Telephone: 023 8061 8891
Email: sales@advancedalloysltd.co.uk
ADVANCED ALLOYS LTD
HOME SERVICES PRODUCTS BLOG CONTACT US
 

Blog

Latest Posts

Posted on Thursday July 15, 2021

Copper is in demand. As the construction industry slowly emerges from the economic hit of the pandemic, copper is once again in demand, especially for copper wire and copper pipes and tubing. Yes, in some sectors plastic and even aluminium has replaced copper, but the red metal still holds its own. It is strong and malleable, used properly corrosion is not a problem, and it is a good conductor of electricity. And this last point is key. Not only is copper in demand for electrical wiring in buildings, it is an essential material for the rapidly growing “green” economy that is ever more reliant on cleanly generated electricity.

So demand for copper is up, but primary supply is not currently keeping pace. Enter re-cycling. Recycled copper is not new, but the level of demand has been steadily increasing for several years , and now more than ever. It’s not a surprise therefore, that the scrap metal market is busy.

Scrap copper: is it worth it?

Scrap metal has always been worth something. Copper is no exception. At the time of writing, scrap copper can be sold for anything between £3.00 and £4.50 per kg, depending on how much you have  and on its purity. Even at the lowest end of this range, it is worth more than most other scrap metals. It has a long history of relatively high value, and this looks set to continue. 

Purity is important, and some contaminated metals can be too expensive to clean prior to being recycled. Generally, the copper itself is in reasonably pure form, but the challenge of separating the copper from old electrical components can make the process uneconomic. Copper alloys face the same problem, although brass often has its own market, separate to its copper content.

Recycled copper is cheaper than the primary smelted metal

With all metal manufacture, making the metals from ore is highly energy intensive and copper is no exception. Of course, once the ore has been turned into ingots or sheet metal, that expensive process need not happen again. So no matter how many times a sheet of copper is recycled, it is , weight for weight, cheaper (and hopefully more environmentally friendly) than copper in its first-time use. Recycling copper uses about 10% of the energy needed for smelting from copper ore.

The purity of primary copper is highly valued, as it comes with high and consistently reliable levels of electrical conductivity. This is important even for the most basic of electric motors but becomes ever more crucial for sensitive equipment. Where conductivity is not important – in tubing, roof sheeting and in heat exchangers, for example – recycled copper is ideal. The best recycled copper (decontaminated and electrolytically refined back to grade 'A' quality) can also be used for electrical components.

Local is good

Seen from the UK, all primary (new) copper is imported, and most comes with a high carbon footprint. The major producers are Chile, Peru, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the USA. Australia, Zambia, Canada, Russia, and Mexico are also producers. In Europe copper is mined in Finland, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden, but not on the same scale as elsewhere. 

Copper recycling, on the other hand, is usually done nationally. Approximately half of the copper used in Europe is recycled, and most of that is recycled in Europe, including in the UK. 

As with everything we buy, it is good to see a reduced carbon footprint and good to know that, handled properly, copper is infinitely recyclable. So next time you have a computer to throw out, remember it contains about a kilogram of copper. If you do nothing else, seek out a scrap merchant or recycling centre who will deal with it properly – seek out someone who is worth their metal.

--

Advanced Alloys Ltd is a specialist supplier of products made from the highest quality alloys of copper, brass, bronze and zinc. They have an exhaustive range of products suitable for all industries. Alloys can be delivered in wire, tube, sheet or bar form, and cut, bent or manipulated as required. An experienced logistics team makes sure that products reach their destination in perfect condition as swiftly as possible.

Telephone: 023 8061 8891    Email: sales@advancedalloysltd.co.uk



Posted on Tuesday June 15, 2021

Why copper’s intrinsic value runs deep-veined through history.

Everyone knows gold is expensive. We recognise it as a signifier of wealth, often without considering why. True, it has a shine and lustre like no other, but other materials also have their own unique and alluring visual qualities. Somehow, we have been seduced into holding gold above others. One can’t help wondering, is that fair?

Alluring 

For thousands of years, lots of people have thought so. Economies have been based on its perceived value, and status has depended on it. Shiny and rare, gold has captivated many an imagination and been the downfall of more than a few. But in practical terms its uses beyond jewellery (shiny and malleable) were traditionally quite limited. In modern times gold has developed wider applications: in dentistry (in fact since about 700BC, but it is still in use) in aerospace and in electronics – gold is an exceptionally good conductor, so it’s the metal of choice for high quality components in computers and mobile phones. 

