FOCUS: Why China’s implementation of new rebar policy is failing to support vanadium prices

Date: Dec 20, 2018

Revised standards for rebar in China have failed to lend continued support to vanadium prices in the country since their introduction in November, primarily due to enforcement of the standards not being as stringent as previously expected, market sources told Fastmarkets.

The new rebar policy, effective November 1, 2018, requires Chinese steel mills to eliminate the original 335 megapascals (MPa)-tensile strength rebar and start producing 600MPa-tensile strength rebar, which has better earthquake resistance.

In doing so, the policy encourages domestic Chinese mills to utilize greater volumes of alloys to meet the revised strength requirements. The policy also seeks to restrict the production of rebar via the water-quenching process, which produces rebar that has lower durability because it rusts easily and therefore poses a risk to building safety.

Chinese mills were expected to add 0.03-0.05% of vanadium for HRB400 rebar and 0.05-0.08% for HRB500 rebar to meet the new standards, according to market participants, which in turn would bring about greater demand for vanadium products and thus provide support to their respective prices.

Speaking to Fastmarkets, one market participant said if China’s new rebar policy was strictly adhered throughout the domestic industry, this would generate around 2,000 tonnes of vanadium demand per month.

Surprisingly however, despite the new rebar policy coming into effect in early November, Chinese vanadium prices have actually showed signs of weakening, instead of increasing or at least remaining at the levels held at the end of October as many participants had expected.

Fastmarkets’ latest price assessment for ferro-vanadium, fob China, stood at $80-90 per kg on Thursday December 13, down from a historical high of $130-140 per kg reached on October 18.

Meanwhile, the price for vanadium pentoxide, fob China, was assessed at at $18-20 per lb on December 13, down 40.6% from an all-time high of $31-33 per lb reached on October 25.

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