Articles in Category: Product Developments

In a previous post about procurement-led inventory finance, we explained how in a zero-sum game, large buying organizations — when engaging directly with suppliers — often deploy forceful if not arbitrary rules around payment terms, delivery terms and even the reduction of inventory levels. These tactics, used to reduce working capital, each bring additional, mostly unnecessary risks and buyers working with sellers as a team could be more effective in assuaging such concerns.

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New techniques and business practices based on inventory financing tied to broader procurement and supply-chain strategies have started to become more mainstream and they can help your business reduce its exposure to commodity price swings, long production times and other risks in the metals supply chain.

If you’re a large manufacturer, a metals service center or a metal producer, you can take advantage of these techniques and essentially link the buyer, seller and financing institution to lower financing costs to improve business efficiency.

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Supply chain financing connects financial transactions to value as it moves through a supply chain. Instead of all parties working to maximize their profits and efficiency individually, supply chain financing links the chain financially, allowing it to work together as a team, maximizing value at each link and speeding products and transactions along. It’s the difference between individual companies working in silos and all of them truly functioning as one unit. Read more

Sometimes firms take solid commercial decisions that have laudable environmental side effects, and sometimes firms take environmental decisions that they seek to justify as being cost neutral or occasionally even saving them a little money.

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But the miner, Anglo American Platinum, has an investment division that makes hard-nosed commercial investments that hold out not the dim and distant prospect of eventual impact but the imminent probability of strongly positive environmental benefits. The firm is helped by its positioning as a major miner of platinum group metals (PGMs) and the pivotal role those metals play in catalyst technologies.

Catalyst Demand

Catalysts, like modern day alchemists, turn waste into something of value, a pollutant into an environmentally beneficial product. In this case, environmentally damaging flare gas, produced in the processing of crude oil and from drill rigs, which is often flared or burned as a waste product can be turned, with the help of catalysts, into something of value.

Burning flare gas produces carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon black, and other pollutants such as methane, which, according the Environmental Protection Agency, as a greenhouse gas is 25 times more potent than CO2. The World Bank estimates that, globally, approximately 140 billion cubic meters (5 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas is flared annually, resulting in the emission of more than 300 million tons of CO2. Eliminating these emissions would be the equivalent to removing more than 77 million cars from the road or the combined total car fleets of Germany and the U.K., according to the firm’s statement.

Anglo American’s Future

Anglo American has been actively investing growth capital in companies that can demonstrate the commercial viability of their products or technologies since 2013. Anglo American Platinum’s Platinum Group Metals Investment Program holds investments in Hydrogenious Technologies and United Hydrogen Group, and has just added another, Greyrock Energy — whose catalyst-based system converts liquids and gasses such as flare gas, natural gas, bio-gas and similar feedstocks into clean liquid transportation fuels with hydrogen as a by-product.

The hydrogen production is seen as supporting Anglo’s efforts to help develop fuel cell technologies and fuel cell feedstock supply. For Anglo, this is seen as a solid investment in a growing technology but environmentalists extol the fuel cells’ ability to produce electrical power and produce nothing worse than clean water.

In a recent press release Anglo announced its investment in Greyrock while strongly promoting the potential environmental benefits of both the process itself and the growth of technologies that lower costs would support but, make no mistake, Anglo is making these PGM technology investments with the intention of buying into a rapidly expanding industry from which it will augment its mining revenues in the future.

There has been considerable concern in the U.S. and elsewhere that China’s exports of primary aluminum are damaging global prices. China would maintain that it imposes an export duty on primary aluminum explicitly to prevent the export of primary metal, largely seen as exporting energy due to the high power cost associated with producing each metric ton of the metal.

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Many outside China believe a considerable amount of metal leaks out of the country in the nominal form of semi-finished products which avoid the export duty, and, indeed, attract a value-added tax refund, only to be subsequently remelted. Large volumes of exports from China make their way to Vietnam, and it is believed much of this material is remelted in the country before being sold.

The Impact of Chinese Aluminum

However, our concern in this article is not so much the impact of primary metal leakage, considerable as it may be, but rather the growing threat of Chinese value-add product manufacturers and the impact they are having on western firms that had previously had the field cornered for automotive and aerospace — to name but two high-tech applications for aluminum — applications.

