Articles in Category: Green

Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was and the metals storylines here on MetalMiner, including coverage of steel prices, US electricity consumption and much more:

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Week of April 12-16 (steel prices, electricity consumption and more)

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Efforts to reduce Europe’s carbon footprint are many and varied, including in the European aluminum sector.

Energy-intensive industrial processes like steel, aluminium and cement manufacturing make up a significant chunk of carbon emissions. A carbon tax as crafted in the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) is seen as a major plank in shutting out or penalizing producers outside the bloc with high carbon

loadings. In turn, the mechanism thereby supports domestic producers with much lower carbon footprints.

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European aluminum sector expresses opposition

An SBGlobal article cites European Aluminium Association data, saying the carbon footprint for primary aluminum production in China is, on average, three times more carbon-intensive than producing the same aluminum in Europe.

E.U. flag

Andrey Kuzmin/Adobe Stack

Yet, due to subsidy and support, China has come to dominate global aluminum production this century. Meanwhile, European aluminum output has declined.

China produced 37.3 million metric tons of primary aluminium last year. That marked 57% of world output of 65.3 million metric tons. Meanwhile, Western Europe produced just 3.3 million metric tons, or 5%, with some 30% of capacity lost since 2008.

Yet, opposition to a CBAM program has come, surprisingly, from the European aluminum industry itself.

European Aluminium, representing some 80% of producers across 30 European nations, with some 600 plants, said it is united in fearing a CBAM may be difficult to calculate. It also argues it could disrupt value chains and encourage carbon leakage by driving downstream producers out of the EU, providing no incentive to their decarbonization.

Crucially, Europe is a net importer of aluminium. The EU imports about 50% of its primary ingot, principally from Norway, Iceland, Russia, the UAE and Mozambique.

The region also imports a very significant percentage of its semi-finished aluminium. Much like the US, domestic production is nowhere near enough to meet domestic demand. Europe’s supply chains are complex and varied, from bauxite through to semi-finished products.

Therein lies the problem.

Unintended consequences

The European Aluminium Association and its members are worried there will be multiple and profound consequences, implications and distortions to the supply chain if certain countries are penalized with a carbon tax.

The industry prefers more targeted action. For example, the EU Commission’s action against Chinese flat rolled product producers for subsidized and unfair pricing has resulted in tariffs added to those imports this week. As we have reported recently, the new tariffs will range between 19.3% and 46.7% and affect commercial flat-rolled aluminium products, depending on the producer, while the probe continues. If upheld as expected, the rates will hold for five years from October 2021.

Industry decarbonization efforts

State or superstate action aside, the industry is making its own decarbonization efforts. Customer and investor sentiment, rather than legislation, are spurring those efforts.

Just this week, En+ Group, owner of Russian giant Rusal, announced in a press release a major breakthrough in refining technology producing 99%+ pure aluminium with industry’s lowest carbon footprint. The company said the metal contained less than 0.01 tons of CO2 equivalent per tonne of metal. It produced the metal using the company’s new-generation inert anode electrolysers, located at the Krasnoyarsk Aluminium Plant.

The statement reiterated En+’s goal of being net-zero by 2050. It also aims to reduce emissions by at least 35% by 2030.

The technology replaces standard carbon anodes with inert, non-consumable materials – ceramics or alloys, which results in a major reduction of emissions from the smelting process. Not only are carbon emissions down by 85%, but the technology reportedly releases oxygen in the process of aluminum production. One inert anode cell can generate the same volume of oxygen as 70 hectares of forest, the group claims.

That being the case, Rusal would probably welcome a CBAM. The firm would have gotten preferred status even before the new technology was proven. With 100% of Rusal’s aluminum now made from hydropower, it already had one of the lowest carbon footprints in the industry.

But the takeaway here is market forces are driving dramatically lower carbon content in European aluminum. Ultimately, that trend may prove a more dynamic influence than industrywide catch-all legislation, like the CBAM.

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This morning in metals news: Oslo-based Norsk Hydro said it is exploring the potential for developing and operating hydrogen facilities; meanwhile, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased by 0.6% in March; and En+ Group touted its development of a high-purity aluminum.

See why technical analysis is a superior forecasting methodology over fundamental analysis and why it matters for your aluminum buy.

Norsk Hydro to look into possibility of developing hydrogen facilities

Norsk Hydro said it is looking into the possibility of developing and operating hydrogen facilities.

green hydrogen

leestat/Adobe Stock

The firm said the facilities would serve both internal demand and the external market.

“We see a substantial potential for industrial hydrogen consumption,” said Hilde Merete Aasheim, president and CEO. “Taking a developer and operator role in the hydrogen sector represents an opportunity for Hydro to reduce industrial CO2 emissions and develop a profitable and sustainable business based on hydrogen.”

CPI ticks up in March

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the CPI for All Urban Consumers rose by 0.6% in March.

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green hydrogen

leestat/Adobe Stock

Whether we agree with the rationale or not, the carbon footprint of everyday materials like steel and aluminum is becoming an increasingly important component of consumers’ purchasing decisions.

In the US, some states — like California — have mandated purchasing departments for state projects to report the carbon footprint or CO2 content of the products they buy. The move aims to measure and, if possible reduce, carbon content.

But in the US such moves are still patchy and largely state-led. Meanwhile, meaningful direction from the new Biden administration on the issue is still largely in development.

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Europe aims to reduce emissions

In Europe, the EU is coordinating moves to reduce greenhouse gas emission by the steel sector. The EU is providing funding for research and support in the form of infrastructure, such as hydrogen gas supply networks.

