The International Stainless Steel Forum (ISSF) expects that stainless crude steel production in 2007 will be higher than the record-level of production in 2006, mostly driven by recovery from 2005 and some restocking. High raw material prices, especially for nickel, encourage ISSF to promote ferritic grades as an economic and effective solution for the main applications of stainless steel.

The forecast was released during ISSF’s annual conference in Kyoto, Japan.

ISSF expects that global stainless crude steel production will reach 29.8 million metric tons (mmt) in 2007. This represents a rise of 5.1% over 2006 production, in line with the long-term average. The comparative slowdown takes into account the very high level of supply that occurred in many countries during 2006, which caused a significant build-up of stainless steel stock at service centers and fabricators.

Actual global stainless steel production in 2006 increased by 16.7% to 28.4 mmt compared to 2005. This more than compensated for the downturn in production during 2005 (-1.1%).

In North America, stainless selling prices were forecast to rise again in June as alloy surcharges for both nickel and chrome continued to climb, according to the British metals tracking firm MEPS. Basis price erosion was expected to compensate for some of this growth. Transaction prices over the summer months should then be relatively stable, said MEPS.

The second half of the year is then forecasted to record sharper declines as nickel demand from stainless steel mills slows due in part to the aforementioned promotion of ferritic grades.

Austentic (containing nickel) stainless steels contain at least 16% chromium and 6% nickel. The basic 304 grade is referred to as 18/8 and the group ranges through to high alloy or ‘super austentics’ such as 904L and 6% molybdenum grades. Other elements are added to suit critical applications.

Ferritic stainless steels are plain chromium (10.5% to 18%) grades such as 430 and 409. Their moderate corrosion and poor fabrication properties are improved in the higher alloy grades such as 434 and 444 and in the proprietary grade 3CR12.