Industry News

lithium-ion battery

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This morning in metals news: Norsk Hydro has signed a memorandum of understanding to explore a potential lithium-ion battery business; U.S. import prices fell slightly in October; and Gulf of Mexico oil production fell in August by the largest amount since 2008.

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Norsk Hydro signs MOU to explore potential lithium-ion battery business

Norsk Hydro, Panasonic and Equinor have signed a memorandum of understanding to explore the potential for a lithium-ion battery business based in Norway.

“The companies will work together towards summer 2021 to assess the market for lithium-ion batteries in Europe and mature the business case for a green battery business located in Norway,” Norsk Hydro said in a release. “The companies intend that this initiative is based on Panasonic’s leading technology and targets the European market for electric vehicles and other applications.”

U.S. import prices fall in October

Meanwhile, U.S. import prices fell 0.1% in October after gaining 0.2% in September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

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Central Europe and Eastern Europe

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Interest in the Central European steel sector came not only from the West, but also from further East.

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Interest in Central European steel assets

Ukrainian group Industrial Union of Donbass (ISD) acquired Hungarian integrated flats producer Dunaferr in 2004. The group also acquired Polish integrated plate producer Huta Czestochowa in 2005.

The Polish plant entered bankruptcy in 2019, however, amid what it called increasing difficulties in the European steel market.

Liberty Steel subsidiary Sunningwell leased in 2019 the plant from Czestochowa’s bankruptcy trustee. In 2020, it won a tender to purchase the plant. Polish media noted in October, however, that the plant would remain leased until mid-2021.

Czestochowa is now operating, an administrator for the plant confirmed to MetalMiner. However, she declined to indicate what shops were operating or at what percentage of capacity.

Steel situation in Ukraine

One difficulty Czestochowa faced was reportedly due to the armed conflict in 2014 between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine, resulting in creation of the breakaway Luhansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic, a November 2014 report in Polish media stated.

ISD subsequently lost control of its slab producer at its Alchevsk plant, which is in Luhansk People’s Republic, and from which it sourced slabs for rolling at Czestochowa.

Donetsk region, once Ukraine’s industrial heart and the location for the majority of steelmaking and rolling assets, is now the within the breakaway and unrecognized Donetsk People’s Republic. The republic contains Donetsk Steel, integrated metal and mining group Metinvest’s Yenakievo and Makeyevo plants and the Khartzysk pipe plant.

Reports of low operating percentages against capacities, industrial action by workers over unpaid back salaries and out-of-date equipment are also coming out of steelmakers in the Donetsk People’s Republic, sources told MetalMiner.

“Nobody knows what’s going on there,” a second analyst said.

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India

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It took about eight years to negotiate the details, but eventually 15 nations from the Asia Pacific belt signed on the dotted line on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) earlier this week.

Missing from the deal, however, were the United States and India from the agreement. The pact seeks to lower tariffs and open up services trade within the bloc.

The MetalMiner 2021 Annual Outlook consolidates our 12-month view and provides buying organizations with a complete understanding of the fundamental factors driving prices and a detailed forecast that can be used when sourcing metals for 2021 — including expected average prices, support and resistance levels.

RCEP includes 15 countries, including China

The 15 countries to sign off on the RCEP include China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia. Together, they account for a GDP of $26.2 trillion, or 30% of global GDP. The agreement covers a market of 2.2 billion people.

The RCEP is looked upon as a cooperative union where countries are committed to protect member nations from imports of other non-members.

The aim is to give preferential treatment for trade between the member countries. That treatment comes in the form of lower tariffs, preferential market access, customs union or free trade in specific sectors.

India remains out on RCEP

After initial interest, India remains unconvinced by the RCEP.

However, experts in the country have varying opinions as to whether India made the right move.

Pro-RCEP experts said there are advantages of regional trade pacts. These types of pacts often lead to higher foreign direct investments for participating countries as supply chains reorient across the member nations.

Furthermore, signatory nations got access to otherwise closed foreign markets, leading to a higher volume of trade between countries.

