China’s seamless pipe sector must meet low-carbon goal

A welcome intervention from China focussing on cutting back on inefficient seamless tube production, unfortunately without any numbers to back it up.

Steel Business Briefing 8 February 2011 China’s steel industry will be crucial in determining whether the country achieves its low-carbon-economy goals during the new five-year plan (2011-15).

To meet these goals, its production capacity for seamless pipes – purportedly the most energy-intensive steel product – must be controlled by lowering the proportion of seamless in the pipe mix. This is the view of pipe expert Peng Zaimei, writing recently in China Metallurgical News (CMN), the organ of the China Iron & Steel Association.

Peng argued that seamless pipe production processes necessitate “excessive energy consumption” which results in higher carbon emissions compared with other steelmaking processes. He declined to provide precise data to support his claim, however.

His suggestion was that seamless production in China – which accounts for 50% of the world’s total seamless output – should be “controlled” by weeding out smaller, inefficient producers that usually lack their own round billet capacity and generally produce low value-added products.

The inference is they should be persuaded to diversify into welded pipes to reduce the ratio of seamless in overall output, as in other countries. Seamless accounts for about 40% of China’s total pipe production, much higher than the 30% in Russia, 18% in the US, 15% in Japan and 1% in Korea, according to CMN.

Just how the smaller non-integrated seamless producers should be “controlled” Peng does not say.

Steel Business Briefing notes China’s seamless pipe capacity has reached 30m tonnes/year. But the China Steel Pipe Association has warned that the country’s capacity continues to grow, with more expansions planned.


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