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Development status of superalloys

2022-02-25

Since 1956, the research and production of superalloy in China has experienced more than 60 years of development, and has formed a relatively complete superalloy system. However, there is still a gap in many aspects between high temperature alloys in The United States, Britain and Japan.


Superalloys can be divided into iron base superalloys, nickel base superalloys and cobalt base superalloys according to the matrix structure materials. In the research and development and application, it is generally divided into casting superalloys, deformation superalloys and other new superalloys according to the preparation process, such as powder metallurgy superalloys, dispersion strengthening superalloys ODS, etc..


Superalloys are mainly used in aerospace, nuclear power, automobile, gas turbine and other fields. The production and consumption scale of superalloys in China has been growing rapidly with the development of the downstream industry of superalloys, and the market scale also presents a high speed growth. In the future, the industry is obviously driven by the downstream demand, and its market is expected to continue to maintain a development trend.


Superalloys are generally based on iron, nickel and cobalt, which can resist oxidation or corrosion at high temperatures above about 600℃ and can work for a long time under certain stress. Superalloy has excellent high temperature resistance, corrosion resistance, fatigue resistance, initially mainly used in the aerospace field, with the development of technology and output, gradually applied to power, machinery, industry, automobile and other fields.


The scale of superalloy production and demand continues to increase, aerospace is the main application field, China's superalloy industry has developed rapidly, but there is still a gap between technology and the world's advanced level, and the domestic production capacity is insufficient, high-end varieties have not achieved independent control, the gap between supply and demand is large. The new entry barrier of superalloy is high, which is reflected in technical barrier, sales channel, financial strength and so on. Industrial capacity growth is mainly due to the expansion of existing manufacturers, but due to complex production processes and long downstream certification cycle, the growth rate is relatively slow. From 2013 to 2019, China's superalloy output showed a continuous growth trend. In 2019, China's superalloy output was 27,600 tons, with a year-on-year growth of 26.9%. It is expected that China's superalloy output will exceed 30,000 tons in 2020.


In terms of the demand for superalloys, the demand for superalloys in China is growing rapidly. From 2013 to 2019, the demand for superalloys in China shows a trend of rapid growth. In 2019, the demand for superalloys in China is about 48,200 tons, with a year-on-year growth of 28.9%.


According to online statistics of new materials, the downstream demand of superalloys in 2019 is mainly in the aerospace field, accounting for about 55%, mainly used in the blade, combustion chamber and other parts of aerospace engines; And because of the excellent performance of superalloy, it has been gradually applied to nuclear power generation, gas turbine, petroleum and petrochemical fields.


In terms of the scale of superalloy market, with the progress of domestic aeroengine, the domestic superalloy industry has developed rapidly in recent years. According to the China Special Steel Association and other institutions as well as public data, the market size of China's superalloy market rose rapidly from 2015 to 2019. In 2019, the market size of domestic superalloy materials was 16.98 billion yuan, an increase of 33.5% year on year. China's superalloy market is expected to grow to 18.7 billion yuan in 2020.


In the future, superalloys will have better application scenarios in different fields. In the engine sector, the growth in the number of military aircraft, engine maintenance and domestic engine replacement propulsion, demand growth is clear; In the field of gas turbine, the process of domestic replacement is accelerating, and the proportion of naval ship construction and gas turbine assembly is increasing. With the large-scale construction of natural gas pipeline network and the growth of gas-fired power generation projects, the prospect of superalloy demand in related fields is huge. In terms of automobiles, the increase of domestic automobile production and the proportion of domestic turbocharged models will continue to increase, and consumption will continue to rise. In addition, in the aerospace, nuclear power, petrochemical metallurgy and other fields, the demand and market size of superalloys will continue to grow.


