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Silver industrial demand rebounds in 2017

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NEW YORK (Scrap Register): Industrial demand for silver, fueled by record photovoltaic growth, rose in 2017 for the first time since 2013, according to the latest data released by the Silver Institute and the GFMS team at Thomson Reuters.

Global silver industrial fabrication demand returned to growth in 2017, increasing 4 percent to 599.0 Moz. This was the first rise in silver industrial fabrication since 2013. 

This growth was bolstered by another year of impressive photovoltaic demand, rising 19 percent in 2017, the result of a 24 percent increase in global solar panel installations.  Brazing alloy and solder silver fabrication recorded a 4 percent annual rise to 57.5 Moz, boosted mainly by solid growth from China and Japan.

The surge in electronics, most notably in semi-conductor fabrication demand, led to the electrical and electronics segments delivering the first annual increase in offtake in this category since 2010, with 242.9 Moz consumed last year. 

Silver demand for the production of ethylene oxide retreated by a third from 2016 volumes to 6.9 Moz, mostly due to a decline in new installations. 

GFMS estimates that silver’s use in photography, which fell by 3 percent last year to 44.0 Moz, appears to have stabilized, with renewed interest in various photographic applications utilizing silver, only falling marginally over the last few years.

A stronger global economy led to healthy demand from the semi-conductor market, resulting in greater silver offtake in electrical and electronics applications as well as brazing alloys and solders.

The jewelry and silverware sectors also experienced noteworthy gains in 2017.  On the supply side, global mine supply fell for the second consecutive year, following an uninterrupted streak of 13 annual increases prior to 2016. 

Silver scrap supply, which has been in retreat since 2012, again registered a loss.  These factors led to a tightening of the supply/demand balance, contributing to a physical deficit of 26 million ounces (Moz) in 2017, the fifth consecutive annual deficit.

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