China adopts more flexible output curbs to battle winter smog

(Bloomberg) — Northern China’s key industrial hub will adopt a more flexible program for its anti-pollution output curbs this winter, according to a plan released Thursday by the environment ministry.

The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area will eschew blanket cuts and take a differentiated approach to industries including steel, even as this year’s winter restrictions are likely to be expanded outside the region. A plan was announced in July to apply environmental measures to provinces in the Yangtze River Delta and Fenwei Plain areas, although no details have been released.

Key Takeaways Steel, coking and casting companies, aluminum and alumina producers that meet emissions standards will be exempted from production curbs No blanket cuts for steel, construction, coking, casting, base metals, chemical processing, and other high-polluting industries; instead, differentiated curbs will be imposed based on air quality readings during the winter season, and companies can adjust output to meet emissions standards Companies found violating environmental standards will have to further limit output, halt completely, or risk being punished or seized, while cities will be responsible for stopping, revamping or relocating high-polluting steel mills and other companies Tangshan, Handan and Anyang cities are banned from constructing, expanding or accepting new steel capacity Authorities will intensify capacity cuts in steel, coking and construction sectors; Hebei to remove at least 10m tons of steel capacity, Shanxi to cut 2.25m tons, Shandong to cut 3.55m tons Emissions limits for fossil fuel power stations, steel, petroleum, chemical engineering and base metal sectors to be enforced from Oct. 1 — smoke, sulfur dioxide, nitroxide emissions cannot exceed 10, 35 and 50mg/cubic meter respectively Greener modes of transport, such as railways or ships, to be adopted for commodity materials and products No construction of new open-air mines, and those violating environmental regulations will be shut by end Oct. Market Commentary The measures indicate steel curbs “will be loosened a bit this year,” CRU Group analyst Lin Lin says by phone from Shanghai, due to the broader impact of China’s supply-side reforms over recent years. “It’s not necessary to be that harsh at this point,” she says, adding that the measures have largely been priced into markets For aluminum, “most smelters have been adding units to cut emissions and have already met emission requirements, so there’ll be a very limited number of plants required to halt production this winter,” Liu Xiaolei, analyst at SMM Information & Technology Co., says by phone from Shanghai. The plan confirms expectations that there will be “no price support” to metals markets from the winter curbs, he says Market reaction to the plan, which circulated as a draft earlier this month, was muted, with steel rebar futures on the Shanghai Futures Exchange ending the morning session 0.2% higher READ ABOUT THE IMPACT OF CHINA’S FIGHT AGAINST POLLUTION: World’s Top Steel Industry Hits the Beach in Win for Miners  Iron Ore Lumps, Pellets in Vogue as China Scrubs Nasty Skies  China’s Iron Ore Mining Seen Contracting Further as Costs Rise