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Energy Shift

The Future of Uranium: A Story of Supply and Demand

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The following content is sponsored by Standard Uranium.

The Future of Uranium: A Story of Supply and Demand

The uranium market is at a tipping point.

Since the Fukushima accident in 2011, uranium prices have been on a downtrend, forcing several miners to suspend or scale back operations. But nuclear’s growing role in the clean energy transition, in addition to a supply shortfall, could turn the tide for the uranium industry.

The above infographic from Standard Uranium outlines how uranium’s demand and supply fundamentals stack up, and how that balance could change the direction of the market in the future.

The Uranium Supply Chain

The supply of uranium primarily comes from mines around the world, in addition to secondary sources like commercial stockpiles and military stockpiles.

Although uranium is relatively abundant in the Earth’s crust, not all uranium deposits are economically recoverable. While some countries have uranium resources that can be mined profitably when prices are low, others do not.

For example, Kazakhstan hosts roughly 1.2 billion lbs of identified recoverable uranium resources extractable at less than $18 per lb, more than any other country. On the contrary, Australia hosts a larger resource of uranium but with a higher cost of extraction. This varying availability of resources affects how much uranium these countries produce.

Country2019 production (lbs U)% of Total
Kazakhstan 🇰🇿50,282,97342.1%
Canada 🇨🇦15,308,88112.8%
Australia 🇦🇺14,579,15212.2%
Namibia 🇳🇦11,250,1769.4%
Uzbekistan 🇺🇿7,716,1706.5%
Niger 🇳🇪6,730,7055.6%
Russia 🇷🇺6,393,3985.3%
China 🇨🇳3,527,3923.0%
Ukraine 🇺🇦1,653,4651.4%
India 🇮🇳881,8480.7%
South Africa 🇿🇦762,7990.6%
United States 🇺🇸147,7100.1%
Rest of the World 🌎308,6470.3%
Total119,543,315100%

It’s not surprising that Kazakhstan is the largest producer of uranium given its vast wealth of low-cost resources. In 2019, Kazakhstan produced more uranium than the second, third, and fourth-largest producers combined.

Canada produced around one-third of Kazakhstan’s production despite the suspension of the McArthur River Mine, the world’s largest uranium mine, in 2018. Australia was the world’s third-largest producer with just two operating uranium mines.

However, production figures do not tell the entire story, and it’s important to look at how the market price of uranium impacts supply.

How Uranium Prices Affect Supply

Low uranium prices have had a twofold effect on uranium supply over the last decade.

Firstly, miners have cut back on production due to the weakness in prices, reducing the primary supply of uranium. Here are some production cutbacks from major uranium mining companies:

YearCompanyProduction Cutback
2016Cameco 🇨🇦Production at Rabbit Lake Mine suspended
2017Kazatomprom 🇰🇿Output reduced by 10%
2018Kazatomprom 🇰🇿Output reduced by 20%
2018Paladin Energy 🇦🇺 Production at Langer Heinrich Mine suspended
2018Cameco 🇨🇦Production at McArthur River Mine suspended
2019Kazatomprom 🇰🇿Output reduced by 20%

Table excludes suspensions induced by COVID-19.
Sources: Cameco, WISE Uranium Project, Paladin Energy

In addition, low prices have also blocked new supplies from entering the market. Around 46% of the world’s identified uranium resources, 8 million tonnes, have an extraction cost higher than $59 per lb. However, uranium prices have hovered close to $30 per lb since 2011, making these resources uneconomic.

As a result, the supply of uranium has been tightening, and in 2020, mine production of uranium covered only 74% of global reactor requirements.

Going Nuclear: The Future of Uranium

The world is moving towards a cleaner energy future, and nuclear power could play a key role in this transition.

Nuclear power is not only carbon-free, it’s also one of the most reliable and safe sources of energy. Countries around the world are beginning to recognize these advantages, including Japan, where all 55 reactors were previously taken offline following the Fukushima accident.

With more than 54 reactors under construction and 100 reactors planned worldwide, the demand for uranium is set to grow. Unlocking new and existing supplies is critical to meeting this rising demand, and new uranium discoveries will be increasingly valuable in balancing the market.

