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Stainless Steel Industry :
Global Scenario And Indian Prospects

Sanjay Sengupta

Introduction – Stainless steel is a value-added product that does not deteriorate during its life time. It is highly corrosion resistant and has robust tensile strength with excellent fatigue properties. It is economical in the long run though the initial cost is high. It has ease of fabrication property. Stainless steel is cent percent recyclable and environment friendly. It is material of choice for hygenic conditions.

Global Scenario – In the first year of its invention in 1913 stainless steel found its initial application in cutlery. Gradually, it was used for the food processing sector and subsequently in textile, chemical and other engineering industries. Its application in the Architecture, Building and Construction (ABC) and Automobile, Railways and Transportation (ART) sectors have worked wonders.

World Production – In 1913, production of stainless steel in the world was only a few tons. It reached 0.6 Mt in 1938 and increased to about 2.5Mt in 1963. It crossed the 10Mt mark in 1986. The global stainless steel production figures between 1995 and 2001 are presented in table : 1

Table : 1 – World Production Stainless Steel (‘ 000 tonnes)

Trends In Global Prices of Various Items of Stainless Steel

Global prices of Stainless Steel products in January 01, January 02, and January 03 are furnished in Table : 2

Table : 2 – Prices of Stainless Steel Products In Global Market (US $ per tonne)

Salient Features of Selected Countries

(a) China – China is presently the world’s largest consumer of stainless steel. It consumed 2.25 Mt in 2001. China’s production declined to 220,0000 tonnes in 1998 from 33,80000 tonnes in 1995 and 343,0000 tonnes in 1996. However, due to special thrust by the Chinese government, the production rose to 750,000 tonnes in 2001. According to Wang Keqiam, DGM, Taiyum Stainless Steel Co., China’s steel production capacity will jump by 238 percent in 2010 to 2.1 Mtpy from the 2002 level.

The Chinese government has adopted safeguard measures to restrict imports. The annual tariff free Quota for stainless cold rolled coils up to May 2003 would be about 600,000 tonnes. This will be expanded to 650,000 tonnes over the following 12 months and increased by an additional 65,000 tonnes up to 2005.

(b) Japan – Japan’s production of Stainless Steel in 2001 was 3.82 Mt and an estimated 3.78 Mt in 2002. In 2003, it is expected to be 3.75 Mt. The Japanese producers have gone for restructuring the industry. Nippon Steel is in the forefront of the restructuring programme. They have entered into Strategic alliances with two other companies – Sumitomo Metal Industries and Nissin Steel. The arrangements will lead to a decline in Japan’s Stainless capacity to 3.6 Mtpy from 4.0 Mtpy - a reduction of 10 percent. From July 2001, the Japanese producers have curtailed the domestic shipment of

Stainless Steel by 20 percent or more to prevent the domestic prices falling.

(c) The USA – Production of Stainless Steel in the US declined to 1.8 MT in 2001 and then grew by 23.9 percent to 2.23 Mt in 2002. The forecast for 2003 is 2.45 Mt despite dismal prospects of domestic consumption. Imports to the US will be lower and its exports to China will decline substantially.

(d) South Korea – The country produced 1.55 Mt of Stainless Steel in 2001 and about 1.58 Mt in 2002. In 2003, the production is expected to reach 1.6 Mt. Korea’s demand for hot rolled Stainless Steel in 1999 was 1.31 Mt. It reached 1.68 Mt in 2002 and is expected to reach 1.76 Mt in 2005. POSCO is meeting about 86 percent of Korea’s hot rolled stainless steel demand. Its production capacity is expected to reach 1.66 Mtpy after the completion of its expansion project now being implement at a cost of US $518 million. POSCO will also expand its No. 1 H S Mill at Pohang to handle more stainless steel coils. The project is scheduled for completion by September, 2003.

(e) Taiwan (ROC) – Taiwan’s stainless steel production in 2001 was about 1.23 Mt. In 2002, it increased by 15 percent to reach 1.41 Mt. The expected production in 2003 is about 1.40 Mt. The country’s exports to China will decline sharply due to the safeguards measures adopted by that country.

