This Morning in Metals: US steel capacity utilization rises to 82.9%

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This morning in metals news: the U.S. steel sector’s capacity utilization rate rose to 82.9% last week; Cleveland-Cliffs will demolish the site of the former AK Steel Ashland mill; and, lastly, the Energy Information Administration sees higher natural gas prices in the year ahead.

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US steel capacity utilization rises to 82.9%

hot rolled steel

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The U.S. steel sector’s capacity utilization rate reached 82.9% last week, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported.

Production last week totaled 1.84 million net tons, or up 0.3% week over week. The weekly production total also marked an increase of 44.6% year over year.

For the year to date (through June 19), U.S. mills produced 43.22 million net tons of crude steel, or up 14.2% year over year.

Cleveland-Cliffs to demolish Ashland mill site

According to several reports, Cleveland-Cliffs will demolish the site of AK Steel’s Ashland mill.

Most of the operations at the plant had been idled since 2015. Cleveland-Cliffs completed its acquisition of AK Steel in March 2020.

Natural gas prices on the rise

Natural gas prices are likely to rise this year and into 2022, the Energy Information Administration reported.

“In our June 2021 Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), we forecast U.S. natural gas prices to increase during 2021 and 2022 from 2020 prices as a result of expected growth in natural gas consumption and natural gas exports that outpace expected growth in production and imports,” the EIA said. “We also forecast the 2021 Henry Hub natural gas spot price to average $3.07 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), an increase of $1.04/MMBtu from the record lows of 2020.

“Increases in both U.S. natural gas exports and consumption from all other natural gas-consuming sectors but electricity generation are driving the high Henry Hub spot prices reflected in the STEO. The high natural gas prices set in February 2021 set the annual average 2021 price path higher, making 2021 the peak in our forecast.”

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