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Demand ‘explosion’ for US aluminium rolling mills

Three US aluminium rolling mills set to come on line by the end of 2026 will virtually eliminate US imports of beverage can sheet, even with an expected ‘explosion of growth’ in demand for such packaging, according to analysts.

Argus Metals reports that over 700 000 tonnes per year will be added to production, based on mill announcements which would ‘more than fulfil current US needs and likely satisfy announced growth in demand.’

Steel Dynamics says 45% of its new south-eastern mill (650 000 tonnes per year) will focus on beverage can sheet (meaning around 290 000 tonnes). Meanwhile Novelis has assigned more than half of its 600 000 tonne Bay Minette, Alabama mill to beverage can sheet.

The US imported 222 614 tonnes of can and tab stock in 2021, according to US Department of Commerce data. Argus Metals observes that this may make the planned annual growth 752 000 tonnes seem excessive.

However, Novelis ceo Steve Fisher notes that, since 2018, packaging companies have announced investments that increase demand for new sheet by up to 680 000 tonnes per year. ‘We’re not surprised others are following our lead,’ he says’. ‘We fully anticipated the market requiring more beverage can sheet and feel very comfortable.’

At the beginning of the year, the only integrated greenfield rolling capacity in the pipeline was Unity Aluminum, which has been trying to secure funding since 2017.

By the end of July, SDI, Novelis and Ball had all announced new fully-funded mills, representing the first investments of their kind in decades – excluding stalled projects such as Unity’s.

In addition to this new capacity, Arconic is returning its Tennessee mill to a majority can sheet product mix following a non-compete agreement with Alcoa which expired in 2020.

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