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A Definitive Buying Steel Guide: An Overview of the Global Steel Industry & How to Buy Steel

steel production

China has become the largest steel and iron producers in the world. They have created more capacity in order to keep up with the rising demand for steel. Steel has become very popular and essential in many industries today. China not only produces steel for their country use, but is the largest exporter of steel to many other countries around the world. China’s share in steel production continues to rise each year, as well.

Table of Contents

A Definitive Buying Steel Guide: An Overview of the Global Steel Industry & How to Buy Steel

What is Steel?

Typical steel specifications

Advantages of Steel

Steel Industry

Countries that Have Steel

How important is the steel industry?

What is steel used for?

What industries use the most steel?

Which are the largest steel companies?

How is Steel Made

Steel mill

Is Steel Environmentally friendly?

Overview of Steel Products

Raw steel vs finished products of steel

Popular steel products

Steel Prices

Price of steel

Global Steel Market

Trading of Steel

Steel regulation

Regulations on buying steel

Safety regulations in the steel industry

China Steel Industry

How much steel is imported from China?

What factors caused China to expand the industrial production of iron and steel?

Quality of Chinese steel

How to Buy Steel from China

China steel production

Buy in bulk from China

Steel Transport: Importing from China

Top importers

The main exporters of steel are

Conclusion

What is Steel?

Iron core

Steel is made from iron ore. Iron ores are rock and minerals from which metallic iron can be extracted. Steel was first discovered and produced in India by using a method that bonds the right amount of carbon and iron.

Typical steel specifications

Specifications include steel properties such as hardness, toughness, tensile strength, yield strength, corrosion, and more.

  1. Specific heat of steel – the specific heat capacity of steel is 420 J/(kg C). This can be important in the production of steel.
  2. Specific weight of steel – the specific weight of steel is about 7.8 – 7.9 kg/dm3. It is important to know the weight of the steel product being purchased. This can ensure safety and support of the steel product in its structure.
  3. Specific gravity of steel – Steel has a specific gravity of 7850 kg/dm3.
  4. Strength of steel – Tensile strength refers to measurement of force required to break the material. Yield strength refers to the measurement of force required to start bending or deforming the material.

Advantages of Steel

  • Speed of Construction
  • Cost Savings
  • Attractive Design
  • High Strength and Durability
  • Sustainable
  • Effective and Reliable
  • Modifiable

Steel Industry

common steel structure

The steel industry is continuously growing worldwide. Steel has become a staple for many projects in almost every country.

Countries that Have Steel

Steel is used often for various reasons in different industries, therefore there are many countries around the world who produce steel. There are still countries, though, that may not have the capacity or a large enough capacity to produce their own steel or produce enough. Therefore, importing large quantities of steel is done frequently among those countries.

import large quantity steel

How important is the steel industry?

Steel production is becoming more important as more industries are using steel in various projects because of the benefits.

What is steel used for?

Since there are many advantages to using steel, it is a popular material to use for

  • Buildings
  • Houses
  • Tools
  • Automobiles
  • Trains
  • Ships
  • Machines
  • Appliances
  • Weapons

steel construction design

What industries use the most steel?

Steel used worldwide is distributed to different sectors:

Sector% of steel used worldwide
Building and Infrastructure52%
Mechanical equipment16%
Automotive12%
Metal products10%
Other transport5%
Electrical equipment3%
Domestic appliances2%

Which are the largest steel companies?

Top 10 largest global steel companies are:

  • ArcelorMittal (Luxembourg) – produced 96.5 million tons of steel produced in 2020. They are the leading company in steel and mining.

  • China Baowu Group (China) -produced 67.5 million tons in 2020. This company is the second largest and focuses efforts on environmentally friendly production.

  • Nippon Steel Corporation (Japan) - produced 49.3 million tons. This company is headed in Japan, but has company bases around the world, providing steel for both large and small projects.

