Japan's EAF mills not to stock products for summer halts

Unlike the previous years, Japan’s electric-arc-furnace (EAF) mills will not stock up much finished steel for sales in July-August, even though their plants will be shut down for about one or two weeks to reduce power usage as usual during the country’s peak power consumption in summer, as demand in 2020 has been too stagnant, mini-mill sources confirmed on June 19.

A director from Tokyo Steel Manufacturing, Japan’s top electric-arc-furnace mill, confirmed on Friday that the company plans to conduct maintenance at all its four works for a week or ten days stating from end of July, though detailed timetables will be ironed out by mid-July.

Over July-September, Japan’s power supply companies always rationalize power consumption among power-intensive industries such as these EAF mills to maximize electricity supply to the residents, and some industrial customers including mini-mills are agreeable to such arrangements as they will be compensated.

Japanese mini-mills usually operate only on nights, saving power consumption by about 25% than daytime operations, and short-time halts of operations during summer will reduce their power consumption even more, according to market sources.

To get ready for the summer power cut, the Japanese mini-mills usually start piling up finished steel stocks in advance, making them rather aggressive starting late June in collecting scrap for their production until the shutdown, according to a sales official from an Osaka-based mini-mill.

For this year, though, domestic steel demand has been sluggish because of the virus outbreak, and there is no need for the steel producers to pile finished steel for this year, and they are not and will not be aggressively buying scrap,” he added.

A sales official from a steel mill in Tokyo shared that steel output from the mini-mills usually declines by 10-20% on quarter during July-September, but for this summer, the situation is with complexities, and the decrease may be lower than the previous years.

Some Japanese mini-mills have been eagerly exporting billet to offset the declining demand domestically, while others have been simply cutting output, and some special steel makers, after having halved their output over April-May, are thinking of recovering their output to 70-80%of the normal level starting July for possibly better demand from the automakers after summer,” he explained.

Japanese mini-mills produced nearly 5.6 million tonnes of crude steel over July-September 2019, down 13.1% on quarter, according to the data from the Japan Iron & Steel Federation.

Written by Yoko Manabe,

Edited by Hongmei Li,