Sunday, 30 December 2018

Global steel forecast sees stable demand

The Brussels-based World Steel Association (Worldsteel), in its short range outlook covering the fourth quarter of 2018 and all of 2019, is forecasting global steel demand to grow by 1.4 percent in 2019 to reach a total of more than 1.68 million metric tons.
Worldsteel sees global demand reaching nearly 1.66 million metric tons in 2018, which would represent an increase of 3.9 percent compared with the 2017 figure.
“In 2018, global steel demand continued to show resilience supported by the recovery in investment activities in developed economies and the improved performance of emerging economies,” states Saeed Ghumran Al Remeithi, chair of the Worldsteel’s Economics Committee.”
In the first half of 2018, Chinese steel demand got a boost from a stimulus package aimed at real estate and the strong global economy. However, continued economic rebalancing efforts and toughening environmental regulations will lead to deceleration of steel demand in China toward the end of 2018 and 2019, Worldsteel predicts.
Downside risks in China come from the ongoing trade friction with the U.S. and a decelerating global economy. However, if the Chinese government decides to use stimulus measures to contain the potential slowdown of its economy in the face of a deteriorating economic environment, steel demand in 2019 will be boosted, according to the association.
Steel demand in developed economies is expected to increase by 1 percent in 2018 and 1.2 percent in 2019. Demand in the U.S. for steel “grew strongly in 2017, benefiting from strong consumer spending and business investment supported by tax and regulatory changes and fiscal stimulus, although growth in the construction sector moderated,” says Worldsteel. Steel demand growth in 2019 is expected to slow as auto manufacturing and construction activity are expected to see modest growth in the U.S., though the association says other parts of the manufacturing sector in the U.S. are expected to perform well thanks to the strength of the machinery and equipment sector.
The broadening recovery of EU steel demand is expected to continue, though at a reduced pace, mainly driven by domestic demand. With business confidence high, investment and construction continued to recover while the automotive market may see slower demand growth. Though the economic fundamentals of the EU economy remain relatively healthy, steel demand in 2019 will show some deceleration over the growth seen in 2017-18, partly due to uncertainties resulting from global trade tensions, Worldsteel predicts.
As India recovers from this decade’s demonetization and goods and services tax (GST) implementation, India’s steel demand is expected to move back to a higher growth track. Steel demand will be supported by improving investment and infrastructure programs, although “stressed government finances and corporate debt weighs on the outlook” for steel in India, says Worldsteel.
In the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, sluggish construction activities and stock adjustments have led to slow growth in steel demand in 2017 and 2018. However, demand in the ASEAN region is expected to resume its growth momentum in 2019, backed by infrastructure programs. Steel demand in developing Asia (excluding China) is expected to increase by 5.9 percent in 2018 and 6.8 percent in 2019.
In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries of the Middle East, reforms and a stronger oil market have led to an upward momentum in steel demand, but at a slow pace.
Steel demand in Turkey (the world’s largest ferrous scrap import market) is expected to contract in 2018 with the currency crisis it has faced, but the government’s stabilization measures and a consequent return to the competitiveness of the manufacturing sector is expected to help recovery in 2019, predicts Worldsteel.
Steel demand in the Latin American economies is continuing its second year of recovery backed by positive developments in the domestic and the global economy. Steel demand in Brazil continued its stable recovery in 2018. “This will continue into 2019 as election fever subsides,” according to the Worldsteel forecast. Steel demand in Mexico has suffered from uncertainties related to the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) negotiations and the election, but the recent signing of USMCA (U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement) and the new president calming jittery markets are expected to help the economy to recover slowly in 2019, predicts the association.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Chinese scientists have turned copper into a material that's 'almost identical' to gold


Chinese scientists have turned copper into a material that is "almost identical" to gold, a new study says.
  • The new material will reduce the use of rare, expensive metals in factories, the authors say.
A team of Chinese researchers has turned cheap copper into a new material "almost identical" to gold, according to a study published on Saturday in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances.
The discovery could significantly reduce the use of rare, expensive metals in factories, the authors said.
Professor Sun Jian and his colleagues at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Liaoning, shot a copper target with a jet of hot, electrically charged argon gas.
The fast-moving ionised particles blasted copper atoms off the target. The atoms cooled down and condensed on the surface of a collecting device, producing a thin layer of sand. 
Each grain of the sand had a diameter of only a few nanometres, or a thousandth of the size of a bacterium.
The researchers put the material in a reaction chamber and used it as a catalyst to turn coal to alcohol, a sophisticated and difficult chemical process that only precious metals can handle efficiently.
"The copper nano particles achieved catalytic performance extremely similar to that of gold or silver," Sun and collaborators said in a statement posted on the academy's website on Saturday.
"The results … proved that after processing, metal copper can transform from 'chicken' to 'phoenix,'" said Sun, who was not immediately available for comment.
Copper has a similar weight and look to gold. For centuries it has attracted alchemists who saw it as a gateway to instant riches. 
The new material created by Sun's lab cannot be used to make fake gold pennies. Its density remains the same as ordinary copper.
But the process could prove lucrative and provide a significant boost for Chinese industries, according to the researchers.
Precious metals remain central to modern economies. The components of electronic devices, for instance, contain a large amount of gold, silver, and platinum.
About 40 smartphones can contain as much gold as a ton of ore, it has been estimated.
Copper cannot function as well as gold in industrial applications, mainly because there are fewer electrons — subatomic particles with negative charge — buzzing around its nucleus. 
These electrons are also relatively unstable, so copper tends to react more easily when combining with other chemicals.
The method developed by Sun's team can inject a large amount of energy into copper atoms and made the electrons more dense and stable, they said.
The new material can resist high temperatures, oxidisation, and erosion, according to the researchers.
It is "like a warrior with golden armour in a battlefield, capable of withstanding any enemy assault," they said.

Sunday, 23 December 2018