Wacker ramping polysilicon production and ending short-time work due to demand

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In a rapid turnaround from last year, Wacker Chemie has stopped short-time working schedules at its Burghausen polysilicon plants and will ramp capacity utilisation rates due to renewed demand.

Wacker said it has sold more polysilicon in January than previously expected and recent new order intake was in excess of either inventory or current utilisation levels to meet demand.

Ewald Schindlbeck, president of Wacker Polysilicon said: “We sold more polysilicon than expected in January. Our order intake has increased so much over the last few weeks that plant utilisation levels are currently insufficient to produce the quantities ordered.”

The company had reduced production utilisation rates to 80% of nameplate capacity in the third quarter of 2012 due to weak demand. Wacker noted that utilisation rates in the fourth quarter were lowered further to “to two-thirds of full utilisation.”

Wacker started to reduce production of polysilicon in early October 2012 and instigated short-time work for about 700 employees at its Burghausen site in Germany.

Although the company said it would increase polysilicon production at the site it did not say at what utilisation rates it was planning reach or how long the surge in demand would last.

There have been fears that a potential import tariff imposed on polysilicon into China, the largest market for high-purity polysilicon would spark a stockpiling rush by tier 1 module manufacturers, eager to avoid the risk of rising polysilicon prices.

However, there could also be strong demand from Chinese tier 1 producers due to the expected strong growth in the domestic utility-scale market for PV modules as China is expected to become the largest market for modules in 2013.

Tier 1 module manufacturers rely heavily on imported polysilicon from the US, Europe and Korea due to high purity levels and volumes. 

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