Japan-based DOWA Hightech, the world’s largest silver power provider, has been suspending manufacturing since January 3 due to a gas leak accident which killed two and injured two. DOWA will ship its silver powder inventory for clients to make PV-use conductive pastes, while some paste makers would turn to purchase silver powder materials from other suppliers until DOWA restarts producing.
DOWA produces nonferrous metals, electronic materials, metal processing and heat treatment. It is the world’s largest PV-use silver powder manufacturer with a global market share larger than 50%. As EnergyTrend knows, DOWA supplies metal materials to many of global conductive pastes manufacturers, including the four leaders -- Giga Solar, Heraeus, DuPont and SamsungSDI.
The accident happened at around 0:50 January 3 in one of DOWA’s manufacturing facilities. Four operators were cleaning residual silver powders in a tank by nitrate with water. However, the temperature in the tank anomalously rose and glass-shelter around the tank split, causing the fatal gas leak accident. DOWA immediately stopped manufacturing processes in every plant for necessary investigations. On January 7, one accident irrelevant plant producing metal products restarted operating, but the incident place remained suspended. According to the spokesman from DOWA, it has no schedule for restarting the manufacturing plant at this moment.
PV cell printing and manufacturing will not be influenced temporarily
The accident hit DOWA’s only silver powder manufacturing line, which provides raw materials to more than half of global silver pastes. Bloomberg (Japan) interviewed Yuji Matsumoto, an analyst at Nomura Funds, and claimed that the accident will definitely impact DOWA’s financial performance. On the day of January 3, DOWA’s stock price dropped 4.1% to 840 yen.
The real impact relies on how long does the investigation take and how long will the manufacturing suspension period be, Matsumoto told Bloomberg Japan.
Japan media Mainichi News explained that DOWA started silver powder producing processes since the first day of 2016 for fulfilling the strong solar demand from downstream PV segments. After the incident happened, DOWA decided to ship silver powders by consuming its inventory.
EnergyTrend believes the supply of silver powder and silver paste will remain stable in the short-term. On one hand, DOWA will supply its customers with the inventory; on the other hand, conductive paste manufacturers would consider purchasing raw materials from smaller suppliers. However, if it took too long for DOWA to restart operating, it is possible to see supply shortage in some paste manufacturers.
(Photo: the DOWA electron material manufacturing plant; Source: DOWA Holdings)