Roskill: Japan’s steel restructuring: Just the beginning…

Nippon Steel’s plan to suspend blast furnace operations at its Ibaraki Prefecture plant, near Tokyo, is the latest example of the group’s efforts to deal with overcapacity in Japan. With an earlier decision to halt three other blast furnaces, the steelmaker will cut its domestic capacity by 20%.

London, UNITED KINGDOM


London: UK, Feb. 24, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Nippon Steel’s announcement is the latest example of the challenges faced by the steel industry in developed economies: overcapacity and environmental regulations. The Japanese steel industry has a total capacity of 130Mtpy. In 2019, Japan’s crude steel production was 99Mt falling to 83Mt in 2020, implying a 64% capacity utilisation. Nippon Steel is Japan’s largest producer accounting for more than 50% of the country’s crude steel output. Like its peers in Europe, the Japanese steel industry is facing overcapacity with dire prospects. Domestic demand is on a downward trend, in line with a falling demography, making the Japanese steel industry highly dependent on exports. Roskill’s new Steel Alloys 1st Edition report discusses key aspects impacting the Steel Alloys industry together with a 10-year forecast for steel and its alloys.

The EU and the US are net steel importers, but Japan is the world’s second largest steel exporter after China. Japan is even more reliant on exports than China with a net export ratio of 25% versus 5% for China. And the outlook for Japanese steel exports does not look good. China is increasingly gaining market share in Southeast Asia, the region’s battleground. The steel quality gap between Japanese and Chinese material has narrowed, and one should not forget Korea, another strong regional player. Moreover, additional steel capacity is being built in Southeast Asia, implying a fiercer competitive environment in the years ahead.

As is the case in the EU, the Japanese government aims at cutting carbon emissions and targets net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The Japanese steel industry will increasingly have to rely on technology (hydrogen/DRI) to comply with future regulations. A task even more difficult for Japan as 75% of its steel production comes from the BOF route. Roskill’s upcoming Steel Alloys in the 2020s webinar will discuss the latest trends and insights on steel and its alloys, as well as share novel analysis on sustainability in the steel supply chain.

With these headwinds in mind, there is no doubt that the Japanese steel industry is poised for a major downsizing in the years to come. What we are seeing now is just the beginning.

 

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