Total production of stainless steel in 2019 is estimated to hit 55 million tonnes, as the overall market for these metals continues to grow around 5% per annum. With a production yield of c. 86%, this equates to just over 46MT of traded products (semis and finished products) in the global marketplace.
The largest part of this is produced as flat products, accounting for 39MT or 84% of the total. This is hardly surprising given the wide range of applications for sheet, in both domestic and industrial applications such as cutlery and utensils, appliances, automotive exhausts, sinks and welded tubes. China dominates both the production and consumption of stainless steel flat products, which are increasingly commoditised. A number of emerging producers are able to claim cost leadership, based upon captive power generation, domestic supply of nickel-bearing ores plus innovative process configuration that results in significant cost savings.
Long products make up a smaller part of overall production, accounting for 7MT or 16% of the total, predominantly as peeled or bright bars, with only smaller amounts as a profiled bar, wire and seamless tubes. Chinese and Asian producers still dominate, although a number of European producers retain their place within the ‘Top 20’ by volume (Sandvik, Cogne, Outokumpu, Valbruna, Acerinox, Schmolz & Bickenbach). Langley Alloys is the distribution partner of Sandvik for their duplex and super duplex stainless steels in the UK and North America.
As with flat products, the market is dominated by relatively standard grades from the 3xx and 4xx series. Duplex, super duplex and super austenitic grades make up only 5% of the overall total global production, with just over half of this being duplex stainless steel. Therefore, the total market for higher-performance stainless steels grades can be estimated at c. 350kT per annum, or perhaps closer to 100kT for super duplex stainless steels. In this context, Langley Alloys can lay claim to being a significant distributor of these specialist grades on the global market.
Looking at the overall market prospects for the coming year, consumer goods and catering equipment (almost exclusively flat products) is projected to remain flat, with strong falls in Europe balanced by modest growth in emerging markets. The automotive market is generally negative, impacted by the rise in electric vehicles which removes the main applications of stainless steels in automotive, namely exhausts, fuel tanks and fuel inlet tubing. Infrastructure is the one market segment projected to increase, albeit from a lower level, as stainless steel continues to find favour in both architectural (flat products) and structural (flat products and long products). The more industrial markets, associated with heavy engineering, chemical, petrochemical and energy production, are projected to remain stable.
With the applications for super duplex stainless steels being broadly spread in terms of geography and final application, specialist distributors such as Langley Alloys are well-placed to service this requirement. From our warehouses in the UK, Portland and Houston in the USA, plus Singapore, we hold stock close to customers in the main consuming markets. However, when discussing stock it is important to consider the range of sizes and amount available in each size ex-stock. As we focus particularly on these grades, we carry stock from ½” (12.7mm) to 16” (406.4mm) diameter, with typically several tonnes of each size being available in each of the following:
In addition, we also stock the following super austenitic stainless steels:
Credit – The numbers presented are sourced from SMR GmbH who were a headline presenter at Stainless Steel World 2019 – Maastricht, 25th-27th November.