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CSSC: Demand lift drives China’s stainless output in ‘18

China’s production of crude stainless steel totalled 26.7 million tonnes in 2018, higher by 933,000 tonnes or 3.6% on year, according to the latest figures released by Stainless Steel Council of China Special Steel Enterprises Association (CSSC) on January 25. But the growth in production was dwarfed by the even faster rise in the county’s apparent stainless consumption, which jumped by 7% or 1.39 million tonnes on year to 21.3 million tonnes, CSSC estimated.

Within the production total, growth in output of high-end chromium-contained 400-series stainless was the fastest, with production gaining 7% (400,000 tonnes) to reach 5.47 million tonnes. That series accounted for 20.5% of the country’s output, with its share up by 0.8 percentage point from the 19.7% share which the grade contributed in 2017.

“The whole stainless market enjoyed relatively stable demand last year. The fundamentals for 400-series stainless proved stronger than those for 300-series,” an official from Taigang Iron and Steel Co (TISCO) commented. The market for 300 series declined from last August, prompting more steelmakers to shift to producing 400-series stainless instead, he added.

But besides the better market, another factor contributing to last year’s lift in 400-series output was the successful commissioning and ramp up of Tsingshan Holding Group’s new 900,000 tonnes/year expansion last summer, survey respondents said.

In mid-July Tsing Tuo Group, a Tsingshan subsidiary based in Fujian province, South China, commenced hot run trials on a new continuous caster for stainless stabs at its works in Ningde city in the same province. The Yuan 3.8 billion ($559 million) expansion is exclusively for 400 series, as Mysteel reported.

On stainless trade, China’s exports of stainless showed a 1.3% increase on year at 3.99 million tonnes in 2018 while the country’s imports surged by 53.8% on year to 1.85 million tonnes, according to new data from China’s General Admiration of Customs.

Consequently, China’s domestic stainless market in 2018 saw a supply surplus of 3.25 million tonnes, based on the export and import data and total domestic output during the year, according to Mysteel’s calculations, a development that is prompting concern given that some steelmakers are actioning stainless expansion projects.

Earlier this month for example, Liugang Zhongjin Stainless Co, based in in Southwest China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, held a ground-breaking ceremony signalling the start of construction on new facilities to add 1.46 million t/y of stainless hot metal and 300,000 t/y high-carbon ferrochrome when commissioned in 2020, as reported.

“China’s stainless market has been struggling with overcapacity for the past few years, with 300-series under the heaviest burden,” remarked TISCO Chairman Zhang Zhifang at an industry conference in mid-December. “(The industry) is still in expansion mode … which could give pressure to the stainless market if demand slows down,” he warned.

Written by Thea Feng, fengyx@mysteel.com

Edited by Russ McCulloch, russ.mcculooch@mysteel.com


China's crude stainless steel output in 2018 unit: 'million tonnes 
Items Jan-Dec 2018 Y-o-Y (%) Proportion of total  Jan-Dec 2017 Proportion of total 
200-series 8.26 4.5% 30.92% 7.88 30.58%
300-series 12.82 0.8% 48.00% 12.7 49.36%
400-series 5.47 7.0% 20.47% 5.07 19.66%