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Indonesia playing ever more key role in stainless steel market

Asia – Liquid stainless output remains ‘at healthy levels throughout the world’ while the order intake and production outlook for Europe offers grounds for optimism, observes Joost Van Kleef, chairman of the BIR world recycling organisation’s stainless steel & special alloys committee.

Writing in the committee’s latest Mirror report, Van Kleef says that shipments of stainless steel from Indonesia to China have emerged as ‘a significant factor’ in the marketplace since August last year. ‘Unfortunately,’ he adds, ‘this product is made without any CO2-emission-reducing stainless scrap.’

Stainless mill demand in Asia has ‘turned weak’ early in 2018, with mills in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan ‘only purchasing small cargoes’ on long-term contracts, it is also reported in the Mirror. This situation appears likely to remain unchanged ahead of the second quarter, it is added.

Indonesia could surpass India as the world’s second-largest stainless steel producer over the coming few years, some experts believe. In India itself, the government has begun to release delayed tax and duty refunds to industry which, according to the Mirror, had also led to ‘some drastically delayed payments to mills’ scrap suppliers’.

It is also reported that China’s ever-expanding Tsingshan group is currently involved in a US$ 2.3 billion project to build an integrated smelting, hot rolling and cold rolling plant in the Indian state of Gujarat, with a reported annual crude stainless capacity of 2 million tons once fully completed in five to six years from now. ‘Less encouraging is the fact that Tsingshan prefers producing stainless steel with NPI rather than with stainless scrap,’ the Mirror notes.

In the USA, production of industrial scrap has been ‘very high’ whereas flows of obsolete scrap have been hit by adverse weather conditions and lack of demolition activity. Demand from stainless mills is reportedly healthy both in the USA and Europe against the backdrop of decent order books for finished product.

For superalloys, decent demand from the aerospace, power and automotive sectors has been tempered by ‘sluggish’ orders from the oil and gas sector.

This article is based on the latest World Mirror on Stainless Steel & Special Alloys produced by the BIR world recycling organisation for the benefit of its members.

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