Hidden superpowers in a red metal

However, gold’s expense and relative rarity, and the fact that as a metal it is very soft, means that its use is mainly limited to jewellery and some niche applications. It is not as practical, perhaps not even as valuable in real terms, as the price might suggest.

Enter copper: a versatile metal that has underpinned the practical development of societies and industry since humankind left off living in caves. The earliest copper smelting seems to have taken place in Anatolia in about 6200 BC. Archaeologists trace the start of the Bronze Age to about 3100 BC so, for approximately 3000 years, copper was the dominant metal driving human development. 

In an appealingly virtuous circle, copper (with its vital role in electrical generation, storage and distribution) is now an essential part of the green revolution which is redefining our future.

Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, wherein the tin strengthens the copper. There’s usually about 12.5% tin, but up to 20% for the most sonorous bells. The combination of metals is definitely greater than the sum of their parts.

An ancient ‘Oxhide’ pedigree

The impact of this new copper-based metal on ancient civilisations is difficult to overestimate. It’s value can be measured in part by the extent of trade. Bronze artefacts dating from at least 1500BC and made in Cyprus (the origin of the name Copper) Sicily, Sardinia and Iberia have been found across mainland Europe and into Scandinavia. 

Nor was it only individual items like bronze tools. In Sweden in 2016 there was a discovery of ‘Oxhide’ ingots of bronze from ancient Crete, so called because of their flat shape. Not only did the goods travel well, but presumably the skills and technology to work the ‘raw’ metal migrated as well.

The roles and versatility of copper and bronze probably don’t need reciting here in detail. Suffice to say, they have had a formative influence of everything from military, commercial and industrial development from the earliest ages of civilisation to the present day.

Worth their weight?

At the time of writing, the commodity market price for one kilogram of 24K gold is in excess of $60,000. The equivalent kilogram of copper costs about $10.  While that adds up if you are buying it in tons for industrial use, it is fortunate that copper is the cheaper of the two. Not only is it supremely useful on its own and in several alloy forms, it has its own unique range of colours, textures and patinas which some prefer to other more expensive metals. It holds its value and, perhaps more vital than anything else, copper is enabling an exponential growth in green technologies. And it is fortunate that we don’t have to re-wire our houses using gold.

--

Advanced Alloys Ltd is a specialist supplier of products made from the highest quality alloys of copper, brass, bronze and zinc. They have an exhaustive range of products suitable for all industries. Alloys can be delivered in wire, tube, sheet or bar form, and cut, bent or manipulated as required. An experienced logistics team makes sure that products reach their destination in perfect condition as swiftly as possible.

Telephone: 023 8061 8891    Email: sales@advancedalloysltd.co.uk



Posted on Friday April 30, 2021

Attempting to analyse the analysts.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist – or in this case, mining industry analysts – to work out that copper is going to play an important part in all our futures and in particular in the development of low carbon economies. Copper is essential for most things electrical and its in high demand for everything from electric vehicles to wind turbines and managing geothermal energy. Pretty much anything which creates, stores or distributes electricity requires copper.

The price of doom and gloom

Stable prices require an approximate balance of supply and demand. Where supply fails to meet demand, prices go up. Where there is too much supply, prices fall until there is parity. 

Given the rapid growth of electric vehicle production, especially in China, and the inexorable move to EVs in Europe and the US, plus increasing demand for wind turbines globally, demand for copper is already on the up. 

Copper used for other purposes such as roofing and piping, even domestic wiring, is going to be faced with stiff competition. Instinctively, it seems logical that prices for copper will rise and perhaps it looks like there is little to be done except grin and bear it. 

But, being careful not bury our heads in the sand, perhaps it is not quite that simple.

“Copper is the new Oil”

A recent report of this title from investment bank Goldman Sachs predicts copper prices on commodity markets to reach $15,000 per metric tonne by 2025. This figure is, naturally, an approximation. However, when compared with prices in late April 2021 (approaching $10,000) it is the size of increase which is the key factor.

Trends in demand are clear and supply is potentially limited. In particular, new mines are expensive and slow to set up, and even the extension of existing mines can take years rather than months to pass regulatory scrutiny. Match this picture with copper as a lynch pin in the changing world economy, and the comparison with oil may seem fair. 

Many commentators have picked up on this and, unsurprisingly, some are scaremongering. Doing so, however, misses the finer details of the comparison.

Resources and Resourcefulness

One of the first things to note is that current fluctuations in global copper prices may not be completely representative. As the pandemic sweeps backwards and forwards around the world, some copper producers find supply chains interrupted by border closures – most recently with Chile, for example.

