Russia metal supply headaches, seaweed batteries, eye-watering steel prices
It’s interesting to see two tricky problems hitting the metals supply world particularly hard. Russia’s war on Ukraine is having unexpected consequences for steel and aluminium, and tough climate change goals are shaping the future of metals as well as the products made from them. Let’s dive in and see what’s affecting Metalex products the most.
The ongoing impact of Russia’s Ukraine war on metal supply
The UK has just sanctioned four Russian steel and petrochemical oligarchs who’ve been busy helping fund Putin’s war. Abramov and Frolo both have major stakes in the Russian steel maker Evraz, sanctioned for their involvement in Putin’s military machine. Shaimiev and Shigabutdinov are connected to the massive Russian petrochemical company AO TAIF. The four are the latest in a list of 120 oligarchs sanctioned by the UK, whose total global net worth exceeds over £140 billion.
At the same time UK defence experts reckon Putin’s forces have been losing at least a battalion’s worth of armoured vehicles every day, leaving Russian troops stuck with ageing infantry combat vehicles the soldiers themselves are calling ‘aluminium cans’.
Meanwhile the US-based aluminium giant Alcoa has, so far, sent three letters to the London Metal Exchange asking for a boycott on Russian metals plus better disclosure around how much Russian metal is currently in the LME system. Alcoa is worried about large amounts of Russian aluminium distorting the exchange’s aluminium contract because it’ll reflect the price of metal that isn’t actually wanted. So far Russia has swerved official sanctions on its aluminium, copper, and nickel, but despite this some Western companies have stopped accepting Russian metal altogether.
Steel is construction’s most expensive resource
As reported by Construction News, steel prices have shot up so much this year it’s starting to have an effect on even the biggest construction companies. Aluminium prices, which had been relatively stable at around £350 a tonne, suddenly started hitting £700 or more, enough of a hike to scare the HS2 project’s chief executive into warning MPs earlier this year about unsustainable inflation.
In early October, British Steel’s Chinese owner Jingye asked the government for £500m to keep its Lincolnshire furnaces burning, having increased the price of their structural steel by £150 per tonne thanks to spiralling energy costs following an earlier £100 per tonne increase earlier in 2022. A wildly fluctuating pound, following the government’s disastrous ‘mini-budget’ and dramatic changes of leadership, is not helping. And steel supply prices are still rising thanks to delayed energy-price inflation. As a result of all this, and a poor economic outlook, the traded price of iron ore has plummeted by almost 25% since June.
Iron, steel and aluminium net carbon cut pledge
The European Union has pledged to cut net carbon emissions 55% by 2030, following its new ‘Fit for 55 in 2030’ launch in June. Changes to the Emissions Trading System plus a new levy on imports under the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism mean there’s now a ‘ carbon price’ on imports of high-carbon goods from outside the EU, including iron, steel and aluminium.
Seaweed batteries could mean we don’t have to mine lithium any more
One day, a new battery with components harvested from seaweed could save us from having to mine the world’s ever-decreasing supplies of rare metals like lithium. Most batteries in smartphones, electric cars and laptops rely on lithium, usually mined by people in very bad conditions using environment-trashing methods. There’s already a lithium shortage, and it’s going to get worse. Using seaweed-derived crystals will also deliver better storage capacity and also make batteries more efficient, which boosts their life. The new battery design apparently ‘continued to work well even after 1000 charging cycles’.
We keep supplying metals despite the madness
It’s crazy out there, and getting crazier by the day. But we still supply metals at fair prices to our customers, along with all the expert advice you need. Get in touch to talk through your requirements for 2014 aluminium plate, round bar and square bar, 7075 aluminum round bar, brass hexagon bar en12165 or anything else you happen to need from your trusted UK metal suppliers.
THE LATEST FROM THE BLOG