Commodities

Departments - Construction

February 3, 2009

A New Tempo for Ferrous Scrap Recyclers

Ferrous scrap recyclers are reporting a pace of activity that continues to move at a much slower speed than what had become the norm during the past several years.

The creation of less industrial scrap is matched on the buy side with a dramatic reduction in steel mill melting schedules on the sell side. However, this new tempo of business on the supply side may be matching up with steel mill demand as it currently stands, if December pricing is any indication.

The brakes were tapped on plummeting ferrous scrap prices in December, as mills in the United States paid from about $70 to $90 more per ton for buys in the spot market.

In the December buying period, prompt industrial scrap, shredded scrap and No. 1 HMS all moved up in value, according to transaction pricing compiled by Management Science Associates Inc. (MSA) for its Raw Material Data Aggregation Service (RMDAS).

Down in Texas, a scrap processor there was glad to see prices bounce back up for ferrous scrap in December, and reports that overseas markets chipped in with some buys out of the Port of Houston. "I think the prices will continue to inch up from this point forward," he comments. "We’re taking an optimistic approach, but a conservative one."

Longer term, he is hopeful that proposed infrastructure spending will help both the steel and scrap industries. "It’s something to look forward to, but it’s going to take some time for that to work its way into the [steel production] system—maybe even the fourth quarter of 2009."

As for December 2008, national averages reveal the prompt grades moving back up the most sharply, with the average spot buyer paying $96 per ton for new production scrap such as No. 1 busheling, No. 1 bundles and No. 1 factory bundles.

Shredded scrap prices took a healthy hike of $78 per ton as determined by the national spot buying average, while No. 1 HMS moved up $72 per ton.

In the North Midwest market region, No. 2 shredded scrap enjoyed the biggest increase, jumping $85 per ton, more than the prompt industrial grades in that region.

The South region was more reflective of national trends, with the RMDAS Prompt Industrial Composite grade moving up $96 per ton while shredded scrap increased just $70 per ton. In that region, however, No. 1 HMS was bid up by spot buyers some $90 per ton more than November pricing—well above the national average.

In the December buying period measured by
RMDAS, the Prompt Industrial Composite grades traded at $251 on average nationally. The $96 per ton increase offered relief a nice boost from the $156 per ton paid in November and, perhaps more importantly for scrap processors, indicated that the market was again capable of moving back in the upward direction.

The December change in momentum does not appear to have been caused by renewed strength in steel mill melting schedules, if the most recent steel production figures are any indication.

The World Steel Association figures for November show global steel production having dropped by some 10 million metric tons compared to October. A positive scenario would have a restored credit market and stable gasoline prices bringing buyers back into the market for new vehicles, which would help makers of flat-rolled steel. Additionally, infrastructure spending could result in increased orders for makers of rebar and steel beams and decking.

But for now, steelmakers are not likely to produce more steel based on what might happen, but will keep production capacity restrained as it has been for the past few months.

Foundation Releases Guide to Fly Ash Study

The RMC Research & Education Foundation has announced the release of a companion "Guide for the Construction Team" to the report released in September, "New Technology-Based Approach to Advance Higher Volume Fly Ash Concrete with Acceptable Performance." The new guide complements the original study, which was conducted at the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association’s Laboratory.

The study demonstrates that ready mixed concrete producers may use a greater amount of fly ash—a recycled material—in concrete mixtures while maintaining strength and performance and while still being able to attain the early-age strengths required for the application.

"The development of this guide is a terrific tool for the concrete industry to effectively implement the findings of the original study," says RMC Research & Education Foundation Chairman George Gregory. He adds, "Findings from studies such as the Fly Ash report make a greater impact when accompanied by materials that will assist those in the field with proper application."

Both the original study and the guide are available for download from the Foundation’s Web site www.rmc-foundation.org.

Indiana Agency Awards Grant to Gypsum Recycling Firm

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management has awarded Cheron Inc., an Indianapolis-based company, a $30,000 Recycled Product Marketing grant for the company’s innovative use of scrap gypsum.

The company converts the scrap drywall into a soil additive that improves the quality of the farmland.

Cheron is also recycling synthetic gypsum into soil amendment products. Synthetic gypsum is a byproduct from the processing of coal in the production of electricity.

"By creating awareness and demand for the beneficial use of gypsum within the Indiana agricultural community, Indiana farmers can realize true benefits," says Ron Chamberlain, one of the founders of Cheron. "Using gypsum on Indiana soil not only enhances farmers’ productivity and the state’s output, but it also helps protect our environment by capturing more carbon dioxide, reducing soil erosion, and helping with the offsite movement of pollutants such as excess nutrients and pesticides."

Cheron estimates that more than 20,000 tons of synthetic gypsum and scrap drywall will be diverted from landfills and land applied in Indiana this year. Additionally, by 2010, Cheron expects to be diverting 200,000 tons of gypsum away from the waste stream and landfills.

"Anytime someone can create something that positively affects the environment, we are proud to offer assistance," says IDEM Commissioner Thomas Easterly. "This was an extremely worthwhile venture that has resulted in tremendous results."

Virginia City Approves Asphalt Shingle Recycling Facility

The Chesapeake, Va., City Council has approved an asphalt shingle recycling facility, according to a report in the Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.).

Tidewater Green Corp. will operate the facility, which will grind the shingles into material that can be added to asphalt mixes or used for bike paths or jogging trails.

The City Council approved the facility by a 7-1 vote, even though the company was found in violation for storing shingles in outside bins on the site. According to the report, Andy Warren, president of Tidewater Green, told the council he was under the impression from the Department of Environmental Quality that it was permissible. He said he will work with the city to correct the violation.

Minnesota Companies Demonstrate Shingle Recycling

Two Minnesota companies jointly demonstrated grinding asphalt shingles for use in recycled paving products at an Oct. 21 event, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. (Minneapolis).

Dem-Con Recovery & Recycling, a subsidiary of Dem-Con Companies, Shakopee, Minn., hosted the event with Commercial Asphalt Co. The demonstration featured at Rotochopper RG1 grinder processing tear-off asphalt shingles for use in hot-mix asphalt (HMA) plants.

The technique sorts mixed roofing material to produce clean shingles, which are fed into the grinder. The product of that process is then fed into the asphalt plant. The final product contains 5 percent recycled asphalt shingles.

Officials of the companies contend that this process is rapidly becoming accepted as an energy saver in the industry and could reach 156,000 tons per year by 2012.

State Official Backs Proposed Wood-burning Plant in Connecticut

An official from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has approved a proposal for a wood-burning power plant in Plainfield, Conn., according to a report in the Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.).

Hearing officer Kenneth M. Collette of the DEP decided that the facility should be able to operate without violating any of the state’s pollution standards.

The plant, proposed by Norwalk-based Plainfield Renewable Energy LLC, would produce electricity by heating scrap wood, including wood from the construction and demolition debris stream, as well as chipped trees, brush, pallets and other packing materials. The construction materials would have to be sorted to remove plastics, wallboard, asphalt shingles or pesticides.

According to the report, Collette’s decision backs up recommendation DEP staff made last spring to grant the necessary permits the facility needed.

A final decision will be issued by the DEP commissioner.