Additionally, there is still plenty of opportunity to increase copper re-cycling. This is unlikely on its own to match growth in demand, (most copper wire to carry electricity still needs to be made from the purest new metal) but it could go some considerable way to supplying copper for non-electrical use. The advantage of recycling copper is also that it can also be done nationally or regionally, where supply can be adjusted most quickly.

Finally, there is the direct comparison with oil itself. At times of high demand and insufficient supply, oil prices increase. When this happens it becomes economically viable to exploit reserves which were previously too expensive to access. Thus supply and demand balance out again. Translating this to copper, it probably means developing existing mines further, re-processing in-production waste to extract more of the metal, recycling more and eventually opening brand new production fields. In short, supply and demand will balance out. 

How long is a piece of copper wire?

The big question, therefore, is not whether there will be enough copper (there will), but whether there will be enough copper soon enough. One argument for increased prices is that they will help pay for the development of new supply. Some argue that the mining industry is more risk averse than the oil industry, and that it may not be ready to scale up production as quickly as is thought necessary.

On the other hand, and while nothing can be certain, it seems fair to say that where there is demand and opportunity, resourcefulness will kick in to meet the challenge.  

Will it do so in time? It’s unhelpful to speculate. In terms of domestic UK supply and demand, we may face increasing prices, but most probably gradually so. That may be unavoidable – after all, the green revolution was never going to be free.

--

Advanced Alloys Ltd is a specialist supplier of products made from the highest quality alloys of copper, brass, bronze and zinc. They have an exhaustive range of products suitable for all industries. Alloys can be delivered in wire, tube, sheet or bar form, and cut, bent or manipulated as required. An experienced logistics team makes sure that products reach their destination in perfect condition as swiftly as possible.

Telephone: 023 8061 8891 Email: sales@advancedalloysltd.co.uk



Posted on Wednesday March 31, 2021

Considering a shiny red metal in a post pandemic world.

Global commodity markets function according to their own internal logic. So do the bureaucrats and civil servants tasked with unravelling the implications of Brexit. Throw in projected increases in demand for copper and copper alloys, and the future looks interesting. With clients in the EU and with most of our copper sourced from outside the UK, we’re positioned right at the heart of a copper-coloured matrix. This is not without its challenges, but it also gives us unique opportunities to see what’s going on.

Buying and selling the future

Copper prices are determined by the commodities markets in a complex interaction of actual and predicted supply and actual and predicted demand. Despite the reputation of commodity markets to fluctuate wildly on whim and rumour, the reality is that trends tend to be very rational over the medium and long terms.

In 2020 the markets struggled with competing pressures of reduced production, pandemic uncertainty and the understanding that future demand would continue to be high. In early 2021 copper prices on the London Metals Exchange (LME) fluctuated considerably, from $7712 per metric tonne on 2nd February, to $9617 on 25th. Prices have been more stable since: $9022 on 5th March and $9098 on 22nd of the month.

Occasional extremes don’t disguise longer terms patterns.

Several factors indicate the price of copper continuing at around these levels which are at an eight year high. Demand in Asia, which is leading the post Covid-19 recovery, continues to be high. Likewise, the requirements of sustainable development and ‘green’ energy call on copper for electricity generation, transmission infrastructure, energy storage, and consumption.

The world has plenty of copper still to extract but over time there will be more reliance on recycled copper (already a thriving industry) and ores from deeper mines and potentially of lower grade. Prices are unlikely to fall but, given the relative predictability of these factors, nor should we see the sort of irrational increases that inhibit economic growth.

Oh, Br***t!

Whatever you or I felt about the Brexit referendum of 2016, the reality is that we now operate in a different environment when compared to life within the EU. From our end, we kept (and keep!) a careful eye on the new regulations and requirements and in particular the paperwork that’s needed for trade into and out of Europe.

It would be foolish, of course, to pretend that there have been no hiccups; there is definitely a tendency for new rules to be interpreted differently in different places across the continent. We’re definitely still learning. So, there are some issues around part loads to Europe and delivery times for these have become longer in some cases. We’re working hard to make this as painless as possible for our clients. On the up side, it does look as if there will be greater uniformity and predictability at border crossings as everyone gets used to new systems.

The same applies, albeit to a lesser extent, to orders coming in from Europe. Overall we can see that, provided we keep focused on the details of import and export, business will remain buoyant, with smoother delivery in both directions.

