Global Steel Production Reached New Heights Last Year

Written by David Schollaert

Global steel production expanded last year as steelmakers around the world produced an estimated 1.905 billion metric tons, according to 2021 data from the World Steel Association (worldsteel). The total was 3.9% or 71.4 million tons above 2020’s COVID-stricken year.

Last year’s total also outperformed the pre-pandemic sum from 2019 by 3.5% or 63.6 million metric tons. In fact, 2021’s estimated 1.905 billion metric tons of steel production worldwide is the highest mark to date, per worldsteel data, driven by repeated record-breaking months of crude steel output in Q2, when China reached an all-time high of 99.5 million metric tons in May.

The grand total for 2021 might have been even higher were it not for a sharp downturn in steel production from June through November driven by Chinese cutbacks. The reductions were attributed to power shortages and the government’s efforts to curb harmful air emissions from the Chinese steel industry.

December’s global steel output jumped to an estimated 158.7 million metric tons, said worldsteel. The total was a 10.7% or 15.4-million-metric-ton jump from the prior month, but still 3.0% below the same year-ago total.

Last month’s growth marked just the second month of expansion since last May, but was still 9.0% or 15.7 million tons below May’s historical high of 174.4 million metric tons.

The U.S. remained the fourth-largest crude steel producer in the world in December, accounting for 7.2 million metric tons or 4.5% of the global total. Domestic steel production was unchanged last month compared to November.

China produced more than half of the world’s steel, 54.3% or an estimated 86.2 million metric tons, in December, up 24.4% month on month. When compared with December 2020, Chinese production was down 5.5%, yet 2.3% above pre-pandemic levels from 2019.

Only half of the top 10 global steel-producing countries reported increased output month on month in December. In addition to China’s surge, Korea, India, Iran, and Russia all reported increases versus November’s totals. While the U.S. output was flat last month, Japan, Turkey, Germany and Brazil all saw decreased totals in December, worldsteel reported.

By David Schollaert,

David Schollaert

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