Many of the things we take for granted and use in our everyday lives rely on nickel-containing materials for their production or their performance - food, clean drinking water, medicines, heat and power, buildings, transport, electronics... "Nickel in Society" explores further these benefits to society and shows how in many cases there is no reasonable substitute for nickel-containing materials. Statistics show the quantitative importance of nickel to Europe.
The benefits are quantifiable in terms of employment and the added value which is created. This does not just stop with nickel production but goes right through the value chain. For example, the use of some stainless steel drinking water piping creates jobs in making it as well as in upstream manufacture of the stainless steel and production of nickel. In the social aspect, the consumer benefits from the maintenance of water purity and the long life of the installation. Finally there is the high residual value of the pipe at end-of-life which encourages recycling.
Further examples of the value arising from using nickel-containing materials can be found in the pages of Nickel Magazine.
A socio-economic study of nickel in the European Union (EU) carried out by the Weinberg Group in 2008 drew the following conclusions:
- Nickel is an 'enabling technology', not simply an industry sector processing primary materials. Its particular properties, such as strength at high temperatures, corrosion resistance, and ductility, have helped users create new products and industries, to develop new user benefits, and to deliver enhanced performance in a wide range of advanced manufacturing sectors.
- Whilst the EU direct nickel industry itself is relatively small, it has a significant impact on the EU economy through its value chain.
- Using the widest definition of the impact of nickel on the EU economy, the total value added by the nickel industry and its value chain is estimated to be in excess of €80-100 billion, of which around €50 billion is estimated to be generated by industries and applications that are critically dependent on nickel.
- The nickel value chain also supports large numbers of jobs in the EU, estimated to be in the order of 1.25-1.50 million. Of this, an estimated 690,000 jobs in the EU are critically dependent on nickel. Many of these jobs are high skill manufacturing jobs.
- Indeed, the EU is a global leader in the production of nickel-containing alloys, such as stainless steel and super alloys. Moreoever, a number of important, high-skill 'end use' manufacturing sectors in the EU are critically dependent on nickel*. These include the manufacture of jet engines and gas turbines, the production of process plant equipment used in important industries such as food and drink, oil, chemicals, and pharmaceutical production, and the pressing of CDs and DVDs.
- However, the socio-economic contribution of nickel and nickel-based platform technologies to the EU and its citizens also include additional beneftis to the EU and its citizens that are often not apparent to policy-makers and the general public.
- Nickel compounds, for instance, play an important role in underpinning the competitiveness of major industrial and service sectors in the EU (such as aerospace, automotive, oil refining, and optical media), in supporting economic efficiency and innovation across large parts of the EU's economy, and in helping the EU achieve its environmental goals.
* Sectors were identified as "critically dependent on nickel" when substitution of the nickel-containing material is not possible without serious degradation in performance or major increase in cost.
This work drew on a more detailed study reported by the Weinberg Group in 2004 which showed the value of nickel by country across Europe.
Short updates for France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK were done in 2008.
Socio-economic reports on the importance of nickel to Brazil, Canada, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea and USA were completed in 2009.
Nickel plays a particularly important enabling role in some key technologies. Detailed studies have been produced for:
One noteworthy characteristic of these applications is that nickel has contributed to an innovative technology. It is said that nickel is often an innovation platform.
A Life Cycle Inventory for nickel is available here.