Titanium Sponge Plant to be Built in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia-based Royal Commission in Yanbu — an independent organization from the government — is currently building a factory to create titanium sponge. The current plant will undergo a technological upgrade, and will be outfitted with high-pressure oxidation equipment in order to generate titanium dioxide.

The plant is slated to finish and begin producing titanium sponge by 2017. It is anticipated that the output of the new plant and the retrofitted plant will be 15,600 metric tons of titanium sponge annually, and 120 thousand tons of titanium dioxide yearly.

Titanium sponge is a rock-life formation of titanium that is produced during the initial stage of titanium processing. It’s used across many industries, such as the aerospace, telephone, and jewelry industries.

Japanese company Toho is also getting a cut of the action: Toho will move forward with RCY and Saudi company Tasnee to create a project aimed at producing titanium sponge as well. Tasnee and Tasnee-owned company Cristal will each own 32.5 percent of the new Crystal Complex project, while Toho will own 35 perfect.

Saudi Arabia’s influence in oil wanes as natural gas has reached soaring heights in the US. It seems to counter their oil collapse, as Saudi Arabia is looking to widen its berth in the metals industry.

Just recently, Saudi Arabia commissioned the operation of world’s largest aluminum complex, from bauxite to finished products. Like aluminum, production of other light metals, like titanium and magnesium, are very energy intensive, a major cost factor. They have taken action in both aluminum and titanium. The next logical step for them will be delve in the production of magnesium.

Saudi Arabia already has a significant investment, presence, and operation in the chemical industry using oil-based feedstock.

China now is the major global producer of all the light metals: aluminum, titanium, and magnesium. The country uses very uneconomical energy inputs, using cheap and abundant energy resources. With this new venture, Saudi Arabia can challenge China in the production of world-hungry light metals.

(From Arab News)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 30, 2015

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“Coal: The fuel of the future, unfortunately” – The Economist, 19 April 2014

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The Economist

While natural gas has been waging a war on coal, coal will likely persist as a serious player in the energy market. Coal is inexpensive, plentiful, and easy to mine, ship, and burn. It is a cheap energy source for developing countries, and a great way for these countries to become rich.

Still, the issue remains that coal is not a clean energy source. Mining, transporting, storing and burning coal is a dirty job; underground mining can cause health issues for miners. Transporting coal has negative environmental impacts; opencast mining, a surface mining technique, destroys topsoil and devours water supplies. Coal is the biggest single source of pollution in the world, expending one-third of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.

The US is experiencing a large shift away from coal and towards natural gas. Many big US coal companies, like American Electric Power and Duke Energy, are closing coal-fired plants. Yet, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that coal will still be producing 22% of the US’s energy by 2040. Coal currently produces 26% of the US’s energy. China, the world’s biggest pollutant, is trying to restrict its coal consumption, but developing countries like Africa and India are picking up where China has left off. In Germany, coal is the cheapest it’s ever been. Japan, too, has recently authorized a new energy plan that has solidified coal’s role as the country’s main energy source.

Besides these boons for coal, international coal companies should still be worried for two reasons: one, that governments will place restrictions on coal; and two, the global oversupply of coal, which has pushed prices down and caused some coal companies to lose profits.

Still, coal remains a worthy adversary to oil and gas. Coal mining doesn’t necessitate expensive equipment, like drills, platforms and pipes, and when prices drop, companies can stop manufacturing and wait until prices pick back up.

Technological advances for producing clean coal—pulverizing coal, separating the gas from coal, scrubbing emissions and capturing carbon dioxide—look promising, though the methods are costly. A $5.2 billion clean-coal plant is being built in Mississippi, which was entirely funded by taxpayers. This will be the most expensive power plant ever completed, so we can probably safely assume that clean-coal plants won’t be the norm any time soon.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 20, 2014

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“India became 3rd-largest economy in 2011 from 10th in 2005″ – Times of India, 30 April 2014

According to a report released by the International Comparison Program—presented by the Development Data Group at the World Bank—in 2011, India’s economy grew to the third largest in the world from placing at the 10th largest in 2005 and is now ahead of Japan. The US is still the largest economy, succeeded by China.

China, India, and Indonesia’s rankings, in comparison to the US, doubled; Brazil, Mexico, and Russia grew by a third or more. In 2011, worldwide production of goods and services amounted to more than $90 trillion, and almost half came from low and middle-income countries. Six of the world’s 12 largest economies have been classified as middle-income countries: China, India, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, and Mexico.

The six biggest middle-income economies contributed 32.2 percent of the world GDP, while the six biggest high-income countries—US, Japan, Germany, France, UK, and Italy—contributed 32.9 percent.

China and India are growing rapidly and, with the exclusion of Japan and South Korea, account for two-thirds of the Asia and Pacific economy. China and India also account for almost 80 percent of investment expenditure in the same Asia and Pacific region.

Rise of middle-income countries will continue to provide the largest export markets for high-income countries, benefiting the world economy and reducing global income inequality.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

May 2, 2014

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“Turkey’s Crisis Dents American Steel” – Wall Street Journal, 5 February 2014

Turkey is the world’s biggest scrap steel importer and a key consumer in the $20 billion US steel scrap industry. But Turkey’s current economic crisis is taking its toll on the US scrap steel industry, the country’s weak demand and declining currency making imports very costly.

The US is the number one exporter of iron and steel scrap, selling $10 billion per year, more than two times the amount Japan sells, second to the US. Turkey has been the number one importer of US scrap since 2008; the country’s steelmaking companies mainly use electric-arc furnaces to melt down the scrap imports. Turkey, in turn, sells to Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, becoming the largest exporter to these countries.

In the first 11 months of 2013, Turkey’s imports dropped 18% to 4.9 million tons, a huge hit to the US scrap steel industry. Turkey is now importing more steel from Europe, and manufacturing steel products from semi-finished steel items purchased from Russia, instead of manufacturing steel from scrap.

East Coast scrap traders are more widely affected by Turkey’s decline, whereas West Coast traders chiefly export to Asia. While demand from Asian countries, such as China, is predicted to continue growing, there is a worry that the demand could dwindle as China has its first “scrap cycle,” a phrase applied to a young, industrialized country that begins producing its own scrap with recycled steel goods. China will remain an importer for now, but the question remains whether China, like the US, will also become a global exporter of steel scrap. The US steel scrap industry has a lot to lose.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

February 24, 2014

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