Standard Uranium is working to discover uranium with five projects in the Athabasca Basin, Saskatchewan, Canada, home of the world’s highest-grade uranium deposits.

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Electrification

Visualizing the World’s Largest Copper Producers

Many new technologies critical to the energy transition rely on copper. Here are the world’s largest copper producers.

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Visualizing the World’s Largest Copper Producers

Man has relied on copper since prehistoric times. It is a major industrial metal with many applications due to its high ductility, malleability, and electrical conductivity.

Many new technologies critical to fighting climate change, like solar panels and wind turbines, rely on the red metal.

But where does the copper we use come from? Using the U.S. Geological Survey’s data, the above infographic lists the world’s largest copper producing countries in 2021.

The Countries Producing the World’s Copper

Many everyday products depend on minerals, including mobile phones, laptops, homes, and automobiles. Incredibly, every American requires 12 pounds of copper each year to maintain their standard of living.

North, South, and Central America dominate copper production, as these regions collectively host 15 of the 20 largest copper mines.

Chile is the top copper producer in the world, with 27% of global copper production. In addition, the country is home to the two largest mines in the world, Escondida and Collahuasi.

Chile is followed by another South American country, Peru, responsible for 10% of global production.

RankCountry2021E Copper Production (Million tonnes)Share
#1🇨🇱 Chile5.627%
#2🇵🇪 Peru2.210%
#3🇨🇳 China1.88%
#4🇨🇩 DRC 1.88%
#5🇺🇸 United States1.26%
#6🇦🇺 Australia0.94%
#7🇷🇺 Russia0.84%
#8🇿🇲 Zambia0.84%
#9🇮🇩 Indonesia0.84%
#10🇲🇽 Mexico0.73%
#11🇨🇦 Canada0.63%
#12🇰🇿 Kazakhstan0.52%
#13🇵🇱 Poland0.42%
🌍 Other countries2.813%
🌐 World total21.0100%

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and China share third place, with 8% of global production each. Along with being a top producer, China also consumes 54% of the world’s refined copper.

Copper’s Role in the Green Economy

Technologies critical to the energy transition, such as EVs, batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines require much more copper than conventional fossil fuel based counterparts.

For example, copper usage in EVs is up to four times more than in conventional cars. According to the Copper Alliance, renewable energy systems can require up to 12x more copper compared to traditional energy systems.

Technology2020 Installed Capacity (megawatts)Copper Content (2020, tonnes)2050p Installed Capacity (megawatts)Copper Content (2050p, tonnes)
Solar PV126,735 MW633,675372,000 MW1,860,000
Onshore Wind105,015 MW451,565202,000 MW868,600
Offshore Wind6,013 MW57,72545,000 MW432,000

With these technologies’ rapid and large-scale deployment, copper demand from the energy transition is expected to increase by nearly 600% by 2030.

As the transition to renewable energy and electrification speeds up, so will the pressure for more copper mines to come online.

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Energy Shift

Should You Invest in Disruptive Materials?

Disruptive materials are experiencing a demand supercycle. See how these materials are helping revolutionize next generation technologies. (Sponsored)

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The-10-vital-Ingredients-Behind-Explosive-and-Emerging-Technologies

Should You Invest in Disruptive Materials?

New technologies are having a transformative impact on the transportation and energy sectors. As these technologies develop, it is becoming clear that a small selection of materials, metals, and minerals—known collectively as disruptive materials—are critical components required to innovate.

This graphic from Global X ETFs takes a closer look at the disruptive materials that are key to fueling climate technologies. With a growing global effort to decarbonize, disruptive materials may enter a demand supercycle, characterized as a structural decades-long period of rising demand and rising prices.

Building Blocks Of the Future

There are 10 categories of disruptive materials in particular that are expected to see demand growth as part of their role within emerging technologies.