In a recent post, our ex-colleague Jeff Yoders wrote a fine piece on efforts by ArcelorMittal to commercialize reductions in the carbon content of an initially small proportion of its output — just 2% or 600,000 tons per annum — by issuing certificates, which certify the reduction in carbon footprint of their steel that can be used by customers who need to report the carbon content of their supply chain or those that face carbon taxes.

The vouchers allow buyers to show an offset of Scope 3 emissions, which can come from anything in a company’s value chain.

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A recent Telegraph article suggests the West is sleepwalking into missing the next industrial revolution as China voraciously buys up raw material assets around the world. Those assets include securing its future supplies of cobalt, copper, lithium and other metals. The aforementioned comes in addition to its current domination of rare earth metals.

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China leads in race for raw materials

electric vehicle charging

kinwun/Adobe Stock

Although the Telegraph article focuses on the UK, the UK is not alone.

Other European countries, and even the US, are only just catching on to the perilous state of most Western economies’ reliance on very limited, and often hostile, supply sources for raw materials.

As the article reports, it takes seven years to plan and build a mine. In the last four years, China Molybdenum has plowed into the Democratic Republic of Congo’s 350 kilometer copper belt. The firm paid $2.6 billion (£2 billion) four years ago for the Tenke Fungurume mine from Freeport McMoRan.

It then expanded its empire in December, paying another $550 million for Freeport’s nearby Kisanfu mine. The mine gave it access to a further 6.3 million metric tons of copper. In addition, the mine offers access to 3.1 million metric tons of cobalt.

Chinese companies now dominate mining in the central African country that produces 70% of the world’s cobalt.

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This morning in metals news: the US steel capacity utilization rate ticked up to 77.9% last week; Novelis announced new sustainability targets; and the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) issued a ruling on seamless carbon and alloy steel standard, line and pressure pipe.

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US steel capacity utilization hits 77.9%

US steel capacity utilization rose to 77.9% for the week ending April 3, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported. Steel capacity utilization for the previous week reached 77.6%.

steel arrow up

Pavel Ignatov/Adobe Stock

Production during the week totaled 1.77 million net tons. The output marked an increase of 15.7% year over year. Furthermore, production increased by 0.3% from the previous week.

Novelis announces new sustainability targets

Aluminum sheet manufacturer Novelis announced new sustainability targets and a pledge to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Furthermore, Novelis said it aims to reduce its carbon emissions by 30% by 2026.

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wind and solar electricity generation

lovelyday12/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news: US energy consumption fell by 7% in 2020; the United Steelworkers union commented on the details of President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan; and the aluminum price retraced last week.

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US energy consumption down 7% in 2020

Amid the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, US energy consumption fell by 7% in 2020, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported.

“Last year marked the largest annual decrease in U.S. energy consumption in both percentage and absolute terms in our consumption data series that dates back to 1949,” the EIA said. “Much of the 2020 decrease in energy use is attributable to economic responses to the COVID-19 pandemic that began in the United States during the spring of 2020.”

USW on American Jobs Plan

As we noted last week, the United Steelworkers union last week announced a strike at nine Allegheny Technologies Inc. facilities. The move could have significant ramifications for stainless steel buyers, should it linger.

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E.U. flag

Andrey Kuzmin/Adobe Stack

The European steel industry faces three major challenges, following the impacts of the COVID-19 global and the 2008-09 financial crisis, management consultancy McKinsey & Company stated.

“European steel producers should consider making a series of short-term operational and medium- to long- term strategic moves to ensure economic and environmental sustainability going forward,”
McKinsey said in its March 15 report, “The future of the European steel industry.”

“These strategic moves could encompass restructuring steps aimed at capacity reduction, steps toward strengthening the position of steel companies by diversifying their capabilities and sustainability moves toward low- and no-carbon steel,” McKinsey added.

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European steel needs to address overcapacity

The first move the sector needs to address is the increase in structural overcapacity. That is particularly true after a demand loss of between 5 million and 10 million metric tons demand loss as a result of the pandemic, the group stated.

“European steel players need to adjust overcapacity to be in sync with next normal steel demand,” McKinsey said.

Adjusting for a greener future

Steelmakers also need a short-term response to compensate for higher costs with profitability improvements and incremental measures that will reduce CO2 emissions. For example, they can do so by increasing the scrap rate, the report added.

Meanwhile, producers need to make investments with a view to medium- and long-term decarbonizing of the steel industry. In short, they should tailor long-term plans and technology choices towards CO2 neutrality, McKinsey noted.

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Suez Canal

MenaraGrafis/Adobe Stock

Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was and some of the metals storylines here on MetalMiner, including the Suez Canal blockage, the April 2021 MMO, Western European hot rolled coil prices and much more:

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Week of March 29-April 2 (Suez Canal retrospective, HRC in Western Europe, April MMO report and more)

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carbon dioxide clock

Olivier Le Moal/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news: miner Rio Tinto joined an effort in Japan promoting decarbonization transparency; the Nikkei Review reported automaker Nissan plans to use cobalt-free electric vehicle batteries by mid-decade; and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson weighed in on the Liberty Steel crisis.

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Rio Tinto joins Green Value Chain Platform Network

Miner Rio Tinto has joined Japan’s Green Value Chain Platform Network, it announced Thursday. The network aims to “lead transparent decarbonization efforts” in the country.

Japan established the network in 2018, Rio Tinto noted.

“We are honoured to be welcomed into the Ministry of Environment’s GVC Network and look forward to engaging on innovative approaches with customers, government and industry to help reduce Japan’s carbon footprint,” Rio Tinto Japan President Bill Horie said.

Rio Tinto said it aims to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Nissan to use cobalt-free batteries

In other sustainability news, automaker Nissan said it plans to use cobalt-free electric vehicles batteries by the mid-2020s, the Nikkei Asia reported.

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