Chinese material at the end of the last century was considered a joke in terms of quality, but over the first 10 years of this century the country has invested heavily in European and Japanese extrusion, rolling and heat treatment plants and equipment. By the beginning of this decade, Chinese extrusions and commercial sheet/plate were being given equivalence to material from many other sources such as Russia, Turkey, South Korea, Taiwan and other locales.

Are aluminum slabs welded together really "deep-processed extrusions?"

Are aluminum slabs welded together really “deep-processed extrusions?”

Such material is still sold at a discount to European or North American semi-finished products, but its growing penetration and the willingness of major distributors to hold a proportion of their inventory as Chinese material, speaks volumes for its growing acceptance, particularly in terms of quality.

The Lucrative Automotive Market

Still, while China — and to a lesser extent mills in places like Malaysia, Turkey and other locales — gradually ate into western mills’ commodity products, those same western mills moved upstream, investing heavily to meet growing demand for automotive sheet and castings, aerospace sheet, plate and extrusions. Read more

SSAB released a new high-temperature steel in its Hardox line, well suited to abrasive conditions in hot environments, back in April.

But evidently they REALLY want buyers and manufacturers to know about it, as their message hit the wires again today.

According to SSAB Product Manager Jenny Brandberg Hurtig, Hardox HiTemp wear plate’s “high temperature performance is achieved by using high-quality raw material in combination with a carefully controlled manufacturing process.

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Hardox HiTemp can be cut, welded, machined and cold formed by the same kind of workshop machinery and technology as other Hardox grades and conventional steel.

All this adds up to making Hardox HiTemp an ideal choice for high temperature wear applications in many areas—particularly in process industries such as steel, cement and coal power plants, and recycling and asphalt industries.”

AEC Ups the Fight vs. China Aluminum Subsidies

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She’s been described as the “green lady,” and The Guardian once called her the “woman who loves garbage.”

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Veena Sahajwalla, a native of Mumbai, is the director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology at the University of New South Wales in Australia

Last weekend, Sahajwalla was on one of her many visits to India, where she addressed a high profile seminar at the Scrap Recycling Conference: Emerging Markets. There, she told delegates about her pioneering effort in making “green steel” from, guess what? End-of-life rubber tires.

Polymer Injection Technology (PIT), a technology that Sahajwalla invented, can be used to recycle tires to replace coal and coke in the making of steel. While the two-day conference saw almost 300 delegates from the scrap and steel industry confab on issues ranging from the world business of recycling to automobile recycling in India, Veena’s presentation seemed to have created the most buzz.

The Indo-Australian scientist insists that her technology could be the answer to the growing global problem of disposal of waste tires globally. The United States, for example, was the largest producer of waste tires at about 290 million a year, but now China and India are giving the U.S. a run for its money because of increasing sales of new vehicles.

Automobile tires are made from a mix of natural and synthetic rubber, and various structural reinforcing elements including metal wires and chemical additives. The PIT introduces a modification into the conventional manufacturing process for steel. The technology precisely controls the injection of granulated waste tire material in conventional electric arc furnace (EAF) steelmaking, partially replacing non-renewable coke. Tire rubber, like coke, is a good source of hydrocarbons, which means they can be transformed in EAF steelmaking.

New South Wales University researched the replacement technology for years and, today, millions of waste tires are being transformed into high quality steel in Australia.

Recently, the same university also showcased a pilot micro-factory that safely transforms toxic e-waste into high-value metal alloys, offering a low-cost solution to what to do with the millions of phones, computers and other e-waste products plaguing India. Sahajwalla was involved in this project, too.

She told the Asian Scientist Magazine recently that a ton of mobile phones (about 6,000 handsets) contained about 130 kilograms of copper, 3.5 kg of silver, 340 grams of gold and 140 grams of palladium, worth tens of thousands of dollars. Sahajwalla explained that she used precisely controlled high-temperature reactions to produce copper and tin-based alloys from tossed out printed circuit boards (PCBs) while simultaneously destroying toxins.

