Demand for oxygen could be set to explode over the coming years in South America, as both iron and steel production continues to increase and the oxygen steelmaking process prospers as a result.

Across the globe, iron production in all its forms is expected to rise from 934 million tonnes in 2006 to 1224 million tonnes in 2011 at an increase of 31%, according to a report from Manufacturingtalk.com. This is good news for iron ore mining companies, with demand for iron ore forecast to increase at a faster rate than that of steel.

In the 5 years from 2006 to 2011, it is forecast that worldwide oxygen steel manufacturing will rise by almost 31% or approximately 250 million tonnes, while over the same time span it is predicted that the alternative electric steel making process will expand by only 27% or 110 million tonnes. While the integrated blastfurnace/oxygen route is likely to command only a small share of the rapidly rising expansion of steel making in the Africa and Middle East, the oxygen steelmaking process will continue to dominate in China, Japan and seemingly the South American market.

Substantial growth in total steel output in South America will occur in the period to 2011 and it is felt that the oxygen steelmaking process will show an increased share as new capacity is built in Brazil, with demand for oxygen inevitably increasing in line with the growth in the steel production market.

Meanwhile, it has also recently been announced that ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company, is to acquire Unicon, the leading manufacturer of welded steel pipes in Venezuela, to strengthen its welded steel pipes business in South America. Unicon, who employ 2,445 people across 6 pipe making facilities in Venezuela, supplies the Oil & Gas and Industrial & Construction sectors both domestically and overseas and the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions.