The global silicon metal market size was $6.3 billion in 2019, and is projected to reach $8.9 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 5.5% from 2020 to 2027.
Silicon metal is an industrial additive produced by smelting quartz and coke in an electric heating furnace. It consists of 98% of silicon, although the composition of silicon has increased as close to 99.99% silicon in recent years. Impurities in silicon metals mainly include iron, aluminum, and calcium. Silicon metal is used as a feedstock in the production of silicones, aluminum alloys, and semiconductor materials.
Based on its application, silicon metals are offered in various grades, namely, metallurgical, chemical, electronics, polysilicon, solar, and high purity grades. The production of various grades of silicon metal starts with the refining process of silica within quartz rock or sand, followed by a carbothermic reduction of silica that occurs in an arc furnace to produce metallurgical grade silicon. This is then further refined through a hydro-metallurgical process to produce chemical-grade silicon. Chemical-grade silicon metal is majorly used in the production of silicones and silanes. Metallurgical silicon is 99% pure and is used in steel smelting and aluminum alloys.
The global silicon metal market is presently driven by various factors such as increase in demand for aluminum alloys in the automotive industry, expanding application spectrum of silicones, demand from energy storage markets, and a steady demand from the global chemical industry. A major chink of silicon metal is currently used in the production of aluminum alloys, which, in turn, is used in the production of light-weight automotive. Aluminum's superior strength-to-weight ratio makes it more effective for building fuel efficient cars than steel or iron.
Hence, the demand for automotive-related alloys is expected to increase, thus, driving the demand for silicon metal. Silicon metal is absolutely necessary for the production of aluminum and chemical products since it provides them with essential properties. In addition, it cannot be substituted and there is no recycling of (pure) Silicon. In the chemical industry, it is used for producing silicon compounds as well as silicon wafers used in photovoltaic solar cells and electronic semiconductors. Silicon compounds are the raw material for a large and growing number of industrial and consumer products such as silicone rubber parts, urethane foam, sealants, adhesives, lubricants, food additives, coatings, and cosmetics.
The high cost of production of silicon metal is expected to limit its market growth during the forecast period. The production of silicon metal is energy intensive, which increases its cost of production. Submerged arc furnace (SAF) is highly energy intensive and a large portion of the total production cost is related to its energy consumption. Further, the cost of producing silicon metal is controlled by the prices of other components such as coal, quartz, oil/natural gas, and electrodes. The production of silicon metal requires constant supply of its raw material-quartz. Quartz mines are owned by few global players such as Ferroglobe, Rusal, Liasa, and Elkem. Hence, the scope for vertical integration is minimum. This limits the entry of new players in the silicon metal production chain, thus, leading to high prices.