China’s steelmaking hub hit with more pollution control measures

Many steelmakers in Wu’an, Hebei province have scaled back production at their rolling mills in response to temporary pollution control measures imposed by the local government.

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Electricity supply to mills in the city located in the southwest of China’s steelmaking hub has been reduced by 30-50%, effective from Tuesday December 10, a local producer source told Steel First. The power supply curb is expected to last for 15 days, she added.

“Almost all the large mills have been affected, especially their rolling operations,” the source said.

Xinjin Steel, also located in Wu’an, confirmed it has suspended production at its 2-million tpy rolling mills, while its blast furnaces and basic oxygen furnaces are still operating as normal, a company source said.

The restriction on power supply to mills has also been applied to other areas of the Handan prefecture in the southernmost tip of the province, a steel mill source in neighbouring Shandong province said.

Other steel mills including Wu’an Wen’an, Puyang, Yuhua, Mingfang and Hongri have decided to scale back rolling production by up to 50%, an industry analyst in Beijing said.

Air pollution has been a key discussion topic in China this year, with the country’s heavy industries coming under increasing pressure to curb emissions.

In January, the concentration of airborne particulate matter most dangerous to health – PM2.5 – soared to 900 micrograms per cubic metre in Beijing, almost 40 times higher than World Health Organisation recommended safety levels.

Last Friday, the PM2.5 density in Shanghai hit a record high of 510 micrograms as China’s industrial hub was gripped by debilitating smog for several days, resulting in several mills in the region being forced to undergo maintenance.

As China’s main steel producing region, Hebei has come under particular scrutiny. Seven of China’s top ten most polluted cities in the first half of 2013 were located in the northern province, according to a report by the country’s environmental regulator in August.

Last month, Hebei cut more than 2 million tonnes of iron and steelmaking capacity, while local government announced in September that the region will need to lose more than 60 million tonnes of capacity by 2017 to control pollution levels in the area.

Steel mills in Wu’an city mainly focus on production of wires, and medium and heavy plates. As a result of the emergency pollution measures, wire rod prices in the region rose by 100 yuan ($16) per tonne on Wednesday to 3,350 yuan ($548) per tonne.