All this is sweet music to the ears of Indian recycling industry. The country is the world’s second-largest mobile phone market, and the fifth-largest producer of e-waste, discarding roughly 1.9 million metric tons of such waste every year. Veena is confident that the PIT can solve India’s waste tyres problem.

India’s Recycled Metal Market

While the global recycled metal market is estimated to touch $476.2 billion by 2024, India’s scrap recycling industry is set to register an annual growth of 11.4% until the year 2020, according to a recent report by Frost & Sullivan. India’s annual scrap consumption was 20.40 mmt; it imports 6.48 mmt of scrap, and is the world’s third-largest importer.

But India’s traditional metals, ferrous and non-ferrous, recycling rate is about 20%, less than the world average. For some years now, the unorganized sector has been demanding that the Indian government accord it “industry” status and implement a metal recycling policy with a view to ensuring fast-track growth.

India has the potential to become one of largest car recycling regions, and the demand for policy was something that was even discussed at the two-day conference here. The Indian government recently proposed offering consumers an incentive of about $375 (almost 25,133 Indian Rupees) for a passenger car handed in to be scrapped in the hopes of boosting recycling rates.

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A few months ago, the state-run scrap metal trading firm MSTC Ltd. signed an agreement with the Mumbai-based Mahindra Intertrade, a part of the Mahindra Group, to set up an auto shredding and recycling plant in India. The joint venture will help meet India’s annual ferrous scrap usage requirement of about 6 mmt.

Allegheny Technologies, Inc. (ATI) has decided to idle its state-of-the-art Rowley, Utah, titanium sponge plant.

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Titanium sponge is a key raw material to produce ATI’s titanium products. While global titanium-sponge production has increased significantly in the last couple of years, the global industrial-grade titanium market has continued to be weak. As a result of these two factors, ATI is now able to purchase titanium-sponge in the global market at prices below Rowley’s cost of production.

Extreme detailed surface of Titanium Aura Crystal Cluster

Titanium sponge is now available at lower costs on the open market than for ATI to produce it themselves. Titanium cluster image courtesy of AdobeStock/Tomatito26.

ATI stated that it is able to procure from qualified global producers even aerospace-quality sponge under long-term agreements. ATI has entered into competitive long-term agreements with qualified producers for both standard and premium titanium sponge. The Rowley facility will be idled by the end of 2016 in a manner that allows the facility to be restarted in the future if a reopening is supported by market conditions.

ATI Consolidation

In addition to the idling of Rowley, higher cost titanium hot-working operations in Albany, Ore., will be consolidated into other operations. Read more

Apart from lithium consumption and aluminum for light-weighting, it is unusual for the hybrid car market to cross paths with metals consumption stories but a recent article in the Economist details a technological development in the automotive industry that will be of interest to both.

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To anyone of even a mildly geeky nature, the Economist makes interesting reading drawing on history, new developments and the future path of electrical automotive technology. In brief, the issue is car voltage.

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Electric cars and hybrids are touted for their fuel capabilities, but the ability to optimize energy use in operation might be their real killer app. Source: AdobeStock_/joel 420.

Historically, cars started with six-volt systems but in the ’50’s — as vehicle’ electrical systems increased in complexity — the voltage was increased to 12-volt to cope with more onboard appliances, electric starters and so on. Well few things stand still in the automotive market and in spite of acute cost pressures, designers are starting to introduce 48-volt systems and are hoping, as adoption picks up, costs will come down.

What Are Those Extra Volts For?

First, what is driving it? Well, as the Economist explains, one reason is that cars are packed with more and more components, demanding more and more electrical power. A modern vehicle may have as many as 150 electric motors and new features like stop-start technology. These are putting strain on car systems, particularly those with high-compression diesel engines. Read more

This election season, infrastructure investment has become the belle of the ball, putting blighted manufacturing towns such as Monessen, Pa. and Granite City, Ill., not only on the map, but they’ve become the go-to backdrop for both candidates as they criss-cross the nation trying to win votes.

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But what do candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s plans really mean for the roads, bridges and infrastructure that everyone agrees need to be repaired? Can they even be successfully executed?

