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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“Six Threats Bigger Than Climate Change” – Wall Street Journal, 28 August 2014

US Secretary of State John Kerry is concerned about climate change and rightfully so. The habits of people across the world have managed to impact our climate, causing large fluctuations in temperatures and more natural disasters, which significantly hit the world’s poorest nations and damage the global food supply. But yes, there are, as Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso points out, foreign policy issues that are just as important, or more important, than climate change.

Barrasso cites the following international issues that pose greater challenges to America than climate change: ISIS in Iraq; pulling out troops in Afghanistan and the subsequent terrorism; relations with Russia; Iran’s nuclear program; US assistance in Syria; and North Korea’s nuclear program.

While we concede that these are all very substantial concerns, Barrasso frames his argument as one or the other. We shouldn’t be concerned with climate change and new climate policy; we should completely focus our efforts on foreign policy and helping the world. Maybe Kerry made a lapse in judgement by stating that climate change is “the biggest challenge of all that we face right now,” but climate change is indeed a huge problem that can affect, and is affecting, our world.

Obama’s efforts to be diplomatic in regards US foreign policy seem to be a more long-term approach to the issues rather than making swift, rash decisions that could end badly. Conversely, Obama is able to make such swift political and economic issues in the US — such as using his power of executive order to push through new climate policy — because this is his home turf. Barrasso’s points are valid, but they seem to miss a key point — what change is Obama bringing to his own country, and why doesn’t change in America come first?

Though the US has lost a bit of its credibility recently, we have always been seen as the world’s savior and we’re always expected to lend a hand. That is an admirable trait and part of our identity as America, but perhaps it’s time that we — simultaneously, not exclusively — take care of our own for a bit. After all, juggling multiple goals and objectives is the President’s modus operandi.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

September 2, 2014

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“Aluminum Cars Take Heat from ArcelorMittal’s CEO” – Wall Street Journal, 17 June 2014

Europe, China, and the US have all cracked down on fuel economy standards; President Obama has introduced new regulations to improve the average fuel economy by 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Automobile companies, like Ford, are responding to the new regulations by creating a new line of F-150 pickups made out of all-aluminum bodies, and many other US car manufacturers are following suit. However, Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company, is an aluminum naysayer, contending that aluminum isn’t actually lighter than new designs of steel.

Due to US and European automotive companies’ move to aluminum, ArcelorMittal is now looking to expand and invest in developing economies, like China, Brazil, Mexico, India, and the Middle East, where steel is still heavily used.

According to Ducker Worldwide, 18% of vehicles will be produced entirely from aluminum by 2025, which will surely help the automotive industry to meet Obama’s proposed fuel economy standards. Though more expensive, aluminum is argued to be a lighter metal, which will thusly help to improve fuel efficiency; in the US, manufacturers’ fuel economies must increase by five percent each year until the 2025 mark. However, as ArcelorMittal presents, the flip side to manufacturing the same cars with all-aluminum bodies is to manufacture smaller cars out of steel, which was save the car industry the added expense of aluminum.

ArcelorMittal’s focus right now is on China, where it just opened VAMA, its first steel-manufacturing plant and a multi-million dollar undertaking with Hunan Iron & Steel Co. Through VAMA, the Chinese automotive industry will have access to 1.5 million tons of steel per year, an industry that has grown by 16% since 2013.

According to ArcelorMittal, the statistic that aluminum is 30% to 40% lighter than steel is only accurate if you’re equating aluminum to steel made in 2005. Steel produced in 2014 is harder and lighter than previous versions; current forms of steel have been refined using a distinctive heating and cool process. However, the Ducker Worldwide study still projects that a majority of automobiles will be manufactured out of aluminum parts by 2025.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

June 17, 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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