Disruptive MaterialApplicability
ZincProtects metal surfaces from rusting through a process called galvanization. This is essential to wind energy.
Palladium & PlatinumOften used in catalytic converters, thus playing a major role in hydrogen fuel cell technology.
NickelA corrosion-resistant metal used to make other metals more durable.
ManganeseAn important mineral needed for battery and steel production.
LithiumThe foundational component of lithium-ion batteries.
GrapheneThe thinnest known material which is also 100x stronger than steel. Used in sensors and transistors.
Rare Earth MaterialsA broader category including 15 lanthanide series elements, plus yttrium. These metals are found in all types of electronics.
CopperA reliable conductor of electricity. It can also kill bacteria, making it useful during pandemics.
CobaltAn important ingredient for rechargeable lithium batteries, found only in specific regions of the world.
Carbon Fiber & Carbon MaterialsStrong and lightweight materials with applications in aerospace and the automotive industry.

While these 10 categories do not make up the entire disruptive material universe, all are essential to securing a climate and technologically advanced future.

How The Green Revolution Is Transforming the Materials Market

The data on rising global temperatures and extreme weather events is jarring and has governments and organizations from all over the world ramping up efforts to combat its effects through new budgets and policies.

Take the soaring total number of U.S. climate disasters for instance. Most recently in 2021, the quantity of weather disasters stood at 20 whereas in 1980 it stood as a much smaller figure of three. In addition, total disaster costs have risen above $100 billion per year.

Globally, the top 10 most extreme weather events in 2021 racked up $170 billion in costs.

RankClimate EventCost ($B)
#1Hurricane Ida$65.0B
#2European floods$43.0B
#3Texas winter storm$23.0B
#4Henan floods$17.6B
#5British Columbia floods$7.5B
#6France’s “cold wave”$5.6B
#7Cyclone Yaas$3.0B
#8Australian floods$2.1B
#9Typhoon In-fa $2.0B
#10Cyclone Tauktae $1.5B

What’s more, some research estimates that these rising costs are far from coming to a halt. By 2050 the annual cost of weather disasters could surge past $1 trillion a year. In an effort to slow rising temperatures, governments are dramatically increasing their climate spending. For example, the U.S. is set to spend $80 billion annually over the next five years.

To see how climate spending impacts the materials market, consider the complexity behind a typical solar panel which requires almost 20 different materials including copper for wiring, boron and phosphorus for semiconductors, as well as zinc and magnesium for its frame.

Overall, these materials are essential to the expansion of a variety of emerging technologies like lithium batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, fuel cells, robotics, and 3D printers. And therefore, are translating to higher levels of demand for the disruptive materials that make combating climate change possible.

Estimated Disruptive Material Growth by 2040

A societal shift in how we address climate change is forecasted to lead to a demand supercycle for disruptive materials and acts as a massive tailwind.

But just how large is this expected level of demand to be? To answer this, we use two scenarios created by The International Energy Agency (IEA). The first is the Stated Policies Scenario, a more conservative model that assumes demand for material will double by 2040 relative to 2020 levels. Under this scenario, it’s assumed that society takes climate action in line with current and existing policies and commitments.

Then there is the Sustainable Development Scenario, which assumes more drastic action will take place to transform global energy use and meet international climate goals. Under this scenario, the demand for disruptive materials could rise as high as 300% relative to 2020 levels.

However, under both scenarios there’s still significant demand for each type of material.

Disruptive Material

Stated Policies Scenario Demand Relative to 2020

Sustainable Development Scenario Demand Relative to 2020

Lithium13X42X
Graphite8X25X
Cobalt6X21X
Nickel7X19X
Manganese3X8X
Rare earth elements3X7X
Copper2X3X

Overall, lithium is expected to see the most explosive surge in demand, as it could reach anywhere from 13 to 42 times the level of demand seen in 2020, based on the above scenarios.

Introducing the Global X Disruptive Materials ETF

The Global X Disruptive Materials ETF (Ticker: DMAT) seeks to provide investment results that correspond generally to the price and yield performance, before fees and expenses, of the Solactive Disruptive Materials Index.

Investors can use this passively managed solution to gain exposure to the rising demand for disruptive materials and climate technologies.

The Global X Disruptive Materials ETF is a passively managed solution that can be used to gain exposure to the rising demand for disruptive materials. Click the link to learn more.

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