LONDON - Top global miner BHP Billiton said on Wednesday nickel production at its Kwinana nickel refinery in western Australia had been interrupted.
A spokesman for the company said that the ongoing problem, which began on Monday, was due to a temporary shortage of hydrogen.
I can confirm that production has been interrupted at Kwinana nickel refinery, due to a temporary shortage of hydrogen, the spokesman added.
He was unable to offer any information on how long the problems would last, or whether it was a full closure.
The Kwinana refinery has a capacity of approximately 65,000 tonnes per year of nickel metal, according to the BHP Website.
In 2008, BHP accounted for 9 percent of world refined nickel output at 120,000 tonnes.
It shouldn't have that much of an impact -- the nickel market, at the moment, is well supplied and there is no real shortage, said Robin Bhar, a metals analyst at Credit Agricole CIB. The interruption, unless it's long-running ... shouldn't really impact nickel prices.
We know that certain products -- briquettes and pellets -- are in short supply, he added. So if anything, it may have an impact on speciality nickel products, more than prices.
Nickel, a key ingredient in manufacturing steel CMNI3, traded at about $22,255 at 1011 GMT. Nickel prices hit an all-time high of $51,800 in May 2007.
London Metal Stock nickel inventories are at 158,364 tonnes, down from record highs of 166,476 in early February.
BHP's shares in London rose 0.7 percent to 2,201.5 pence by 1011 GMT.
(Reporting by Michael Taylor; editing by Amanda Cooper)