(f) Europe – In 2002, there was a consolidation of stainless steel industry in Europe Acerinox of Spain made a major acquisition of 64 percent stake in Columbus Stainless of South Africa. The deal made Acerinox the world’s third largest producer with a melt shop capacity of 2.5 Mtpy. It has planned to increase the slab capacity at Columbus by 200,000 tonnes to 750,000 tpy. Acerinox has also opened a new melt shop at its North American Stainless plant. The major expansion of 2002 was evident in Avesta Polarit of Finland commissioning its new melting, casting and rolling capacity at its Tarnio plant that took potential output from 1 Mtpy to 1.70 Mtpy. Avesta also brought on stream a new Euro 22 million billet caster at its Sheffield Plant in the UK.

Arcelor’s ALZ subsidiary brought on stream an expanded meltshop at its Ghent Plant in Belgium.

Finland’s Outokumpu acquired Cory’s Stake in Avesta Polarit and then moved to take full control of the Swedish producer.

The stainless steel production in the E U countries in 2001 was 7.69 Mt. It increased to 7.92 Mt in 2002 but is expected to go down to 7.85 Mt in 2003.

Some Major Application of Stainless Steel In ABC Sector In the World

Some of the major applications of stainless steel are briefly mentioned below :

1) Stainless steel was first used in 1930 for cladding the top portion of the crysler Building in New York. Even after 72 years stainless steel cladded portion remains in good condition.

2) The entrance canopies to Bilbao Metro Railway station in Spain are made from 316L grade curved hollow section stainless steel frames. Its escalators are suspended by stainless steel hangers and braced against the sides of the tunnel with stainless steel struts.

3) Facades at the School of Occupational and Physiotherapy in South Hamton, UK used engineering bricks on exposed stainless steel channels. About 40 tonnes of 316L grade stainless steel was used in cladding support.

4) The road slab across a section of Cradle well by pass project in New castle, UK was strengthened by 240 tonnes of 316L stainless steel.

5) Type 304 stainless steel was used in Sanfransico’s main public library. Pan formed panels, decorative columns and pilasters etc. were all made from stainless steel.

6) Stainless steel supplied by India’s Salem Steel Plant was used for the retractable roof of the Melbourne Tennis Stadium in Australia.

7) About 400 tonnes of Salem Stainless steel was used in the world’s tallest twin towers, the PETRONAS TOWERS in Kaula Lumpur , Malaysia.

8) The roof the Washington National Airport in the USA is covered with about 0.5m sq. ft. of grade 316 stainless steel. Special care was taken to give it a non-reflective, anti-glare finish. Considerable use of stainless steel was also used for components including phone enclosures, the floor base and ticket counters inside the building .

The Indian Scenario

Production of Stainless steel in India started in the late sixties. Production gradually increased to 24,000 tonnes in the mid seventies. Towards the end of the eighties, the government changed its policies allowing production of all types of steel in the Secondary Sector. New capacities were created and in 1980-81, India’s production of stainless steel reached 66,000 tonnes. The growth of production of stainless steel in India for some selected years since 1980-81 are furnished below :

During the eighties, AOD/VOD processes were introduced by some EAF units which started the use of High Carbon Ferro Chrome for the first time in India that brought down the cost of production of stainless steel. Small Induction Furnace (IF) units also started melting stainless steel scrap for recycling into usable steel.

At present there are about 19 producers of stainless steel in India with EAF/IF melting and AOD/VOD facilities having an annual capacity ranging from 10,000 to 400,000 tpy each. These units contribute about 80 percent of the country’s production. Besides, these about 17 IF units which melt stainless steel scrap and produce pencil ingots without any refining facilities. Their average per unit production ranges from 5,000 to 8,000 tonnes and they contribute about 20 percent of India’s Stainless Steel production.

Towards the end of eighties two major developments took place in the Indian Stainless Steel Scenario. These were:

(a) The price of Nickel increased to high levels in 1988. India is importing almost its total nickel requirement. To counter this situation, the Indian steel technologists developed low nickel high manganese austenitic stainless steel in the 200 series. India is now the highest producer of this grade in the world for individual application areas to get higher yield and low cost downstream processing. In the last decade there has been a standardisation of this grade.

(b) the Indian Stainless Steel Development Association (ISSDA) was founded in 1989 by seven major Stainless steel producers in the country with the object of diversifying and increasing the use of stainless steel in India. In 1990-91, the share of catering equipment in India’s total consumption of stainless steel was as high as 90 percent and that of industrial usage was only 10 percent. But due to the concerted efforts of ISSDA in collaboration with the Nickel Development Institute, the consumption by the catering sector came down to 75 percent in 2000-01.

