Two blast furnaces at Northwest Indiana mills have gone out of commission.
An unplanned outage occurred at the No. 8 blast furnace Gary Works, the nation’s largest steel mill. ArcelorMittal also is idling the No. 7 furnace at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor East – the biggest in the United States – for a maintenance project that is expected to take two months.
The furnaces went offline last week, shortly after Great Lakes steel production hit its highest level in six months. Production in Northwest Indiana and the Chicago area just surpassed 690,000 tons after languishing for most of the year because Gary Works was forced to curtail operations because thick ice cover on the Great Lakes prevented ships from hauling in needed iron ore.
U.S. Steel had since returned all four blast furnaces at U.S. Steel to normal operations. Overall capacity in the Great Lakes region hit a yearly high of 78.8 percent two weeks ago.
But an incident forced U.S. Steel to shut down one of the four blast furnaces at Gary Works for an undetermined period of time. The furnace is the smallest at the mill on the southern shore of Lake Michigan and is capable of producing 3,300 tons of pig iron per day, according to the American Institute for Steel Technology.
“On Sunday (June 1), Gary Works had an incident without injury which resulted in a disruption of the operation of the #8 blast furnace,” the company said in a statement. “Repairs are progressing.”
Trade publications estimate repairs could take three to six weeks. U.S. Steel spokeswoman Sarah Cassella declined to comment.
ArcelorMittal had planned its outage of the No. 7 blast furnace, the largest in the western hemisphere. Industry sources estimate the repair project could cost as much as $65 million.
The blast furnace at the former Inland Steel mill in East Chicago was built in 1980 and last relined in 2003.
“The furnace repair will improve the efficiency and reliability of the asset and ultimately allow ArcelorMittal and the Indiana Harbor complex to be well positioned to meet future customer demand,” said ArcelorMittal spokeswoman Mary Beth Holdford.
The No. 3 and No. 4 blast furnaces, and all related steel producing operations at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor, will continue to operate as normal during the outage. Affected employees at the mill will do repair and maintenance work when the furnace is offline. They also will make safety improvements and train to use the modernized equipment.
“In partnership with the United Steelworkers, we are working to ensure a safe and successful repair of the No. 7 blast furnace,” Holdford said.
ArcelorMittal does not expect any impact on its customers. The Luxembourg-based steelmaker carefully planned its slab inventory so it can continue to meet demand.
“We have been planning this,” ArcelorMittal Americas CEO Louis Schorsch said during the company’s first quarter conference call. “Really, it’s several years that the planning has been ongoing. That involves lining up contractors, delivering materials for the work that’s done on the furnace, as well as then ordering and building inventory of slabs to compensate for this. So we don’t expect our shipments to be affected at all.” （ ）
Source – nwitimes.com