Steel all over the world: Estimating in-use stocks of iron for 200 countries

Industrialization and urbanization in the developing world have boosted steel demand during the recent two decades. Reliable estimates on how much steel is required for high economic development are necessary to better understand the future challenges for employment, resource management, capacity planning, and climate change mitigation within the steel sector. During their use phase, steel-containing products provide service to people, and the size of the in-use stock of steel can serve as an indicator of the total service level. We apply dynamic material flow analysis to estimate in-use stocks of steel in about 200 countries and identify patterns of how stocks evolve over time. Three different models of the steel cycle are applied and a full uncertainty analysis is conducted to obtain reliable stock estimates for the period 1700-2008. Per capita in-use stocks in countries with a long industrial history, e.g., the U.S, the UK, or Germany, are between 11 and 16 tons, and stock accumulation is slowing down or has come to a halt. Stocks in countries that industrialized rather recently, such as South Korea or Portugal, are between 6 and 10 tons per capita and grow fast. In several countries, per capita in-use stocks of steel have saturated or are close to saturation. We identify the range of saturation to be 13 ± 2 tons for the total per capita stock, which includes 10 ± 2 tons for construction, 1.3 ± 0.5 tons for machinery, 1.5 ± 0.7 tons for transportation, and 0.6 ± 0.2 tons for appliances and containers. The time series for the stocks and the saturation levels can be used to estimate future steel production and scrap supply.

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