Gareth Stace, the recently appointed director of UK Steel, is a keen cyclist and so am I, although my definition of ‘keen’ is two rides a week on a heavy mountain bike through the rural country lanes of Northern Kent. Gareth rides to work from the southern reaches of Surrey into Central London – roughly 25 miles each way and early enough to avoid dangerous encounters with crosstown traffic.
There’s nothing negative to say about cycling: it keeps you fit and I believe there’s a spiritual dimension too. When I’m on the saddle, out in the sticks with fields to the left and right of me and a clear road ahead, I find I have time to think about ‘stuff’. When my father died in 2011 I dealt with the grief alone, while riding the bike, allowing any tears to fall by the wayside and be absorbed by the tarmac.
Cycling into and out of London on an almost daily basis, Gareth has time to think – and let’s face it, as the new director of UK Steel he has plenty to think about, as I discovered when we met for an exclusive interview a few weeks ago.
Gareth arrived in the job at what he describes as a very challenging period for the steel industry in the UK, Europe and globally; and I find myself wondering whether, while riding into town or heading south on his homeward journey, Gareth is coming to terms with what he describes as ‘the perfect storm approaching’.
There is plenty to be concerned about: a significant increase in steel imports from China; business rates that are 10 times higher in the UK than in France or Germany; punishing environmental costs; a strong pound; a new Conservative government; and that elusive level playing field that doesn’t appear to be getting any closer, even if you’re riding a bicycle.
Gareth is fully prepared to meet head-on the challenges gathering like storm clouds overhead, but even the most effective waterproofs might struggle to keep him dry if, as predicted, they all hit the ground simultaneously.
There is a huge ‘but’ that should follow on from the headline of the Gareth Stace interview in this issue. “I’d like to be optimistic,” Gareth told me at the start of our interview, but he implied that it wouldn’t be an easy ride.
That said, most cyclists would agree that the best way to approach a steep hill is to select the right gear and keep pedalling – eventually you will reach the summit.
When it comes to optimism, Manik Mehta's report from the 30th Steel Success Strategies conference in New York talks about 'signs of optimism' in the US marketplace even if some of the big names – Lakshmi Mittal being one of them – not gracing the event with their presence. According to Manik, the conference provoked some interesting discussions on the big issues affecting the global industry.
We have three interesting features on rolling and some interesting articles on special and stainless steels, not forgetting our regular features.
September 2015 Contents
NLMK signs long-term gas agreements with Novatek
October 06, 2015
Russian steelmaker NLMK has signed a long-term contract with Russia’s largest independent gas producer Novatek. The gas company will supply all of NLMK’s production facilities.
Danieli awarded Taybah micromill contract in Pakistan
October 06, 2015
The Middle East-based Taybah Group, which works predominantly in the field of steel production, has awarded Italian production technology specialist Danieli with the contract to supply a continuous casting-rolling, compact micromill with the brand name MI.DA.
Government growth policies benefit China’s domestic steel industry
October 05, 2015
The Chinese central government’s policies targeted at maintaining growth benefitted domestic steel demand to a certain extent as infrastructure investment grew 19.4%, up 4.8 percentage points on July. Electricity consumption rose 1.9% and was up 1.8 percentage points when compared with July figures.
Chinese steel prices continue to fluctuate ‘at the bottom’
October 05, 2015
Steel prices in China are expected to fluctuate at the bottom due to sluggish demand and a supply glut, according to a recent report by China Metals.
Plenty to shout about?
July 09, 2015
Dark grey to black prospects? A 'dying elephant' with a 'smoke stack' image? When it comes to reputation enhancement, some argue that the global steel industry has its work cut out, but others are much more upbeat. Matthew Moggridge, editor of Steel Times International, reports.
Time to get tough?
June 05, 2015
China has been a key theme at steel conferences around the world. Many a distinguished speaker has called for 'a level playing field' and some have warned against awarding China 'market economy status' because it will open the floodgates to even more exported steel. China is already 'dumping' millions of tonnes of steel on foreign markets around the world. While many observers wonder what effect (if any) anti-dumping measures and countervailing duties are having on the situation, there is a growing sense of unease in 'rest of the world' steel markets. By Matthew Moggridge, editor of Steel Times International.
Optimising Consteel continuous scrap feeding with roof-fed DRI
April 29, 2015
For EAF furnaces charged jointly with scrap and with DRI through the roof, feeding the scrap via a Consteel pre-heater conveyor rather than by bucket enables a shorter power-on time, increases productivity and improves all other operating parameters, except carbon injection, resulting in a significant saving in electrical energy. By F Memoli*, J A T Jones** & F Picciolo***
No room for complacency
April 28, 2015
Safety in any heavy industrial environment is top priority, and the key to a safer steel production plant is impeccable leadership and constant awareness of the risks. Keeping workers safe is initiated from the top down and there's no room for complacency. By Matthew Moggridge, editor of Steel Times International