Future development demand of superalloy industry


1. Demand for civil aviation superalloys


China's civil aviation fleet continues to expand, but the growth rate has slowed down. According to the annual bulletin of The Civil Aviation Administration of China, from 2015 to 2019, the number of registered civil transport aircraft in China increased by 1,168, with a compound annual growth rate of 10%. As of the end of 2019, airlines transported a total of 3,818 aircraft, up 5 percent year on year and only half the growth rate of the same period last year. According to the annual reports of the three major airlines, engine life ranges from 3 to 15 years. As of the end of 2019, the average fleet age of the three airlines was 6.7 years. After comprehensive consideration, assuming that the replacement cycle of commercial aircraft engines is 6 years and the domestic supply rate remains the same as the above, it can be concluded that the domestic engine replacement demand in 2025 and 2030 will be 90 and 77 respectively, with a cumulative increase of 811 by 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 11%. The future demand for superalloy in civil aviation is booming.


2. Gas turbine demand


Gas turbine applications are mainly in the ship field, in addition, as the service time increases, the need for regular replacement of superalloy blades, maintenance needs. A total of 170 high-temperature alloy blades are required for the gas turbine in normal operation every year, and the replacement cycle is about 2-3 years.


Superalloy is mainly used in gas turbine combustion chamber, guide blade, turbine blade and other parts, is one of the important materials for the construction of gas turbine. The core technology of superalloy blade has been difficult to overcome for a long time, and it is highly dependent on imports. Suppliers include GE, Siemens and so on. However, as domestic technology continues to make breakthroughs, the demand for domestic replacement is expected to be released.


3. Demand for automobiles


In the automotive field, superalloy can be used in automotive turbocharger, engine exhaust pipe, internal combustion engine seat, insert, intake valve, sealing spring, spark plug, bolt and heat generator and other device parts, with turbocharger as the main application scenario. In 2019, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued the Draft of "Fuel Consumption Limits for Passenger Vehicles" and "Fuel Consumption Evaluation Methods and Indicators for Passenger Vehicles" to ensure that the average fuel consumption level of New passenger vehicles in China will be reduced to 4 L/100km in 2025, and the corresponding carbon dioxide emission will be about 95 g/km. The automotive turbocharger is an economic and effective "energy saving and emission reduction" technology by improving the combustion efficiency of the engine and reducing the harmful emission of particulate matter and nitrogen oxide in the exhaust gas of the engine. At the same time, it can also improve the power performance and meet the requirements of the end user for vehicle driving performance.


Therefore, the market scale of China's superalloy industry will increase rapidly under the influence of the pull of downstream demand in the future. It is estimated that the market scale of China's superalloy will grow to 34.2 billion yuan by 2026.


China's aerospace superalloys have reached an inflection point from research to comprehensive and large-scale localization. China's key types of weapons and equipment have crossed the stage of development and finalization in the "13th Five-Year Plan", and will enter the stage of batch loading in the "14th Five-year Plan", which will drive the high-temperature alloy materials from "multi-variety, small batch" to "large-scale batch production". Under the international order of "accelerating evolution of major changes unseen in a century", China's military equipment development has entered a period of accelerated catch-up, with the core orientation centering on the ability building to win a conventional war. Therefore, tactical equipment is the key equipment procurement direction to fill the gap and strengthen training under the background of readiness capacity building. The completion of the development and finalization of these equipment in the 13th Five-Year Plan also lays an industrial foundation for the bulk procurement of upstream raw materials from equipment during the 14th Five-year Plan.


Supply side: China's superalloy has experienced a process from imitation to introduction and then to independent innovation. At present, China has formed a certain scale of production base with relatively advanced technology and equipment, and many superalloy related enterprises are implementing expansion plans recently. Since the first batch of superalloy GH3030 was successfully tested in 1956, the research, production and application of superalloy in China have experienced more than 60 years of development. Reviewing the history of more than 60 years, China's superalloy from scratch, from imitation to independent innovation, alloy temperature performance from low to high, advanced technology has been applied, new materials can be developed, production technology and product quality constantly improve, and the establishment and improvement of China's superalloy system. In this way, the superalloy materials needed for the production and development of China's aviation and aerospace industry are based in China, and also provide the high temperature materials needed for the development of other industrial sectors. China has become the fourth country in the world with its own superalloy system after the United States, Britain and Russia.





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