  • HBIS Group (China) – produced 46.9 million tons. This group has become China’s largest steel supplier for home appliances, and bridges and construction. In addition, they are China’s second largest supplier for automotive.

  • Posco (South Korea) - produced 42.9 million tons. This is the first integrated steel mill in Korea.

  • Shagang Group (China) – produced 40.7 million tons. They make sure they are using advanced technologies and equipment to be most efficient.

  • Ansteel Group (China) – produced 37.4 million tons. They focus on adjustment, reform, innovation, and strength of their steel. They strive for using the best materials and “creating better life”.

  • JFE Steel Corporation (Japan) – produced 29.2 million tons. Their vision is to “[contribute] to society with the world’s most innovative technology”. They also value creating relationships with their clients.

  • Jianlong Group (China) – produced 27.9 million tons. This company is a privately owned steel manufacturing company.

  • Shougang Group (China) – produced 27.4 million tons. This is a Chinese state-owned steel company. It is one of the oldest steel manufacturing companies in China. They do more than work with steel, such as city infrastructure, conduct minerals, real estate, and finance.

How is Steel Made

Steel is typically made by either using a blast furnace or an electric arc furnace. The blast furnace uses coal, ground up into a powder. The coal is cooked and turned into “coke”. The coke is then used to melt the iron ore. The electric arc furnace is a newer process. This way uses an electrical current to melt scrap steel and produce molten steel.

Steel mill

steel rolling mill

Steel mills are an industrial plant for the purpose of manufacturing steel. There are various types of steel mills such as

  • Integrated steel mill
  • Specialty steel mill
  • Iron ore steel mill
  • Iron and steel scrap
  • Coke

Is Steel Environmentally friendly?

It is important to make sure that the environment is not negatively affected by production. At Camasteel, we strive to ensure that production follows all regulations for environmental safety. We strongly promote environmentally friendly steel production.

Steel is a recyclable product and there has been confirmation of waste reduction in steel construction. This is mainly because steel products are tailored to the fit of a specific structure during a job. Therefore, there will be little waste of steel products if done correctly.

electric arc furnace

However, having eco-friendly production also depends on the technology. Blast furnace can be very polluting by dissolving carbon into iron or steel. Some modern technology, though, such as Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) have reduced polluting. Using EAF reduces carbon foot printing and is becoming more and more popular in the production of steel. Many companies are seeking a “go green” route with all of their systems.

Overview of Steel Products

Raw steel vs finished products of steel

Raw steel is a product that is un-coated. This is more likely to rust. Finished products have coating on them for more protection and a cleaner look. Clear coat is a finish that still has the industrial look, but is protected by the coat that will last a very long time. Lastly, there is a zinc coat. This gives the steel a brighter and cleaner silver finish. This coating is sustainable for outdoor use.

Popular steel products

The most popular steel products being sold include

  • Structural Beams and Bars

I beam
  • Piping and Tubing

Seamless pipe

Hot rolled steel plate

Here at Camasteel, we are committed to helping our clients worldwide buy steel and hence are constantly updating relevant informative posts such as:

Steel Prices

Price of steel

Steel prices have fluctuated over the years, but because of inflation have ultimately been increasing. The price of steel can change day by day and more drastic changes can occur in this market if there are natural disasters or demand changes.

Global Steel Market

Pricing of scrap steel have fluctuated. In early 2021 prices were around:

  • Copper wire = $2.66/lb
  • #1 Copper tubing = $2.50/lb
  • #2 Copper tubing = $2.35/lb
  • Insulated copper wire = $0.70/lb
  • Steel BX = $0.21/lb
  • Brass = $1.41/lb
  • Brass shells = $1.24/lb
  • Stainless steel = $0.32/lb
  • Light iron = $110/ton
  • #1 Steel = $177/ton
  • Cast iron = $183/ton
  • Shreddable steel = $166/ton

Trading of Steel

Primary Financial Instruments for Trading Steel:

