Fluorine-based gas used for semiconductor manufacturing is under a supply shortage. Prices continue to rise.
Japan's Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported recently that prices for fluorine gas will rise further, saying that the market will be unable to keep up with demand due to the memory semiconductor boom. Fluorine gas is used for semiconductor etching and cleaning. It is an essential raw material for manufacturing. Japan Showa Denko, Daikin, and Kanto Chemicals produce fluorine gas.
Prices of fluorinated gas have started to rise since 2017. This is because the demand for memory manufacturing has increased. Showa Denko announced in the summer of 2017 that it would raise 500 yen (10-25%) per kg for most of its fluorinated gas products, which were 2000 ~ 5000 yen per kg. Other gas makers also raised prices by more than 20 percent last year. In the spring of last year, the product range subject to the price increase was also expanded. The industry expects that the price increase is likely to continue into the future.
Demand is also expected to continue to increase. According to market researcher Fuji Economy, global gas sales volume of Tetrafluoromethane (CF4), the representative gas product, was estimated to be 3,200 tons this year. This is a 6.7% increase from the previous year. In 2022, it is expected to increase by 26% to 4030 tons, but it is forecasted that the supply will be unable to keep up with the demand.
Currently, the semiconductor market has entered a phase of adjustment due to the postponement of investment in the manufacturing industry, but demand remains strong thanks to the operation of existing facilities. In addition, some companies are raising prices. It also takes a considerable amount of time to expand fluoric gas production plants.
The attitude of semiconductor companies, who are consumers, has also changed. Previously, payment contracts were customarily 6 months to 1 year; however, they now require long-term contracts of 3 to 5 years. If gas is scarce, production will be hindered. For this reason, it seems that the price increase is accepted because securing the necessary amount of gas is the top priority.
Prices of raw materials for fluorine-based gases and fluoric acid are also rising. Prices have been surging since last year due to reduced supply caused by environmental regulations in China, the country of production. Although prices have fallen this year, the sentiment cannot be relieved because the price of fluorite, the raw material for hydrofluoric acid, is rising day by day.
"Fluoride-based gases are likely to continue to rise in the future," an industry official said. "We cannot help asking for a price increase."
Korea is also experiencing difficulties such as production disruption due to the supply of hydrofluoric acid. Last month, the Japanese government did not approve a portion of the hydrofluoric acid used for semiconductor manufacturing, which is exported to Korea. As such, Samsung Electronics and Hynix's purchasing teams are reportedly doing their best to secure inventory.