MySteel Global – China’s coke producers press for another coke price rise

Independent coking plants in North and East China have announced their intention to raise metallurgical coke prices again by Yuan 50/tonne ($7.5/t) this week.

The coke makers’ latest demand for higher prices leverages the continuing tight availability of coke and the planned elimination of small-sized and inefficient coking plants in North China’s Shanxi, according to sources.

If successful, it will be the coke producers’ sixth straight increase since mid-August, Mysteel Global notes. On November 2, a large-sized independent coking plant in North China’s Hebei, for example, announced it was adding Yuan 50/t to the company’s merchant coke prices, effective November 3.

After the adjustment, the maker’s price for dry quenching coke with a maximum of 12.5% ash and 0.65% sulphur and at least 60% CSR will be Yuan 2,320/t ex-works and including the 13% VAT.

As of the afternoon of November 3, several large-sized steel plants had already conceded to the higher coke prices, and if the adjustments are accepted by most Chinese mills, domestic coke prices will have gained a total of Yuan 300/t since mid-August, Mysteel Global understands.

On November 2, Mysteel’s national composite coke price stood at Yuan 2,020.4/t including the 13% VAT, or a new high since June 25, 2019. “Domestic coke supply has been really tight,” commented a Shanghai-based industrial source.

“Some steel mills with affiliated coking plants have even lifted their coking operations to full capacity while they still need to purchase external coke to meet high consumption. On the other hand, for those mills without their own coking ovens, they have little power or advantage in price negotiations, though the margins on finished steel have been lower than on coke,” he said.

Besides, the concentrated removal of outdated coking capacity in Shanxi has also encouraged domestic coke plants to hike coke prices. As reported, some 20 million tonnes/year of coking capacity in Shanxi was to have been scrapped by the end of October. Though the elimination of 14 million t/y was in fact postponed, some steel plants have nonetheless been in a hurry to sign new coke suppliers.

As Mysteel Global reported, total coke stocks at the 230 Chinese independent coking plants under Mysteel’s weekly survey reached 730,700 tonnes as of October 29, up by only around 30,000 tonnes from the 20-month low hit the previous week. As of October 29, total coke stocks at the 110 Chinese steel mills sampled were at 4.5 million tonnes.

Though this was around their average level, the stocks could sustain the mills for 13.8 days, about 1.3 day shorter than the same period last year, mainly due to their high coke consumption, Mysteel’s survey showed.

As of October 29, Mysteel’s weekly survey showed that the average coking margin of the 30 Chinese independent coking plants in the sample had edged up by a tiny Yuan 1.8/t on week to Yuan 438.4/t, albeit a new high since late November 2018.

(Written by Sean Xie, xiepy@mysteel.com; Edited by Russ McCulloch, russ.mcculloch@mysteel.com)

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