India with its abundant supply of quality bauxite and low cost labour has established itself as a low cost producer of primary aluminium. Global primary aluminium production in 2012 was 45.2 million tonnes, with China accounting for an astounding 19.8 million tonnes or 44%. However, in India, the production of primary aluminium has stagnated around the 1.6 to 1.7 million tonne mark for the last three years. The three primary aluminium producers, viz. Hindalco, Vedanta and Nalco have expansion plans as well as greenfield projects that should take the production to 2.5 to 3.0 million tonnes in the foreseeable future.
Import and export of primary aluminium in India have increased over the years and kept pace with each other, making the sector increasingly globalised.
Recycled (secondary) aluminium production has surged in India, driven strongly by the demand for castings from the automotive sector. As the generation of aluminium scrap is limited within the country, scrap imports have grown significantly. However, the recent imposition of 2.5% customs duty on aluminium scrap import will act as a damper and some slow-down in the recycled aluminium sector can be foreseen.
The total aluminium usage (primary plus secondary) in the country is estimated at around 2.5 million tonnes in 2012. The principal user segment in India for aluminium continues to be electrical & electronics sector followed by the automotive & transportation, building & construction, packaging, consumer durables, industrial and other applications including Defence.
Aluminium is used mainly in the form of wire rods, castings, flat rolled products, foil, extrusions and derivatives thereof; the minor products include aluminium powder & paste and pellets for the steel industry.
Aluminium wire rod
The demand for wire rods is driven by the investments in the power transmission and distribution networks which are now growing at a rapid pace. India has been a pioneer in the use of aluminium for cables & conductors for well over 50 years! Over 70% of the demand from the electrical sector is for wire rods.
India is one of the major producers and users of aluminium castings in the world and castings account for around 30 to 35% of the total aluminium usage. The automobile sector has been the key driver for aluminium castings demand in the country. India’s emergence as a hub for the manufacture of automobiles and the global drive towards reducing the curb weight of automobiles, will act as growth vectors for this sector. Bulk of the castings production is from recycled (secondary) aluminium and this in turn is driving the demand for aluminium scrap.
Flat rolled products find a wide range of applications and some of the key ones are foilstock, closure stock, bus, truck and rail coach applications, roofing & siding, cladding, electric fans, lighting fixtures, litho sheet, pressure cookers, pots & pans and so on. With the advent of 2-piece beverage cans, the demand for can body stock is expected increase exponentially. As domestic capacity has not kept pace with demand, imports have been substantial in recent years. In 2012, the aluminium FRP demand in India was estimated in the region of 480 – 520,000 tonnes.
India is one of the key producers of aluminium foil in the region. Pharmaceutical packaging is one of the major applications followed by liquid packaging, laminated tubes, and a variety of food and non-food packaging applications. Finstock is the major industrial application finding use in automotive air conditioners, heat exchangers and domestic air conditioning. As in the case of FRP, owing to a lack of domestic capacity, imports have been significant in recent years.
After several decades of pedestrian growth, the aluminium extrusions sector is fast becoming vibrant with strong growth prospects and the demand is nearing the 400 kt per annum mark. Conventional applications such as curtain walls, windows, doors as well as new applications such as formwork & scaffolding are driving the demand for aluminium extrusions in the ABC sector. Other applications that show great promise include automotive components, solar panel frames & supports, heat sinks, bus bars and so on. There is an increasing emphasis on high quality extrusions in terms of specifications as well as aesthetics including finish.
For several decades, the electrical sector was the backbone of the aluminium industry in India, accounting for about 50% of the domestic demand. Over the last two decades, other sectors such as transportation, building & construction, packaging and consumer durables
have gained ground and are forecast to grow rapidly. Overall, a 10 to 11% demand growth per annum, over the next 5 years, appears to be well within the reach of the aluminium industry in India.
by Shanker Gopalkrishnan, President, Madras Consultancy Group
This article entitled ‘The Aluminium industry in India – a brief review’ is intended to provide the reader a flavour of the aluminium industry in India and has been prepared based on secondary research supported by data & estimates provided by MCG. Prior to undertaking any business or investment decisions, further detailed investigations / studies are recommended. The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org