production of silicon wafers, photovoltaic-grade quartz crucibles are generally favored by institutions. Under the background of continuous increase in photovoltaic installed capacity, quartz crucibles and raw materials such as high-purity quartz sand will become deterministic and scarce links in the industrial chain in 2023, and ensuring the stability of the supply chain will become an important factor. The key to enterprise competition in 2023.
Recently, the price of photovoltaic upstream silicon material has loosened. According to statistics, the average transaction price of dense polysilicon materials fell to 295 yuan/kg on November 30, down 2.3% from last week. This is the first time since mid-August that the average transaction price of dense polysilicon materials has fallen below 300 yuan/kg.
With the release of polysilicon production capacity, the price of the industrial chain is expected to gradually fall. In 2023, the global newly installed photovoltaic capacity is expected to maintain rapid growth, or reach 350GW.
With the rapid increase in demand for photovoltaics, leading silicon wafer companies have expanded their silicon wafer production capacity. As of August 2022, the production capacity of monocrystalline silicon wafer projects has been planned to exceed 369.5GW this year, driving the demand for quartz crucibles, an auxiliary material for silicon wafer production, to maintain a high boom.
The favor of photovoltaic cell manufacturers for N-type TOPCon cells is also conducive to driving the growth of demand for quartz crucibles. N-type cells need to be fabricated on N-type silicon wafers. In order to meet higher requirements for purity, the preparation of N-type silicon wafers requires higher frequency of replacement of quartz crucibles. Taking a 182mm silicon wafer as an example, the service life of the quartz crucible for preparing N-type silicon wafers will be 70-100 hours shorter than that for preparing P-type silicon wafers.
In the first three quarters of this year, the average price of quartz crucibles of various specifications on the market rose by about 50% year-on-year. At present, the expansion of the supply of quartz crucibles is limited by the upstream raw material high-purity quartz sand. The overall supply of high-purity quartz sand is far behind the development speed of the global photovoltaic industry.
Due to high purification technical barriers and scarcity of ore sources, only a few companies have the ability to mass-produce high-purity quartz sand. In addition, the production expansion cycle of high-purity quartz sand is long, and it takes about 1.5-2 years for the construction period to increase the production capacity of 10,000 tons of quartz sand. It is difficult to increase the production capacity of quartz sand in the short term.
According to the data, the quartz crucible has a double-layer structure, and the inner layer is in direct contact with the silicon solution. Domestic quartz sand is used.
At present, domestic quartz sand is difficult to meet the quality requirements of inner sand. Domestic quartz sand is still inferior to imported quartz sand in terms of the number of gas-liquid inclusions. Imported quartz sand can reach a level of less than 5 gas-liquid inclusions per square meter, while domestic quartz sand has about 15.
The shortage of high-purity quartz sand will cause silicon wafer companies to gradually reduce the proportion of inner layer sand used, and the efficiency of crystal pulling and the quality of silicon wafers will also decrease. At the same time, the service life of the crucible will decrease, which will lead to an increase in non-silicon costs.
As the gap between the supply and demand of high-purity quartz sand continues to expand, quartz crucible companies will ensure the stability of the supply chain will become the key to competition in 2023.
The gap between the supply and demand of high-purity quartz sand will basically increase quarter by quarter from the fourth quarter of 2022 to 2023, that is, the supply and demand of high-purity quartz sand will basically remain tight, and the price will continue to rise. In 2023, there will be a definite shortage of high-purity quartz sand, and the leading strategy will lock in overseas quartz sand supply without worry; second-tier enterprises will have the risk of shortage of quartz crucible supply, and the utilization rate may be limited.
It is worth noting that high-purity quartz sand is not only used in the photovoltaic industry, but also in semiconductor, optical fiber, communication, lighting and other industries. From 2012 to 2019, the semiconductor industry accounted for about 60% of the consumption structure of the global high-purity quartz sand downstream market. As time goes by, assuming that the demand from the photovoltaic industry continues to expand, the consumption structure of the downstream market of high-purity quartz sand may usher in a redistribution.