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aws账号(www.2km.me)_Europe’s power crunch sparks aluminium smelter meltdown

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LONDON: It’s turning into a winter of discontent for Europe’s aluminium smelters as they struggle to cope with rocketing power prices across the region.

Four operators have announced curtailments totalling over half a million tonnes of annual production capacity, with others flexing output to mitigate power-load price spikes.

European aluminium consumers are already paying the price. Physical premiums have surged, the CME’s duty-paid spot contract jumping from us$290 (RM1,221) per tonne at the start of december to a current US$423 (RM1,781).

That’s over and above the London Metal Exchange aluminium price, which has also opened 2022 with a bang, hitting a two-month high of US$2,938.50 (RM12,371) per tonne last Wednesday.

Aluminium was the second best performer among the core lme industrial metals last year as the market priced in power-related curtailments in China.

The market’s power problems have now spread to Europe. Smelting aluminium is an energy-intensive process, power typically representing at least 30% of total production costs, albeit with significant variability depending on source, supplier structure and local energy market.

European power prices have hit multiple record highs over recent months and the regional energy crunch is now morphing into an aluminium smelter crisis.

“Exorbitant energy prices” were cited by us producer Alcoa as the reason for a two-year curtailment of its 228,000-tonne per year San Ciprian smelter in spain. The plant will be out of action by the end of this month, returning in January 2024 with renewable power contracts.

Another casualty is the KAP smelter in Montenegro, which began powering down its 120,000 tonnes of annual capacity in the middle of December.

The plant’s owner Uniprom was facing a jump in its power bill from €45 (US$50.89 or RM214.25) to €120 (RM574) per megawatt hour at the start of 2022.

The “exceptional situation on the energy and gas markets” is why Romanian producer Alro is reducing output from five to two potlines at its Slatina smelter, it said.

The 265,000-tonne-per-year plant will be operating at around one-third capacity until further notice.

Norway’s hydro has also doubled down on the amount of capacity it is idling at its Slovalco smelter in Slovakia, citing “very high energy prices (which) show no sign of improvement in the short term”. Production will be reduced to 60% of the plant’s annual capacity of 175,000 tonnes per year.All four operations will maintain remelt and cast house operations, but the combined annualised hit on primary metal production will be around 550,000 tonnes.

Other European smelters are navigating the power price crunch by tweaking amperage and run-rates, meaning there is considerable creep to any production loss estimate.

Europe is already a net importer of primary aluminium, with the regional supply deficit set to widen as the list of smelter casualties lengthens. The sharp jump in physical premiums attests to that changing dynamic.

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