Exports

India exported about 170,000 tonnes of stainless steel production in 2000-01. Of these, low nickel high manganese grade HR and CR products were 20,000 tonnes. In the 300 series, HR and CR products were about 20,000 tonnes, CF Bars 33,600 tonnes, wire and cables about 12,000 tonnes. The export of 400 series was 9,800 tonnes of which CF Bars were 7,200 tonnes and wire and coils about 2,400 tonnes.

The export of utensils and kitchenware during 2000-01 was about 50,000 tonnes. The value of utensile export by India in 2000-01 was about US $ 17 million to Middle-East. The USA, Africa, Latin America, Far East and Japan.

Sectorwise Consumption

The sectorwise consumption of stainless steel in the Western World and India are furnished in table : 3

Table : 3 – Sectorwise Consumption of Stainless Steel (%)

Major Producers of Stainless Steel In India

(a) Jindal Strips Ltd. (JSL) – JSL is a ISO 9002 and ISO 14001 certified company. It is the flaghip company of the US $ 1.5 billion Jindal organisation. JSL is the largest integrated manufacturer of stainless steel in India having a market share of over 40 percent. At Hisar, JSL has India’s only composite stainless steel plant for manufacture of flat products, with a stainless steel melting capacity of 400,000 tpy and a matching hot rolling production capacity of 400,000 tpy. The plant can roll CR Coils of thickness as low as 0.10 mm. The plant has a cold rolling capacity of 100,000 tonnes per year, inclusive of 10,000 tpy of blade steel.

Its products are discussed below :

* Precision Tubes – Stainless Steel precision strips in various grades are produces in JSL’s narrow 20 Hi mills (max width : 500 mm) in the precision cold rolling unit.

* Blade Steel – JSL is the exclusive producer of stainless steel strips for making razor and surgical blades with a capacity of 10,000 tpy.

* Coin Blanks- The coin blank line recently established at Hisar has capacity of 3,000 tpy.

During 2001-02, JSL exported about 83,330 tonnes of stainless steel products valued at US $ 86 million. The company is hopeful of crossing the export value of US $ 120 million in 2002-03.

(b) Salem Steel Plant (SSP) under SAIL is a premier producer of stainless steel in India. Commissioned in 1981, the plant has a capacity to roll 186,000 tpy of HR Carbon and stainless steel flat products and 70,000 tpy of cold rolled stainless sheets and coils. As a part of product diversification, a state of the art blanking line was installed which has indigenised the stainless blanking process in India. A most modern HR Mill was installed in 1995 of 186,000 tpy capacity. This reverse integration helped in meeting the requirement of its cold rolling mill.

S. S. P. is a ISO 9002 and ISO 14001 certified plant. It can cold roll value added 0.13 mm thick CR stainless steel. Its products ‘Salem Stainless’ is a household name in the domestic market and widely exported. It services the requirements of 100 per cent EOUs and free trade zones in India. Its blanking line can produce 3,000 tonnes of ferritic grade coin blanks or 3,600 tonnes of utility blank per year. S. S. P. has developed new applications of its products like stainless steel ceiling fans, exhaust fans, corrugated sheets, water tanks, architectural items, furniture etc.

Use of Salem Stainless in Australia’s tennis Stadium and the twin Petronas Tower in Malaysia has already been mentioned. In India about 65 tonnes of Salem Steel has been used in the Parliament Library in New Delhi of 304/304L grades. Salem Steel has also been used in Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad, at Priyadarshini park in Mumbai and at ‘Garuda’ TCP & Head Quarters in Gurgaon. About 70 tonnes of Salem Stainless will be used for the 10,000 sq. metre dome-shaped roof of the Kopar Khairane railway station at Navi Mumbai.

(c) Alloy Steel Plant (ASP) – Before 1988, Stainless Steel was being produced at ASP, Durgapur in EAF with oxygen lancing for decarburisation in both 50 tonne and 10 tonne are furnaces. A VOD secondary unit was commissioned in 1988 which improved productivity by about 67 per cent maintaining a low range of chemistry for cost reduction and optimum hot and cold rolling characteristics a significant saving in use of Le Fe Cr and clean steel.

