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The new government appointed in China last year has made cleaner air a priority, largely in response to growing concerns about risks to public health in big cities.
“Due to the haze happening in many parts of China, the government is introducing stricter regulations to control air pollution. As a result, more high-end products such as 439 stainless steel is expected to replace basic 409-grade products soon,” Fan Guangwei, vice director of Taigang’s technology centre, told Steel First at a stainless industry event in Wuxi in eastern China on Wednesday November 6.
Fan said the company had already formed a team to focus on stainless steels used in auto exhausts. He added that Taigang would produce about 165,000 tonnes of 400-series material for use in exhaust systems this year, up 10% from 150,000 tonnes last year.
China’s auto market has grown by about 12.7% this year. Sales of passenger vehicles grew 14% in the first nine months of the year, according to the China Assn of Automotive Manufacturers (CAAM).
Fan said the sector could maintain 10% growth for the “next few years”.
While official efforts to cut down on pollution may incur some costs for steelmakers in terms of increased regulation, it may also help to expand new markets.
Auto exhaust fumes are the single biggest source of pollution in Chinese cities. The government is already rolling out tougher standards for petrol and diesel fuels, and gradually more and more vehicles will need to use higher standards of technology in their exhaust systems.
439-grade stainless steel contains titanium, so it is more corrosion-resistant and heat-resistant than 409-grade material. Its service life is also longer.
Taigang’s overall output of 400-series will be about 1.4 million tonnes this year, up from 1.24 million tonnes last year, Fan said.
Taigang, China’s biggest stainless steel producer, plans to produce more 400-series steels for use in vehicle exhausts, as opportunities arise with an expanding auto market and tighter regulations on car emissions.