OCI mulling expansion of polysilicon capacity by 60,000 tons

Polysilicon plant of OCI in Bintulu, a coastal city in the state of Sarawak, Malaysia
OCI is considering tripling the production capacity of its polysilicon plant in Malaysia from 30,000 to 95,000 metric tons – Image: OCI

South Korean chemicals group OCI is considering expanding the capacity of its solar-grade polysilicon plant in Malaysia by up to 60,000 metric tons (MT). The Korea Economic Daily mentioned the plan on May 30, quoting an unnamed company official.

OCI is currently debottlenecking the plant by 5,000 MT to reach a capacity of 35,000 MT in the second half of 2022. If the considerations for further expansion were implemented, the total capacity would increase to 95,000 MT.

According to the Korea Economic Daily, the company is planning to relocate equipment from South Korea to Malaysia. In February 2020 OCI announced the shutdown of polysilicon production facilities with a capacity of more than 45,000 MT at its Korean factory in Gunsan. As a consequence, the company dropped from the third place to number seven in the ranking of the world’s top ten polysilicon maufacturers.

Already in March 2019, OCI Vice Chairman Lee Woo-hyun had told reporters: “It is necessary to consider moving to Malaysia after shutting down factories in Korea.” In October 2020 Lee said: “In order to further reduce the cost, it would be better to expand the facility and move the production line in Korea to Malaysia. But at present, it is impossible to provide human resources between the two countries due to Covid-19.”

Beside the decreasing impact of the pandemic, rising demand for polysilicon untainted by forced labor in Xinjiang may also spur OCI’s considerations. However, the company still has to clean up its own supply chain. Because OCI is a customer of silicon metal market leader Hoshine in Xinjiang, which is deeply involved in forced labor transfers.

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