In 1988, a slab-cum-twin bloom continuous caster, the only one of its kind in India, specially designed for casting Ausenitic and Ferritic stainless steel was installed at Asp.

ASP’s entire plant is ISO 9002 certified. SIL has developed ST 409 (modified) dual phase stainless steel at ASP for extending the life of coal wagons which are susceptable to wear and tear due to abrasive and corrosive action of coal. ASP has a capacity to produce 90,000 tpy of Stainless Steel. Its Slab are rolled at Salem Steel Plant.

New Generation Producers

(1) Viraj Group – The group produces alll types of Stainless Steel grades in Ausenitic, Ferritic, Martenistic and Duplex variety. It has a modern steel melting shop, C. C. machine and rolling mill. Its production capacity is 100,000 tpy. Viraj’s plant is equipped with two A.O.D. Converters, Ladle Refining Furnace with Calcium cored wire injection system. Its plant is ISO 9002 certified and the group’s turnover is about US $ 100 million.

(2) Shah Alloys Ltd. – The company is an integrated Stainless Steel producer, an ISO-9002 certified organisation and it is producing long and flat stainless steel products under one roof. It has installed Asia’s one of the biggest caster unit with a width of 1800 mm. Its production is carried out with induction furnace rout with AOD.

(3) ISIBARS Ltd. – ISIBARS, based in Mumbai, is a fully integrated producer of Stainless Steel having continuous casting and secondary refining facilities. It exports to more than 40 countries around the globe. It production is about 3,000 tonnes per month but conversion for ball bearing and others takes the production to 5,000 tonnes per month or 60,000 tpy.

Other Producers

(a) Mukand Ltd. – the company was the first in India to install VOD technology. Its plant is equipped walking-beamtype cooling bed, a fully automatic. Wire Rod Mill and C. C. machine. Mukand is an ISO-9002 certified company producing about 35,000 tpy Stainless Steel products to various AISI specifications in 300 and 400 series.

(b) Mahindra Ugine Steel Co. Ltd. (MUSCO) – It is one of the early producer of Stainless Steel in India. Its plant has secondary refining and C. C. facilities and it produces about 7000 tpy of Stainless Steel long products.

(c) Panchmahal Steel – Its plant has a two strand C. C. machine and a 40 tonne capacity ladle furnace. It is producing about 16,000 tpy of Stainless Steel products.

Some other companies like FACOR, VISL, Kalyani Steels etc. are also producing Stainless Steel.

ISSDA’s Efforts

ISSDA in collaboration with Nickel Development Institute is striving hard to increase the consumption of Stainless Steel in the country and diversify the application areas. It has given special thrust in the new application areas like ABC and ART. In the ABC sector, Stainless Steel use is increasing in big cities and is being used in column cladding, handrails lifts and window panels etc. In the ART sector, Stainless Steel coaches have been built by the Railway Coach Factory at Kapurthala. Recently, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has started running Stainless Steel coaches. Indian Railways are using more than 6,000 BOX-N type wagon for transporting coal.

ISSDA is trying to pursuade the auto makers to introduce the use of Stainless Steel auto gas tankers for automobiles. LPG is already being used as an alternative environment friendly fuel. The Bureau of Indian Standards has already included the 304L grade Stainless Steel for use by the Indian automobiles run on LPG gas. LPG gas cylinders made of Stainless Steel saves 50 percent of weight and are suitable for use in hilly places. In the ABC sector, the Stainless Steel industry is also trying hard to propagate the use of overhead water storage tanks.

In the coastal areas, the prospect of using Stainless Steel is getting momentum and its use in this area is expected to pick up in future.

The Future

India’s consumption of Stainless Steel is increasing gradually but the per capita consumption is still as low as 700 grams as compared to 14/15 kgs in the western world. ISSDA found a lack of awareness about its use and benefits, non-availibility of skilled fabricators, under developed production technology etc. as reasons for such low consumption.

The notion that Stainless Steel is a high cost material at the initial stage is changing gradually giving way to the life cycle cost analysis approach. ISSDA’s efforts to help increase the consumption of stainless steel in the country are already showing some positive results. The future of the Indian Stainless Steel industry is bright and favourable government policies will help its further growth.

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