The future looks bright

Having  paid attention to costs – both long and short term – we’re well placed to continue supplying our clients with high grade products at realistic prices. Copper is never going to be cheap, but one of the cornerstones of our business is good value, so we always work hard to pass on any price advantage that we can secure.

Our business in January and February has been brisk, and March also looks healthy. And if we are supplying copper, it means that many other businesses are using it too. So, after a challenging 2020, we feel fortunate, very cautiously, to be sensing the start of economic recovery. We feel privileged to be in a position to work with so many good customers and doubly so to believe that we might all be within reach of something like normal business activity. The future is bright. The future is copper-coloured.

--

Advanced Alloys Ltd is a specialist supplier of products made from the highest quality alloys of copper, brass, bronze and zinc. They have an exhaustive range of products suitable for all industries. Alloys can be delivered in wire, tube, sheet or bar form, and cut, bent or manipulated as required. An experienced logistics team makes sure that products reach their destination in perfect condition as swiftly as possible.

Telephone: 023 8061 8891 Email: sales@advancedalloysltd.co.uk


Posted on Saturday February 27, 2021

Why copper is a real investment in the future.

Copper is the most remarkable metal. It is not strictly a ‘precious’ metal of course, but its multiplicity of uses renders that distinction irrelevant. It’s much cheaper than gold but many times more useful, and it’s 100% recyclable without any loss of its properties. In fact, it is estimated that as much as 50% of Europe’s demand for copper (and 35% worldwide) is met from recycled sources, and that at least 60% of all copper ever produced is still in use.

 

Greening the world with copper

 

Although copper production can have a relatively high carbon footprint (it varies considerably depending on origin), its complete recyclability renders it carbon efficient in the long run. And once produced, copper alloys empower sustainable development.

 

Copper is already making a contribution to a low carbon future. It is essential for wind turbines, which use it in their ring generators, and it features significantly downstream, once the electricity is generated – electric cars, trains, and circuit boards all use copper to maximise efficiency and durability.

 

Copper, everywhere

 

There are other uses which are less dramatic, but still important. Copper is second only to silver in its heat conductivity, so copper saucepans are prized possessions, and copper alloys are now the most common metals for coins. Despite the trend towards digital payment, many economies continue to rely on coinage and, because of its recyclability, copper features prominently.

 

Copper’s resistance to corrosion means it’s not only ideal for piping clean water, it is also used in the storage of nuclear waste. Copper is used in the superconductors in the Large Hadron Collider at CERNE, and more prosaically copper is still the favourite metal for electrical wiring. Copper coating on some surgeons’ scalpels aids conductivity, so the blade can be heated, cauterising as it is cuts and reducing bleeding.

 

Sourcing and recycling

 

For industrial applications, copper is generally considered to be third in importance only after steel and aluminium. And demand for copper and its alloys is expected to increase by 50% in the next 20 years, from 28 million tons per year to 42 million tons in 2040. Some estimates, citing growing use in sustainable industries and green technologies, puts demand showing a staggering tenfold increase by 2050.

 

Apart from copper wire for electrical use, which is made from the freshly milled metal, recycled copper therefore has real importance in the supply chain. Fortunately there are well described standards for recycled copper and copper alloys – there are international, European and domestic specifications governing purity of scrap and the final recycled product.

 

Ask an expert

 

As Europe produces approximately 45% of the world’s recycled copper, there is a good chance that recycled copper products bought in the UK are of European origin. If it comes from outside the EU, it will still be produced to recognised standards. And, of course, if you’re curious, your wholesaler will be able to confirm exactly what you’re getting – with a copper bottomed guarantee.

 

Data quoted in this article can be found at https://copperalliance.org/

--

Advanced Alloys Ltd is a specialist supplier of products made from the highest quality alloys of copper, brass, bronze and zinc. They have an exhaustive range of products suitable for all industries. Alloys can be delivered in wire, tube, sheet or bar form, and cut, bent or manipulated as required. An experienced logistics team makes sure that products reach their destination in perfect condition and on time every time.

Telephone: 023 8061 8891 Email: sales@advancedalloysltd.co.uk




 

ADVANCED ALLOYS

Doing exactly what it says on the copper

 

Advanced Alloys Limited
Unit 17, Parham Drive
Boyatt Wood Industrial Estate
Eastleigh
Hampshire SO50 4NU

Telephone: 023 8061 8891
Fax: 023 8061 1481

No copyright infringement is intended on any sourced content or images used.
© 2021 Advanced Alloys Ltd. Website by Future Point 4 Business.

TOP