Trade Resources Industry Views Zinc Is The Key Material Used in Galvanizing Steel

Zinc Is The Key Material Used in Galvanizing Steel

Steel rebar galvanizing is a promising but largely overlooked niche for zinc that has the potential to be a 400,000 mt market in the near term, and also has significant technological and cost advantages, a zinc industry official said late Monday.

Speaking at the International Zinc Association meeting in Dana Point, California, IZA official Stephen Wilkinson said that, currently about 200 million mt of steel rebar is produced globally every year, but very little is coated. He said he believed the new process could capture 10% -- or about 20 million mt/year of the steel rebar market -- in five years. And that equates to a roughly 400,000 mt/year chunk of the zinc market. He noted that about half of all steel rebar production is in China.

Zinc is the key material used in galvanizing steel, which gives the metal a protective, anti-corrosive coating. Steel rebar -- short for reinforcing bar -- is used as a tension device in reinforced concrete and masonry.

"This has huge, huge potential," Wilkinson said. "If this thing snowballs, it could become the industry standard."

To that end, Wilkinson said the group is doing outreach to the steel industry and to governments in charge of spending on infrastructure such as bridges and parking garages that a new process known as continuous galvanizing rebar is safer and more cost-effective than the current industry standard, epoxy.

"It's an educational issue," Wilkinson told Platts. "It's up to us to educate people that epoxy doesn't work over the long term."

CGR is not currently in wide use, he told Platts, because governments are often resistant to spending on new technologies due to cost-control pressure and also due to the fact that metallurgic science has "fallen out of favor" at educational institutions.

He told Platts that the US currently lags Europe significantly in steel rebar galvanizing, with approximately 6 kilo per capita of rebar galvanizing done in Europe, versus about 3.2 kilo per capita in the US.

Wilkinson told the conference that epoxy's disadvantages include cosmetic staining initially and structural weakening over time, as it can eventually crack, allowing for corrosion. What's more, epoxy has been banned in some parts of the US. Another option, stainless steel, can be costly, he said.

"There's an opportunity right now for galvanizing rebar," Wilkinson said.

CGR -- which involves application of a thinner coating than that done with other galvanizing methods --- or using CGR along with a second coat of epoxy "is very competitive cost-wise compared to epoxy [alone]," he said. Wilkinson said two companies in North America, two more in Brazil and another two in India are "very interested in putting in these [galvanizing] lines." He said that about seven companies currently have CGR operations. Wilkinson said IZA is doing product research, case studies and marketing literature on CGR and said the group aims to sell the process to the steel galvanizing industry as a complementary rather than a competing process. "There's big tonnage for all of us in this industry," he said.

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Steel Rebar Galvanizing Has 400, 000 Mt Market Potential: IZA Official
Topics: Metallurgy