What is Ferrochrome?
Ferrochrome is a kind of ferroalloy composed of chromium and iron, which is an important alloy additive for steelmaking. Chromite for smelting ferrochrome is generally required to contain 40-50% Cr2O3, and the ratio of chromium to iron is greater than 2.8. Ferrochrome can be divided into high carbon ferrochrome (4~8% carbon), medium carbon ferrochrome (0.5~4% carbon), low carbon ferrochrome (0.15~0.50% carbon), micro carbon ferrochrome (0.06% carbon) and ultra-fine carbon ferrochrome (less than 0.03% carbon) according to the carbon content.
Use of ferrochrome
Ferrochrome is the most important raw material for stainless steel production. It is mainly used to produce stainless steel, ball-bearing steel, tool steel, nitrided steel, heat-strengthened steel, quenched and tempered steel, carburized steel, and hydrogen-resistant steel. This is because chromium plays a decisive role in stainless steel. There is only one element that determines the properties of stainless steel, which is chromium. Each stainless steel must contain a certain amount of chromium.
China’s Imports of Ferrochrome Ore
China is the largest ferrochrome producer in the world. Products for domestic use or sold abroad.
From January to September 2022, China’s chrome ore import volume will be 11.5695 million tons, with a year-on-year growth of 2.1%. Among them, the quantity of imported chrome ore from South Africa was 9.3067 million tons, a year-on-year increase of 2.4%; The quantity of chrome ore imported from Türkiye was 793600 tons, up 0.6% year on year. At the same time, China’s import of high-carbon ferrochrome was 1.7641 million tons, a year-on-year decrease of 16.6%. Among them, the amount of high carbon ferrochrome imported from South Africa was 876300 tons, a year-on-year decrease of 19.3%; The amount of high carbon ferrochrome imported from Kazakhstan was 394400 tons, a year-on-year decrease of 22.3%.
China’s import of high carbon ferrochrome was 1.7641 million tons, a year-on-year decrease of 16.6%. Among them, the amount of high carbon ferrochrome imported from South Africa was 876300 tons, a year-on-year decrease of 19.3%; The amount of high carbon ferrochrome imported from Kazakhstan was 394400 tons, a year-on-year decrease of 22.3%. At the same time, China’s imports of high carbon ferrochrome were 232600 tons, a month-on-month decrease of 1% and a year-on-year increase of 8.6%. Among them, the amount of high-carbon ferrochrome imported from South Africa was 154200 tons, with a month-on-month growth of 9.4% and a year-on-year growth of 34.9%.
Affected by the epidemic, since 2020, the global stainless steel market has been weak as a whole, and the demand for chromium ore is weak. On the supply side, due to the dual control of the epidemic situation in South Africa, international shipping freight, and domestic energy consumption, the supply of chromium ore has decreased, but the overall supply and demand are still in a loose state.
During the period from 2020 to 2021, the price of chromium ore will decline on a year-on-year basis, which will fluctuate at a low level compared with the historical price. The overall recovery of chromium price will fall behind other metal products.
Since the beginning of 2022, under the superposition of supply and demand mismatch, high cost, inventory decline and other factors, the price of chromium ore has risen rapidly. On May 9, the price of 44% chromium refined powder in Shanghai Gangnan Africa once rose to 65 yuan/ton, the highest level in recent four years.
Since June, with the continuous weakness of downstream terminal consumption of stainless steel, stainless steel plants have significantly reduced production, weakened demand for ferrochrome, intensified market oversupply, low willingness to purchase chromium ore raw materials, and the price of chromium ore has fallen rapidly.