Electroless nickel is a very mature product and continues to find new applications, but has stayed fairly consistent in North America over the last decade. There are less then 1,000 EN plating facilities in North America. About two-thirds are job shops, and one-third are captive facilities of manufacturing plants.
The largest users were automotive applications at 27%, then the oil/chemicals industry with 19% of the total, then the electronics industry consuming about 14% of the EN produced in the U.S.
Back when nickel was around $4 a pound, that prompted global mine closures which lead to a 20% cut in the worlds’ capacity for nickel metal. This caused the price to rise in line with the supply. Then on 2008 through 2010 unplanned disruptions in the supply of nickel metal prompted further tightening. There is about 123,000 tons of nickel inventory on the LME, down almost 25% from record levels reached in the first few months of 2009. Prices have risen generally about 25% in value from levels seen at the end of 2009.
It’s predicted the global nickel demand will grow by 4% a year over the medium term, reaching 1.9 million tonnes by 2015. China will be the primary driver, with little growth elsewhere over the period. By 2015, China will account for around 40% of world nickel consumption.