02-Nov-2021 Download Article Share Via :

WBMS' First Edition of Stainless Steel Statistics

 

After contributing to Stainless Steel World News Magazine with the 'Stats Corner' for some time, we have now swapped to Stainless Steel World who publish more regularly. For our first edition of 'Stainless Steel Statistics' we provide a review of stainless scrap, including the latest trade data.

 

It is useful to remind ourselves of how important scrap is in the production of stainless steel. However, we should first consider the importance of other competing materials and their strengths and weaknesses. Firstly there are other metals, including carbon steel and aluminium. Like stainless, these can be remelted and used again, so they share these merits. Plastics have seen massive growth in the last few decades, but the environmental damage of discarded obsolete products will require a paradigm shift in that industry. For some applications, stainless could be an alternative recyclable material.

In this context, it is interesting to compare stainless steel to gold. Almost all the gold that has ever been mined and melted over the millennia is still in use. It is a store of value, so why would you discard it? The same is true to a lesser extent with stainless scrap. Its value, even in a recession, is many hundreds of US dollars per tonne. You do not need to refine it and remove carbon, sulphur etc, as with primary raw materials, that has already been done. You simply need to remelt it for the most part. So recycling is a merit in terms of economics and the environment.

Chart 1 - Stainless steel raw materials - primary versus secondary

Chart 1 - Stainless steel raw materials - primary versus secondary

Origin of Raw Materials
Chart 1 shows the traditional view of the origin of raw materials for stainless production. The actual numbers vary from year to year. In boom years, stainless slab production increases strongly, whereas scrap supply tends to be price inelastic, so more primary material is needed to fill the gap. In recession years, slab production falls as the industry runs down inventory, scrap is available from the higher recent production, and fewer primary purchases are needed.

Nearly half of the industry needs are supplied by scrap, which is a plus point for the stainless industry. Run-around or home scrap is probably less than 15% for many producers where yield from slab to say cold-rolled flat is typically greater than 90%.

New and Old Scrap
New scrap is also known as fabricator scrap. Where a large fabricator is generating clean, new scrap in large quantities, this may be shipped back to the mill from where it came. In many cases, new scrap will end up at a scrap processor. Again, the more advanced computer-controlled production processing today tends to reduce the amount of scrap arising. Obsolete or old scrap is an interesting resource to try to quantify. Firstly, you need to calculate the likely lifetime use of stainless by application. For a stainless steel auto muffler, that could be 5 to 10 years; for stainless curtain walling on a skyscraper it could be 50 years. Secondly, one needs to calculate the percentage of obsolete scrap recovered, and how much is lost to landfill or is remelted in carbon steel. Although it is likely that home scrap is rather less than 15%, it is also likely obsolete scrap is now somewhat higher than 15%.

Chemical composition
The stainless scrap industry uses a sophisticated process to test the chemical composition of the scrap they purchase, and to prevent harmful contamination. Some scrap may be sorted and directly resold when the origin and composition are clear. A large part is processed into what is known as artificial scrap. For example, a rectangular bale of scrap may contain grindings or fine particles of stainless or nickel alloy or chrome alloy scrap. The overall specification will be AISI 304, but it will be a carefully controlled mix of several materials. This is one of the strengths of stainless steel: it can be produced from nickel and chrome scrap as well as stainless scrap.

Chart 2 - Stainless steel scrap exports Jan - July in kt

Chart 2 - Stainless steel scrap exports Jan - July in kt

Chart 3 - Stainless steel scrap imports Jan - July in kt

Chart 3 - Stainless steel scrap imports Jan - July in kt

Global scrap production
Global stainless steel production is of the order of 50Mt/a. If we assume new and obsolete scrap combined is around 30%, then purchased scrap is around 15 Mt/a. We can see in Charts 2 and 3 that the recorded global trade is about 3 Mt in 7 months, suggesting about 5 Mt annually or 33% of purchased scrap. So most of the scrap appears to be used locally (67%), although some of the trade may be under-recorded.

Chart 2 shows exports of stainless scrap in January to July 2021 compared with the corresponding period of the previous year. The global total increased by 7% from 2.9 to 3.1 Mt. Germany and The Netherlands accounted for nearly 1 Mt between them.

The traditionally large global stainless scrap dealers (ELG, Cronimet and others) are based in those countries, and much of the trade goes through Rotterdam and the Rhine. The other main exporters do produce stainless but are large users of stainless so have an export surplus of scrap.

Canada is a significant user but no longer has stainless meltshops. Both Thailand and Turkey are significant end-users of stainless and also have their own cold rolling facilities based on imported hotband.

Global scrap imports
Global imports increased by 17% from 2.7 to 3.1 Mt over the seven month period for January to July 2021 (Chart 3). Both India and Belgium, the main importers, have large meltshops, as does Spain. So none of these come as a surprise.

There is no stainless production in The Netherlands, so these imports may be for the use of the local scrap processors or for onward shipment to meltshops in Belgium or elsewhere. The only significant decline is into Taiwan, where stainless slab production has fallen. ‘Others,’ which accounted for one-third of exports, accounts for only 15% of imports, demonstrating the industry concentration in stainless melting in recent years. Unusually for most metals analysis, China does not feature as a major player in the international trade in stainless scrap.

 

- ENDS-

 

Editors requiring more detailed information should contact Sue Eales by email at suee@world-bureau.co.uk or by telephone +44 (0) 1920 461274

 

Disclaimer

Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy and validity of the information contained in this release WBMS and its Board of Directors can accept no responsibility for any losses incurred as a direct result of any actions based on conclusions drawn from the data.

 

Terms of Use

All data herein may be copied freely, duplicated and further distributed provided that WBMS is cited as the source.

Editors requiring more detailed information should contact Sue Eales by email at suee@world-bureau.co.uk or by telephone +44 (0) 1920 461274

Disclaimer

Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy and validity of the information contained in this release WBMS and its Board of Directors can accept no responsibility for any losses incurred as a direct result of any actions based on conclusions drawn from the data.

Terms of Use

All data herein may be copied freely, duplicated and further distributed provided that WBMS is cited as the source.

About World Bureau of Metal Statistics:

The World Bureau of Metal Statistics is the data resource of first resort for anyone involved with the global metals industry. By outsourcing their research to WBMS, whether via regular publications or surveys tailored to their needs, organisations not only enjoy the benefit of reliable, first class data but also save significantly on cost and time. Through regular publications, available on subscription in print and electronic format, WBMS are able to keep companies and organisations throughout the world up to date on the production, consumption and trade in the major non-ferrous metals.

Launched in 1947, WBMS concentrated initially on the metals trade within the then British Empire. With the contraction of Empire, the organisation switched focus to the world stage and began collecting and collating data from a huge number of global sources. More than half a century later, its massive and regularly updated database forms the basis of printed and electronic publications aimed at the many and varied users of metal statistics. In particular, its monthly World Metal Statistics Bulletin represents the most comprehensive data available anywhere.

World Bureau of Metal Statistics

31 Star Street
Ware
Herts
SG12 7AA
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 1920 461274