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W. Coast plate continues to strengthen

Keywords: Tags  steel, steel plate, West Coast, Evraz North America, energy, South Korea, Japan, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — Domestic plate prices as well as demand continue to rise on the West Coast, paced by an energy market that appears to be going from strength to strength.

"We’re seeing a combination of oil and gas drilling and energy-based demand that’s unprecedented," a fabricator source said, noting that demand is "broad-based" and not concentrated in any specific corner of the energy market.

"There are a lot of jobs out there," a distributor source said, citing what looks to be a recent surge in plate demand, although some sectors such as bridge construction appear relatively quiet.

"It looks like it’s going to get even busier," another fabricator source said, noting that mill deliveries have stretched to 14 weeks from eight to 10 weeks at the beginning of the year.

One end-user said that his most recent price for domestic steel was up at least $80 per ton over the first quarter, and looks to be $120 per ton higher for deliveries in October and November vs. February and March.

Even the market for water tanks, which has been dormant during much of the economic recession, shows signs of picking up, although it is unclear so far whether the increased interest is due to a pickup in residential construction—which normally pushes water tank demand—or to work associated with oil and gas drilling.

West Coast buyers are said to be looking at delivered prices of at least $47 per hundredweight on warehouse grades and sizes for material to be delivered as far out as November following the latest round of $30-per-ton ($1.50-per-cwt) increases by plate producers east of the Rockies (, June 11).

A significant portion of plate purchasing is on a domestic-melt basis, with demand for pressure-vessel-quality grades strong.

The West Coast’s only significant producer of discrete plate is Chicago-based Evraz Inc. North America’s plant in Portland, Ore., which is believed to roll most of its production from imported slab.

Conditions in the distributor resale market, where imports play a greater role, are considerably more competitive. South Korean plate for delivery in late October or November is reported at $800 to $820 per ton ($40 to $41 per cwt) for medium to large service centers, depending on the size of the buyer and the local market, up an estimated $10 to $20 per ton over previous quotes.

Japanese plate has been selling to certain customers for a reported $20 to $30 per ton ($1 to $1.50 per cwt) below that of the Korean product, especially to end-users, which are the preferred customers for that country’s mills, according to market sources.

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