  1. Over the counter (OTC) – this involves a private contract between the trader and the client, but not in the same format of a standard contract. This offers traders an opportunity to use options and swap products in their trading. Since this is a private contract, it involves more risk than other contract options. An OTC can be made for an agreed upon grade or quantity of steel, but some other specifications may require a futures contract.
  2. Futures Contracts – steel can be traded on the Exchange. There is a contract that is a cash-settled contract. Each contract can account for a certain amount of steel in metric tons. The price of the contract is settled between the two parties based on the difference between the purchase price and the sales price.
  3. Steel ETFs – similar to the stock market, shares can be traded on exchanged for companies that produce steel.
  4. Contract for difference (CFD) – this allows speculation on prices of shares from steel producing companies. The value of a CFD is the difference between the price of the shares when purchased and current price. CFDs are also very risky.

Steel regulation

Regulations on buying steel

Most regulations are put in place when companies are importing their steel. Typically, an import license is required to import steel and an export license is required when exporting steel. The specifics may differ for each country.

Safety regulations in the steel industry

grinding balls tested

Before transporting the product, it is important that the steel is inspected and tested for quality assurance. There are different types of tests depending on the product. Products may be tested for

  • Hardness
  • Tension
  • Impact
  • Corrosion and wear resistance
  • Strength

China Steel Industry

China’s steel industry is growing more rapidly than most other countries and is now the largest contributor to the production of steel in the world. In the 1900s, the Chinese steel industry was very small. After the wars, China was behind compared to other countries productions. It wasn’t until the late 1900s that they had a rapid growth in their economy and their steel industry increased its output. It has continued to grow since.

steel bundle import

How much steel is imported from China?

China is the world’s largest steel exporter. They export to over 200 countries/territories. In the last year, China has exported over 62 million metric tons of steel products.

What factors caused China to expand the industrial production of iron and steel?

This industry first expanded because of the demand in agriculture for the use of tools, in addition to the demand for weapons, buildings, and bridges. As time passed, the demand for iron and steel grew and China created the capacity for more steel production.

Quality of Chinese steel

China is currently working hard to make sure all of the steel they produced is of high quality. It is important for these Chinese companies to focus both on quality and quantity, not just quantity and price competition. This may result in capacity limits for steel producing companies.

How to Buy Steel from China

China steel production

China’s annual steel production trend for 2020:

Buy in bulk from China

At Camasteel, we offer many steel products that can come in different shapes and sizes to fit the needs of the client project. We supply products that can be applied to many industries for different uses.

Steel Transport: Importing from China

steel import containers

Steel is typically transported by loading a truck using equipment that is safe for carrying heavy bundles of steel. It is secured properly before being shipped to its destination or a port to be shipped overseas for export.

The most common ways to ship steel are:

  • Rail
  • Truck
  • Ship

In different size bundles/containers such as:

TypeFor what product?
20 ft containersMost steel products, in bundles, can be shipped in this container
40 ft containersLarger quantity of most bundles of steel
Large polypropylene bagsGrinding media steel balls or other small steel products
200-liter drum barrelsGrinding media steel balls or other small steel products
Strapped bundlesWire coils need strapped so it doesn’t come apart during transport
Bulk ShippingAll products sold at Camasteel can be shipped in bulk overseas

There are restrictions on specific steel products that can be imported and exported depending on the country regulations. There also typically needs to be a certificate approval of imports and exports for companies. Lots of countries protect their country’s steel producers and so import restrictions tend to be strict.

Top importers

The main importers of steel are

  1. United States
  2. European Union
  3. Germany
  4. Italy
  5. Vietnam
  6. Thailand
  7. Indonesia

The main exporters of steel are

  1. China
  2. Japan
  3. Russia
  4. South Korea
  5. Germany
  6. Turkey
  7. Italy

Conclusion

There is no one size fits all on how to buy steel; it depends on the needs of the client and project at hand. Are you looking for steel and would like to buy from China?

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