(Reuters) - Steel is an alloy, mostly made up of iron, with a carbon content, and is one of the most widely-used materials in the world.
Steel is the major raw material used in the construction of buildings, bridges, infrastructure and railways as well as household appliances and cars.
Steel is strong, resilient, versatile and can be recycled over and over again without losing those properties. It can be used in a wide variety of climates, including extreme cold and hot.
The steel industry is often considered to be a gauge of economic health because of the critical role it plays in economic development.
There are many ways of producing steel and many types of grades to meet consumer needs.
There are two major ways of steelmaking; electric arc furnace and blast furnace.
Scrap is mainly used in electric arc furnace steelmaking, while iron ore and coking coal are mainly used in the blast furnace process. Coking coal is turned into coke and is used as the main fuel and reductant in a blast furnace.
There are three categories of steel products; Long steel, carbon flat steel and stainless steel.
Slabs are semi-products in the form of carbon flat steel and can be turned into hot and cold strips or coils which are mainly used in automobiles, white goods and ships.
Billets are also semi-products in the forms of long steel, which can be turned into hot rolled bars, rods, tube rounds and reconstruction bars, mainly used in construction and pipelines.
Stainless steel is widely used in the making of cutlery, wrist watches and surgical equipment. Nickel and ferro-chrome are two key ingredients in stainless steel as they prevent corrosion.
The economic boom in China and India has sparked a massive increase in demand for steel in recent years. For the last five years world crude steel production grew by more than 7 percent, with China being the major contributor.
While the output growth rate in European Union (EU) countries has slowed down, shares of emerging markets like Brazil, India, Russia and China (BRIC) increased to 48.2 percent in 2007 from 31 percent in 2001.
Apparent steel use in BRIC countries accounted for 40 percent of global steel usage and is expected to rise to almost 45 percent this year.
Below are the top 10 steel producing countries and company and top ten steel consuming countries.
* Figures are in millions of tons
2007 2006 %change
China 489.0 422.7 15.7
Japan 120.2 116.2 3.4
United States 97.2 98.6 -1.4
Russia 72.2 70.8 2.0
India 53.1 49.5 7.3
South Korea 51.4 48.5 6.0
Germany 48.5 47.2 2.8
Ukraine 42.8 40.9 4.7
Brazil 33.8 30.9 9.3
Italy 32.0 31.6 1.2
Rank Company Production
1 ArcelorMittal 117.2
2 Nippon Steel 34.7
5 Baosteel 22.5
6 U.S. Steel 21.2
7 Nucor 20.3
8 Tangshan 19.1
9 Corus Group 18.3
10 Riva Group 18.2
OUTLOOK FOR APPARENT STEEL USE (2006-2008)
Regions 2006 2007 2008
EU-27 184.9 192.2 195.0
Other Europe 27.2 29.3 31.0
South America 35.6 39.5 41.6
Africa 23.1 25.1 27.5
Middle East 37.3 40.4 43.4
Asia 607.2 663.2 721.1
World 1,120.9 1,197.7 1,278.6
World(ex-China) 763.5 799.6 834.8
World(ex-BRIC) 663.1 681.1 704.7
Source: International Iron and Steel Institute
Compiled by Humeyra Pamuk, editing by Michael Roddy