By Ken Schaeffer
The final tariff rates for steam activated carbon imported into the U.S. from China were announced by the Department of Commerce (DOC) in February 2007 and the International Trade Commission (ITC) voted unanimously to affirm the new tariff rates in March 2007. The tariff is for an initial five-year period and subject to renewal. The new tariff does not cover activated carbon from China that is activated using chemicals, reactivated carbons, activated carbon cloth or activated carbon paper.
The announcement was the culmination of a year-long process that began in March 2006 when Calgon Carbon Corp. and Norit Americas, Inc., filed an anti-dumping petition with the U.S. Government. After the government investigation process that included input from Chinese manufacturers, Chinese exporters, U.S. importers and U.S. purchasers, preliminary higher duties were issued in October 2006 and the recent final ruling puts average anti-dumping duty at about 67% for most importers and this will be in addition to the standard 4.8% duty for imported activated carbon (HS code 3802.10) making the total duty approximately 72%. Some Chinese manufacturers were assessed duty rates as high as 228% for not being cooperative or not providing requested information.
Calgon Carbon has a business unit in China and is a major importer of Chinese activated carbon and they will also be subject to additional duties (actually, they were assessed a rate of approximately 78%), but according to the DOC, because of the Byrd Amendment, Calgon Carbon and Norit Americas could share 100% of the new higher duties for “qualifying expenditures” as they were the damaged parties in the anti-dumping petition. The Byrd Amendment has been repealed by Congress and will expire in Oct 2007.
In 2005, the U.S. imported approximately 85,000,000 pounds of activated carbon from China or about 20 of our activated carbon requirements. China supplied more than half of all activated carbon imports, and most of it was coal-base steam activated type. Most other activated carbon imports are coconut shell activated carbon from other Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, Philippines, and Indonesia.
The ITC final report on the new activated carbon tariff (Certain Activated Carbon from China, Investigation No. 731-TA-1103 (Final) USITC Publication 3913, April 2007) is now available. Copies can be requested by calling the ITC (202) 205-2000 or fax: (202) 205-2104.
In the U.S., Calgon manufactures activated carbon from bituminous coal and Norit Americas manufactures activated carbon from lignite, sub-bituminous and bituminous coal. Meadwestvaco is the third domestic manufacturer (not a party to the anti-dumping petition) and they manufacture activated carbon from wood for special applications.
There is very little activated carbon manufacturing in Europe, Canada and the rest of the Americas as most is made from coal or wood in the U.S. and China or coconut shell elsewhere in Asia. Chinese activated carbon has increased in price 10-20% in recent years due to coal shortages, currency evaluation, ocean freight increases and general inflation. Now, with the added duty resulting in average 72% total tariff, the activated carbon market is experiencing ‘sticker shock” in many markets. Activated carbon prices to end users are now 30 – 70% higher than they were just 3-4 years ago.
Activated carbon users should re-evaluate their activated carbon application and consider changing the grade or type of activated they buy in an effort to reduce their costs. For example, if one used acid-washed coal base activated carbon for a water filtration of water filter manufacturing, one might now look at regular coconut shell activated carbon as an alternative as it may be less expensive and actually have better properties for the application such as higher activity, better attrition resistance, and less dust. In the past, many users bought acid-washed coal base activated carbon because of concern of leachable heavy metals from coal base activated carbon, but coconut shell activated carbon usually does not have that concern. Historically, coconut shell activated carbon was not used in many applications because coal base was less expensive, but that dynamic is now out of date and coconut shell activated carbon is very competitive.
The grade of the carbon should also be investigated as one might be using a highly active carbon where a regular activity carbon at lower price may suffice. Activated carbon activity is typically measured in terms of iodine number of 500 – 1500 mg/g, or carbon tetrachloride (CTC) % activity 35 – 90. If one is using an 1100-iodine number carbon the price would be higher than a 900 iodine number carbon or one might use a less amount of a much higher activity carbon and save money overall.
The current activated carbon market has just come through a year of confusion and uncertainty and there are signs of product shortages as many importers did not bring in much product pending tariff resolution and other importers have been assessed much higher than average duty and have stopped importation of activated carbon from China. The domestic manufacturers will pick up business due to product shortages, but they cannot make up the entire product shortfall. It would be prudent to talk to your activated carbon supplier and place orders well in advance of predicted need for the balance of this year.
About the author
Ken Schaeffer is President of Carbon Resources, LLC based in Oceanside, CA. He is Vice-Chairman of the ASTM D28 Commitee on Activated Carbon and Vice-Chairman if IACMA (International Association of Activated Carbon Manufacturers). Schaeffer has a BA Degree in biology and an MS Degree in environmental science from the University of Texas at Dallas. He can be contacted at (760) 630-5724 or email@example.com.