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Exclusive Interview: Dr. Neil Bristow explains that yes, there is life left in coke!

For the past 20 years, Dr. Neil Bristow, Principal/Managing Consultant at H&W Worldwide Consulting has not only been an internationally recognized industry expert, he has also been a valuable advisory board member and co-chair for every single edition of the Met Coke World Summit.

With such vast knowledge of the coke, coal and steal industry, Smithers Apex Recently sat down with Neil to get his insights into the biggest challenges facing the industry today and what bight spots he is currently seeing. 

Smithers Apex: Why is Met Coke World Summit so Important to the Industry?

 Dr. Bristow: For 20 years, we’ve brought together the entire supply chain for the met coke industry at this event for debate, discussion, networking, deal making and insight. No other conference focuses so well on our industry – and I am proud to have been a part of this great event’s history – and it’s future.

Smithers Apex: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the industry right now?

Dr. Bristow: In October last year, the outlook and news for the coke industry was - in a nutshell – really bad!

Macroeconomic conditions were deteriorating, demand for steel, coke and met coal were falling, there was a ‘flood’ of Chinese steel exports and prices were heading south. There was no improvement expected for a number of years, export conditions threatened global steel, met coal was in “significant” oversupply… and that was without considering how India and others were impacted by Chinese coke.

Smithers Apex: What are the bright spots in the industry?

Dr. Bristow: In October I asked the question: Is there life left in coke? The answer was – and is – of course!

By April at Eurocoke in Barcelona things had changed… if not drastically, then markedly.  Prices were up, inventories were down, steel prices were recovering…  We see today a strong real estate market, steel strength, infrastructure spending, more loan availability all augur positive signs.

At the end of the day, the world continues to need steel and using blast furnaces to make it continues to be the best way to produce steel. I think the industry is cyclical and opportunities abound.

Smithers Apex: What are you most looking forward to about the Met Coke World Summit in Pittsburgh in October?

 Dr. Bristow: I am excited to hear updates on the next phase in the coke, coal and steel industries, updated and continuing forecasts from analysts and respected voices in the industry, technical and operational achievements and updates, insight into logistics and more. Presentations from Sun Coke, Blaschak Coal (anthracite is a very hot topic right now), and meeting old and new friends. This year is the 20th anniversary of the Met Coke World Summit and the first edition of the program shows many of the issues facing the industry then - are the ones facing the industry now: Coke supply, coke battery updates, Australian hard coking coal, coking coal blends (and PCI and natural gas), environmental issues…