India reiterated its arguments against joining this new partnership. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said the effect of past trade agreements had been to deindustrialize some sectors. India had allowed other countries “unfair” trade and manufacturing advantages “in the name of openness.”

According to the Minister, this worked against India in the long run.

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hot rolled steel

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This morning in metals news: the U.S.’s steel capacity utilization rate reached 71.4% for the week ended Nov. 14; a survey by INVERTO took a look at procurement trends during the COVID-19 pandemic; and steel prices continue to rise.

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Capacity utilization rises to 71.4%

The U.S. steel sector’s capacity utilization rate for the week ended Nov. 14 reached 71.4%, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported.

The rate marked an increase from 71.1% the previous week. However, the rate fell from 78.8% during the same time frame in 2019.

Steel production during the week ended Nov. 14, 2020, totaled 1.58 million net tons. The production total marked a 0.4% increase from the previous week but a 13.3% year-over-year decline.

INVERTO releases Raw Materials Study 2020

A survey conducted as part of INVERTO’s Raw Materials Study 2020 delved into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on procurement and ways buyers have tried to adapt to the challenges of 2020.

Among its key findings, INVERTO noted of the survey respondents that “supply security is underestimated,” with few expressing concern about raw materials supply in the future.

Furthermore, INVERTO concluded few companies had taken “structured, profound and long-term countermeasures” in response to the pandemic.

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mergers and acquisitions

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As we noted yesterday, flats and specialty steels producer SSAB is in talks with Tata Steel over potential acquisition of the Indian group’s IJmuiden integrated plant in the Netherlands, the Swedish group confirmed.

“SSAB has participated in several different discussions concerning consolidations in the European steel industry. The discussions with Tata are on-going but no decisions have been made,” SSAB said Nov. 13.

“There can be no certainty that any transaction will materialize, nor as to the terms of any such potential transaction. Further announcement will be made in due course,” the Swedish group added.

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SSAB profile

SSAB’s product assortment includes plates, tubes and special steels. The group’s Luleå plant in northern Sweden produces steel and casts slab for rolling and coating at its Borlänge plant further south in the country.

The company also produces specialty steels at its Oxelösund integrated plant, south of capital city Stockholm, where it also rolls them into finished products.

SSAB acquired Finnish steelmaker Ruukki in 2014. In addition, the group produces plates and hot-rolled coil in the United States via one electric arc furnace at Alabama and at Iowa with a total capacity of 2.4 million tons per year.

SSAB’s IJmuiden interest

SSAB has eyed IJmuiden for at least a year, one analyst familiar with the situation told MetalMiner.

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Port Talbot steel plant

Port Talbot steel plant. Petert2/Adobe Stock

Tata Steel has been having a pretty horrid time trying to get rid of its loss-making European steel business.

Last year, the European Commission rejected a potential merger with ThyssenKrupp’s equally struggling steel business on competition grounds. The combination of two such significant European steelmakers would give them undue dominance in the European market, the Commission argued.

The MetalMiner 2021 Annual Outlook consolidates our 12-month view and provides buying organizations with a complete understanding of the fundamental factors driving prices and a detailed forecast that can be used when sourcing metals for 2021 — including expected average prices, support and resistance levels.

Tata Steel faces challenges

However, Tata Steel has to find a solution.

Tata Europe is almost certainly hemorrhaging cash this year. While it has been a responsible owner, it must be desperate to offload the two main assets: Tata UK and Tata Netherlands.

The combined businesses purchased from Corus were originally two distinct plants. British Steel Port Talbot and the Netherlands’ Koninklijke Hoogovens steel plant merged in 1999 to form Corus.

Unable to find a buyer for the combined business, Tata is now looking to separate the two businesses again in the hope of finding buyers for the individual plants.

Potential suitor for Tata Netherlands

Sweden’s SSAB is reportedly a suitor for Tata Netherlands. The giant IJmuiden integrated steel plant is Tata Netherlands’ main asset.

