EU takes aim at Turkish steel sector

Further EU caps on steel could force some Turkish mills to close. (Shutterstock)
Updated 18 January 2019
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EU takes aim at Turkish steel sector

  • The Commission said it will extend and beef up its existing ‘safeguard’ steel import caps until July 2021
  • For Turkey’s vast steel sector, the fourth largest contributor to the country’s economy, the caps could prove particularly painful

LONDON: The European Commission’s move to extend its steel import restrictions threatens to force Turkish mills, already buckling under the weight of US tariffs, to cut production further or in some cases close down, sources said.
The Commission said on Wednesday it will extend and beef up its existing “safeguard” steel import caps until July 2021 to counter concerns that European Union markets are being flooded with steel no longer being exported to the US.
For Turkey’s vast steel sector, the fourth largest contributor to the country’s economy, the caps could prove particularly painful as the EU has given it additional “country-specific” quotas.
Under the safeguards, Turkey has a tariff-free quota for rebar, a construction steel that makes up most of its steel exports, of around 300,000 tons for the first nine months of the respective quota periods, down 60 percent from its 2018 exports.
Country-specific restrictions do not apply in the last three months of the quota periods and Turkey could make up some sales then, but its annual export levels will still be sharply lower.
“Our export markets have disappeared, the local market hardly exists, we’ve got lots of capacity and no market,” said a London-based Turkish steel trader.
He added that hopes the US would soon cut its 50 percent tariff on Turkish steel imports were also fading given it is demanding that in return, Ankara hold fire on Kurdish forces in Syria, something Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan cannot do ahead of local elections.

 

 Major Turkish mills such as Cebitas and Ekinciler said they had, before the EU announcement, already slashed output while Koc Metalurji said it had stopped output for about a month.
Erdemir, Turkey’s largest producer, said it was producing as normal.
Investment bank Jefferies estimates EU caps on rebar from all countries combined should reduce its total rebar imports by at least 28 percent a year, adding that producers such as ArcelorMittal and CMC should benefit most from EU caps on long products like rebar.
“(EU) quotas for (Turkish) rebar are extremely low and will be exceeded in the first one or two months. Local demand is also extremely poor,” said Turkish Steel Exporters’ Association (CIB) head Adnan Aslan.
The CIB estimated late last year, before the latest EU move, that Turkey’s steel production, consumption and exports would fall 30 percent this year.
Wednesday’s beefed-up EU safeguards come after the US placed tariffs of 25 percent on
imported steel early last year, while singling out Turkey later in the year with tariffs of 50 percent due to political tensions with
Ankara.
The US had been Turkey’s largest steel export destination in 2017, but the country’s steel flows to the EU ballooned 80 percent last year, according to Jefferies, making the EU Turkey’s the largest steel export destination.
“Traditional export destinations (for Turkish mills) are closing one after the other. Most probably, the (EU) quotas will be filled immediately, so EU producers will have a relatively good year,” the International Rebar Producers and Exports Association said in a note.

FASTFACTS

The US had been Turkey’s largest steel export destination in 2017, but the country’s steel flows to the EU ballooned 80 percent last year.


‘Fuel of the future’ comes of age as Aramco opens first hydrogen filling station

Updated 17 June 2019
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‘Fuel of the future’ comes of age as Aramco opens first hydrogen filling station

  • Fatih Birol’s comments were a deliberate poke at those experts who think that the sheer logistics of hydrogen make it always an unlikely solution to global energy challenges
  • Birol’s article was followed by a report from the IEA that put some meat on the bones of the argument that hydrogen is key to solving problems such as global warming

DUBAI: Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, cracked a joke in the Financial Times a couple of weeks ago.
“Hydrogen is the fuel of the future, and it always will be,” he wrote about the fuel that many experts agree could hold the key to the world’s energy problems.
It was a deliberate poke at those experts who think that the sheer logistics of hydrogen — generation, storage, and transportation — make it always an unlikely solution to global energy challenges.
Birol’s article was followed by a report from the IEA that put some meat on the bones of the argument that hydrogen is key to solving such problems as global warming and environmental degradation.
“The world has an important opportunity to tap into hydrogen’s vast potential to become a critical part of a more sustainable and secure energy future … The world should not miss this unique chance to make hydrogen an important part of our clean and secure energy future,” the report said.
That argument will get a critical boost today, when Saudi Aramco, the biggest oil company in the world, opens its first hydrogen fueling station in Dhahran Techno Valley, in the heart of the Kingdom’s oil producing region.
Aramco has partnered with Air Products, a US company that has been a pioneer in the use of industrial gases, to produce a filling station for hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

 

It is very much a test. “The collected data during this pilot phase of the project will provide valuable information for the assessment of future applications of this emerging transport technology in the local environment,” Aramco said when the project was first announced.
But it is something Aramco has been investigating for a long time. Ahmed Al-Khowaiter, Aramco’s chef technology officer, said: “The use of hydrogen derived from oil or gas to power fuel cell electric vehicles represents an exciting opportunity to expand the use of oil in clean transport.”
Hydrogen — essentially what is left when you take the oxygen out of water — has been recognized as a potential fuel source for many decades. Motor manufacturers developed a hydrogen motor engine 50 years ago, but the ease and accessibility of hydrocarbon fuels — oil, gas and coal — made it uneconomic to develop this technology beyond the prototype stage.
Now, as the debate over the role of hydrocarbons in the global environmental balance has become ever more intense, some experts, including Birol and other influential parts of the thought-leadership establishment, believe hydrogen is the next Big Thing in global energy trends.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) said recently that “green” hydrogen offers a solution to the world energy challenge, and that is the problem the theoreticians are struggling with: Hydrogen is released naturally in the process of burning hydrocarbons, but it is self-defeating, in an environmental sense. if you have to burn oil, gas or coal to produce it.
On the other hand, renewable sources, like sun, wind and water, do not produce enough hydrogen to be practically or commercially viable, and not at the right times, when people actually need it.
But, as the WEF noted recently “low-cost green hydrogen is coming”, as technology advances mean the cost of renewable energy falls dramatically each year. The Middle East already has a very big and very cost-efficient program for solar energy generation.
The other challenges lay in how to store and transport hydrogen. It can be loaded onto a tanker like LNG, or pushed through pipelines, but it would require a huge investment to change current logistics systems — essentially designed for oil and LNG — to handle hydrogen.
Many countries, including Saudi Arabia, already have the infrastructure associated with oil and gas refining and petrochemicals production to be able to equip “hydrogen hubs,” as long as there is government will and commercial incentive to do so.
For the Kingdom, it looks like a no-brainer for the future. As Birol said: “So, hydrogen offers tantalising promises of cleaner industry and emissions-free power. Turning it into energy produces only water, not greenhouse gases. It’s also the most abundant element in the universe. What’s not to like?”

FACTOID

Technological advances mean low-cost ‘green’ hydrogen offers a solution to the world energy challenge, according to the World Economic Forum.