As Ukraine is one of the major exporters of rare gases, the recent surge in rare gas prices has sparked market concerns about semiconductor production.
Neon gas prices soared by more than 1 times due to speculation and hoarding
As we all know, Ukraine and Russia are one of the main producers of rare gases and precious metals, and both sides play an important role in high-tech trade. According to a report by Techcet, an American electronic materials market research company, major Ukrainian specialty gas suppliers Iceblick, Ingas and Cryoin provide more than 90% of semiconductor neon gas, such as perfluorobutadiene, neon, palladium, etc., to the United States.
There is a clear division of labor between Russia and Ukraine. Among them, Russia provides crude products, then Ukraine is responsible for purification and refining, and finally provides refined supply.
However, due to the official war between Russia and Ukraine on February 24, the price of neon gas, which was already rising, accelerated again. As far as I know, the price of neon gas in China has more than doubled since mid-February.
This has also aroused concerns in the market. Whether it is a rise in prices or a shortage of supply due to the war, it will affect the production of semiconductors, and it will also make the lack of core emotions that should have been eased again nervous, and it may also lead to shrinking production. , the behavior of raising prices.
“Actually, before the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the price of rare gases had already begun to increase. The war was not the main reason for the price increase, but the recent increase was obvious, because in the process of the original increase, a sudden increase was added to it. ‘A fire’.” Ren Lu, a senior analyst in China’s special gas market and general manager of the gas technology think tank “Gas Circle”, told the author that the recent price increase of neon gas has accelerated, which is inseparable from hot hype and stockpiling. And other factors.
According to data from Zhuochuang Information, the price of neon gas has been rising since the second half of last year, and fell slightly from the end of the year to February. However, recently affected by the Russian-Ukrainian war, the price has risen again.
According to the author’s information from authoritative sources, as of now, the mainstream transaction price of neon gas market is 4000-6000 yuan/cubic meter, retail investors are negotiating at 8000-10000 yuan/cubic meter; the mainstream market negotiation of xenon gas is 300,000-380,000 yuan/cubic meter , some retail investors trade at 400,000-450,000 yuan/cubic meter; mainstream krypton distributors get goods at 30,000-35,000 yuan/cubic meter, and some distributors offer a small amount of shipments to 36,000-38,000 yuan/cubic meter .
In addition, Zhang Wei, an industrial gas analyst at Zhuochuang Information, pointed out: “Driven by the continuous development of the electronics industry, the supply of neon, krypton and xenon will continue to maintain a tense situation. In addition to supplying end customers, the export intensity may continue to increase, and the overall distribution volume is still small. Therefore, the tight supply situation of the above three types of gases in China will not be effectively relieved in the short term, and prices will still have upward momentum.”
Samsung and other inventory levels are as high as half a year
Statistics show that in the semiconductor manufacturing materials, rare gas is the second largest semiconductor material after large silicon wafers, accounting for 14%. At present, there are more than 110 kinds of rare gases used in all aspects of the semiconductor industry, and 20-30 kinds are commonly used, which are important raw materials for integrated circuit manufacturing.
Rare gases can be used in the production of excimer laser light sources and semiconductor etching in ArF and KrF lithography machines, respectively. Among them, neon gas is an important raw material for generating “light sources” in lithography machines, and lithography machines are used for light sources. The wavelength requirements are very high.
Ren Lu told the author that the neon gas has attracted much attention this time, but in fact, the amount of neon gas is not large. It is mainly mixed with other gases to form laser gas, which is used in the lithography of chip manufacturing. A bottle of neon gas The utilization rate of the mixed gas is also very high, so the total demand is not particularly large. Currently mainly used in DUV and ELA, EUV technology has completely replaced this laser gas.
“Rare gases are used in large quantities in the etching process of NAND Flash. At present, among the six major memory chip manufacturers, Samsung Electronics mainly uses xenon gas (it is said that it has begun to test krypton gas), and the other five NAND chip manufacturers all use krypton gas. Breath.” Ren Lu added.
So will the short-term price increase of rare gases affect related semiconductor manufacturers? Ren Lu said that major semiconductor manufacturers have their own complete supply chain management systems, and that the war between Russia and Ukraine was not sudden. During the gas circle conference in the first half of last year, the impact of this uncertain event had been discussed and dealt with. Therefore, semiconductor manufacturers have already made preparations before, and everyone is caught off guard when there is no war. According to the gas circle, the rare gas stocks of major semiconductor factories can fully meet the requirements of 3-6 months, so even if there are short-term fluctuations, their stocks are sufficient and basically will not have an impact.
In addition, according to the author’s understanding, although Ukraine is a big country of rare gases and is still one of the main producing areas of rare gases in the world, the proportion of production capacity gradually decreased after 2016. Longzhong information data shows that by the end of 2021, Ukraine has a production capacity of 350,000 cubic meters per year of neon gas, 1,000-1,200 cubic meters of xenon gas per year, and 11,000 to 12,000 cubic meters of gas per year.
In recent years, China’s semiconductor industry has continued to grow, and rare gas production capacity has continued to expand. According to various data, China’s krypton, neon, and xenon gas production capacity has exceeded Ukraine’s production capacity.
According to Longzhong Information, as of 2021, China’s neon gas production capacity will be 487,000 cubic meters per year, xenon gas production capacity will be 3373 cubic meters per year, and krypton gas production capacity will reach 33,700 cubic meters per year.
Moreover, according to Ren Lu, the production capacity of neon gas in Ukraine currently accounts for about 38% of the global market share; according to the calculation of Longzhong Information, the production capacity of neon gas in Ukraine currently accounts for 20%-30% of the global market share.
At the same time, according to Zhuochuang Information data monitoring, China’s neon, krypton and xenon exports will reach 292 tons in 2021, mainly to South Korea and Japan, accounting for 47% of the total export volume, followed by Hong Kong, China and Taiwan, which account for 47% of the total. than 17%.
Therefore, whether it is from the perspective of the global production capacity of Ukrainian neon gas or from the perspective of the inventory level of semiconductor manufacturers, the Russian-Ukrainian war will not affect the production of the semiconductor industry chain, even if the price fluctuates violently in the short term, it does not It will interfere with the operation of the industrial chain.
write at the end
Although the production capacity of rare gases in my country has surpassed that of Ukraine, and the export volume has continued to increase, international gas companies are still in a relatively leading position in R&D, technology and application by taking advantage of their first-mover advantage and capital accumulation.
However, in recent years, my country’s semiconductor industry has developed rapidly, and some high-quality enterprises in the domestic gas industry have achieved stable product quality and are used in the downstream production of electronic semiconductors.
“In terms of purity, there is no difference between domestic companies and international manufacturers. This is already a commercialized thing.” Bai Jiu, chairman of Hongxin Gas, told the author.
However, Chen Yukai, an analyst at Longzhong Information, pointed out: “At present, it is very troublesome for domestic gas companies, including distributors, to enter the supply chain of international manufacturers. In a stable situation, we are not willing to change suppliers easily.”
According to the author’s understanding, in the electronic special gas market, the total market share of American Air Chemicals, Linde Gas Group, French Air Liquide, and Japan’s Dayo Nippon Acid is close to 90%, and the total domestic gas market share is about 10%.
As for how to narrow the market share gap with international manufacturers, Bai Jiu believes: “Domestic semiconductor companies should increase the purchase of domestic gas, on the one hand is the trend of localization, and the other is the security of the supply chain. Therefore, localization is a competition. Dao, it will definitely rise in the future, it just takes time to accumulate.”