NEW YORK The U.S. continued its reign as the worlds largest exporter of ferrous scrap last year despite a drop in volumes shipped overseas.
A quarterly report released this week by the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) showed that U.S. exporters shipped nearly 21.4 million tonnes of ferrous scrap in 2012, or about 2 million tonnes more than the cumulative total exported by the 27 European Union countries.
U.S. exports dropped 12.2 percent from 24.37 million tonnes in 2011 as shipments to China tumbled 54 percent to 1.95 million tonnes from 4.23 million tonnes in the same comparison and domestic scrap usage increased 9.4 percent to 61.7 million tonnes.
Turkey remained the largest importer of U.S. ferrous scrap, increasing its 2012 intake 13.8 percent to nearly 6.4 million tonnes, while Turkeys overall imports from all regions climbed 4.5 percent to 22.42 million tonnes from 21.46 tonnes in 2011.
Global ferrous scrap exports totaled 106.6 million tonnes last year, down 1.9 percent from 2011.
"The only major positives last year concerned steel scrap use in the U.S. and Turkey," said Rolf Willeke, statistics advisor for BIRs ferrous division. "It is noticeable ... that the increase in U.S. steel scrap use (of 9.4 percent) was far greater than the growth in domestic crude steel production (of 2.7 percent). The upturn in Turkish steel scrap consumption was around 5.1 percent for a total of 32.4 million tonnes, but the increase in the countrys crude steel production was slightly higher (at 5.2 percent)."
South Korea and India also recorded increased ferrous scrap usage in 2012. Indias ferrous scrap imports jumped 32.4 percent to 8.18 million tonnes as steel production rose 4.3 percent to 76.7 million tonnes, while Korean ferrous scrap imports increased 17.4 percent to 10.13 million tonnes as steel output inched up 0.8 percent to 69.1 million tonnes.
China slashed its ferrous scrap imports by 26.5 percent last year to 4.97 million tonnes, Taiwanese imports were down 7 percent to 4.96 million tonnes and U.S. scrap imports fell 7.2 percent to 3.71 million tonnes.
"One of the main reasons global steel scrap use failed to follow the increase in world steel output was the situation in China. As the worlds biggest steel producer, China is attracting particular attention regarding its scrap usage; its steel industry sharply reduced its consumption of scrap last yearby 12.3 percent to 79.8 million tonnesdespite the fact that the countrys crude steel production was in positive territory (up 3.7 percent compared with 2011)," Willeke said.
"For a number of months last year, iron ore was cheaper and so the cost of blast furnace iron was lower than that of steel scrap for many Chinese steelmakers. This analysis is supported by the fact that global pig iron production increased by 6.8 percent to 1.11 billion tonnes last year," he said.
Editor's note: This story was updated May 1, 2013, to correct a misstated European scrap export figure.