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300 series stainless steel growth benefits recyclers

The growing share of the global stainless steel market claimed by the 300 series grade over the coming decade will benefit the scrap sector, according to a leading observer of the industry.

The 2019 market share for 300 of 54.1% is expected to reach 59.3% by 2030, Markus Moll, managing director of market research specialists SMR told a webinar organised by the Bureau of International Recycling on 16 October. Moll, addressing the last in a series of online events to replace BIR’s cancelled convention, said ‘That means nickel will win and scrap will win’.

Consumption up in 2021

As with most metals markets, China’s position is a key factor and Moll believes the global decline in stainless steel consumption this year, largely driven by the Covid-19 pandemic, will only be 4% because it is cushioned by 3% growth in China – the largest consumer of stainless steel at more than 21 million tonnes per annum. The global figure for 2021 is expected to rise by 11% next year. He anticipated that consumption drops of 13% in 2020 for both Europe and the USA in 2020 would be followed by respective gains of 16% and 19% next year. Asia (excluding China) was expected to turn a decrease of 12% into growth of 22% in 2021.

More scrap in China

Moll pointed put that China’s scrap ratio was just above 20% in 2019, compared to levels of the 70+% in Europe and 80+% in the USA. Stainless scrap availability in China – currently at around three million tonnes a year – was growing by at least 10% per annum and would continue to be consumed entirely within the domestic market, he contended. New buildings 20 or more years ago would typically become today’s scrap, a significant point bearing in mind China’s massive infrastructure growth in recent decades.

Moll noted that the combined share of global stainless steel production held by China and Indonesia would exceed 70% next year. However, he expected this dominant figure to plateau during the decade, not least because of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures adopted by other countries.

Secondary rather than primary

Committee chairman Joost van Kleef of Oryx Stainless, reminded participants of the environmental benefits of a greater focus on scrap, saying the large proportion of stainless production based on primary nickel had ‘an enormous negative effect on the CO2 footprint’. He also confirmed that stainless steel production figure in the first three months of 2020 was the lowest quarterly figure for three years. Global flows of stainless scrap (excluding revert) have been calculated at 9.8 million tonnes in 2019.

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