The plant includes two blast furnaces with a capacity of 7.5 million tons per annum and an associated rolling mill.

SSAB is being coy about progress on the talks.

However, for the Swedish firm — having already absorbed Finland’s Rautaruuki back in 2014 — the acquisition would further enhance SSAB’s position as a major European steel group.

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aluminum ingot stacked for export

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This morning in metals news: the Senate Committee on Appropriations allocated funding for a new Aluminum Import Monitoring system; the United States International Trade Commission voted to continue an aluminum foil investigation; and natural gas inventories are at a record high.

The MetalMiner 2021 Annual Outlook consolidates our 12-month view and provides buying organizations with a complete understanding of the fundamental factors driving prices and a detailed forecast that can be used when sourcing metals for 2021 — including expected average prices, support and resistance levels.

Senate includes funding for Aluminum Import Monitoring system

The domestic aluminum industry has long advocated for the creation of an aluminum import monitoring system. The Aluminum Association has often referred to the existing Steel Import Monitoring and Analysis system as a potential model.

Recently, the Senate Committee on Appropriations included $1.3 million in funding for a new aluminum import monitoring system during the fiscal year 2021.

“We are grateful for the committee’s leadership on this high priority issue for the U.S. aluminum industry, and we look forward to Congress taking action soon to enact this important provision in FY21 appropriations,” said Tom Dobbins, president and CEO of the Aluminum Association, in a release.

“Within Enforcement and Compliance, the Committee provides up to $1,300,000 for staffing and other necessary expenses to support development and implementation of the AIM system,” the Senate Committee on Appropriations said. “The Committee also encourages ITA to regularly consult with the aluminum industry on market dynamics to ensure the remedy is meeting its stated goal of supporting U.S. aluminum producers.”

USITC continues aluminum foil probe

The USITC voted to continue anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigation of aluminum foil from several countries.

The countries in question are Armenia, Brazil, Oman, Russia and Turkey.

In addition, the Department of Commerce will make preliminary countervailing duty determinations by Dec. 23, 2020. However, for its anti-dumping investigation, it will make preliminary determinations by March 8, 2021.

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gold, silver, copper, oil prices

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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 copper price, oil price gains and steel imports:

The MetalMiner 2021 Annual Outlook consolidates our 12-month view and provides buying organizations with a complete understanding of the fundamental factors driving prices and a detailed forecast that can be used when sourcing metals for 2021 — including expected average prices, support and resistance levels.

Week of Nov. 9-13 (copper price, oil price gains and more)

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steel imports

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This morning in metals news: U.S. steel imports were down by 22.2% year over year through the first 10 months of 2020; German steelmaker Thyssenkrupp AG is seeking state aid; and the nickel price has bounced back in November after falling during the second half of October.

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U.S. steel imports down 22.2%

U.S. steel imports through the first 10 months of the year totaled 19.3 million net tons, down 22.2% year over year, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported.

Steel import market share reached an estimated 17% in October, down from the year-to-date share of 18%.

By product, import permits for oil country goods in October rose 126% compared with the September final import total.

Thyssenkrupp looks to government for aid package

Bloomberg reports German steelmaker Thyssenkrupp is in talks with the German government over a potential aid package.

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steel

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This morning in metals news: Liberty Steel will make over 100 layoffs at its Georgetown steel mill; U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions fell in 2019; and, lastly, a new airport has opened at Rio Tinto’s Gudai-Darri mine.

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Liberty Steel to make layoffs at Georgetown mill

Liberty Steel will make over 100 layoffs after Christmas at its Georgetown steel mill, Myrtle Beach Online reported.

The company filed a WARN notice with the state of South Carolina for the layoffs, which will total 104 workers. According to the notice, the layoffs will take effect Dec. 28.

Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions down

In addition to the Liberty Steel news, U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions fell last year, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported.

“After rising by 3% in 2018, energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions fell 3% in the United States in 2019,” the EIA reported. ”

Total energy-related CO2 emissions in 2019 were about 150 million metric tons (MMmt) lower than their 2018 level.

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