The past, present and future of stainless steel – Lecture by Mr. Kubo, GM of Raw Material Department, NSSC
This year was a very tough year for the nickel market and the stainless steel market. Mr. Kubo, General Manager of Raw Material Department of NSSC gave a lecture on its future at the party held after the IRRSG 2015 5th regular meeting on December 10, 2015 reviewing this year’s stainless market.
Mr. Kubo explained the changes in the stainless steel industry for the 30 years between 1985 and 2015, projecting a clip from the movie of “Back to the Future Part II” on the screen as the movie portrayed the future world in 2015.
He said, “In 1985 which is also portrayed in the movie, there were only 7mn tons of stainless steel (production volume) in the world, but there are 40mn tons now. That means that the stainless steel has significantly grown as a material.”
And, about the current stainless steel prices including nickel and molybdenum prices, “There were a lot of things, but the prices of nickel, molybdenum and stainless steel have returned to the level of 2003.”
He explained about the nickel, showing the chart, “The nickel market terribly suffered this year. It has experienced more changes in demand and supply balance than expected for the past several years. And, now it’s facing a lack of demand.
But, Mr. Kubo commented to expect the future movement of China’s supply-side structural changes. “I would expect the structural change in China, but I’m expecting its effectiveness.”
Oversaturated stainless steel markets on a global basis
About the global future demand for stainless steel, he said, “It would be difficult that the China’s GDP per capita grows further. Looking at Asia, except Taiwan and Korea which are top stainless steel users in Asia, even India which has more population ranks much lower. In a current situation, the demand for nickel and stainless steel will not increase. To break this situation, we need to start new business.”
As an example, he showed a photo of 2 bridges in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.
One of the bridges uses stainless steel rebar. It was built between 1939 and 1941, but still active. The other one, which used common steel, is completely decayed. The decayed one was built in 1960s. The younger common-steel-made bridge is decayed and the older stainless-steel-made bridge is still working. Showing us the difference, he said that we will be able to find a way out of stainless steel here.
Application of stainless steel at Haneda Airport D runway
He introduced the use of stainless steel for the seawater contact face at Haneda Airport D runway as one of new application of the material. As it has been behind steel as the material for infrastructure, it was a good opportunity to appeal it.
Titanium was used for the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line Bridge. Stainless steel was used instead of titanium for Haneda Airport D runway. The durability is said to be 100 years.
Thus, Mr. Kubo emphasized that the stainless steel can make a new demand.
At the end of his lecture, he cited a passage described at the beginning of MIT's report on US manufacturing industry in 1989, “Nation’s prosperity depends on how excellent manufacturing capacity it has.”
（Edited By O.Sasaki）