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Construction unemployment rates in all states and the U.S., overall. Source: Associated Builders and Contractors of America, Markstein Advisors.

Politico reports that Clinton has proposed a five-year, $275 billion plan. Trump suggested he would double her proposal. Clinton’s website touts a White House report that every $1 billion in infrastructure spending creates 13,000 jobs.

Everyone is Employed Now

Only one problem: That report is from 2011 when the construction industry was in the midst of one of its worst economic years in its history. Five years later, there’s actually a shortage of skilled construction laborers as construction has enjoyed robust growth every year since. Although spending has recently declined both home construction and nonresidential have posted strong gains this year. Read more

Tired of being an also ran?

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Having status symbols no better than the guy next door? Ever pulled up in your yacht only to find, 10 minutes later, a guy with a yacht twice the size pulls into the same bay right next to you? Yeah, tiresome isn’t it?

Who Needs a Ferrari When You Can Have a Gold iPhone 7?

Well, while everyone else is queueing outside an Apple store from midnight before the next morning release of a new smartphone, we have something so much better for you. This is the new iPhone 7 from Goldgenie, finished in 24-karat Gold, Rose Gold or Platinum, and if that is not enough for you they do a super luxury version edged and decorated with Swarovski Crystals and even high-quality diamonds. Here’s the best bit, this exclusive, oh-so-cool, piece of one-upsmanship (if there is such a word) luxurious collection will be available with prices starting at just $3,150 (£2,400).

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Why buy a bigger yacht when you can have a 24-karat gold iPhone 7? Source: goldgenie.

However if you really want to push that boat out and outdo the sheikh next to you, go for the $14,300 (£11,000 ) Diamond Rockstar. A bargain, right? It is also rumored that the luxury brand may even be replicating the $3 million (£2.3m) iPhone 6s Diamond Ecstasy encrusted with over 800 diamonds. Read more

This week, most exchange-traded metal prices came down to Earth as the Federal Reserve hinted it may finally increase interest rates. The hardest hit was copper, which hit a two-month London Metal Exchange low. Weaker Chinese imports over the past few months and the bearish calls of some major banks have exacerbated copper’s recent price fall.

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When construction is strong in, China copper imports surge… but with them falling? It doesn’t look like demand in the world’s largest consumer is keeping up. Copper is just one of many metals that would be affected by interest rate increases and more hawkish behavior from the Fed, in general, but unlike other non-ferrous metals whose prices have increased on the LME this year — such as zinc and tin — copper has not shown strong demand and generally falling supply. Copper never was fundamentally strong even when its price jumped in Q2.

Trump Trumpets Trade

Politics met metals this week as Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump became the first candidate for President to promise to label China a currency manipulator and take action at the World Trade Organization accordingly.  He also promised to instruct the office of the U.S. Trade Representative to bring more trade cases against China. You’d think he’d be nicer to the country that used to make his ties.

Let’s Exchange, No Spoofs!

The London Metal Exchange and CME Group made headlines this week as the former cut fees in half this month as an apology for moving its live “ring” (where traders make deals using hand gestures on big red couches) trading to a backup location after structural problems were discovered at its brand new London office. As for CME Group, it cracked down on a rogue trader, suspending him for at least 60 days, for “spoofing.” Spoofing is the practice of setting up electronic trades to create demand only to pull out of them at the last minute.

India Hates Steel Dumping, Too

India joined the U.S. and E.U. this week in placing tariffs on cheap imports of hot-rolled and cold-rolled flat steel. Although six countries saw their imports to the world’s largest democracy tariffed, China was, again, the main dumping culprit.

Aluminum Association: Let’s Make a Deal

Speaking of China, not only does the Aluminum Association — North America’s largest trade association of primary smelters — still want a bilateral trade deal with China to set up rules for imports from the People’s Republic, but it signaled this week that it would pursue tariffs similar to those steel has won against Chinese importers if it can’t get the deal it wants for its producer members.

Free Download: The August 2016 MMI Report

The AA may even ask the International Trade Commission to reclassify some imports of “semi-finished” product to make them subject to existing taxes.