Back in August 2012 I described the bankruptcy of RG Steel and the possible fate of three our nation’s remaining steel mills. I now have an update and some commentary based on my experience in the steel industry, several lifetimes ago.
Sparrow’s Point (Baltimore) MD
It’s over folks. Formerly the largest steel mill in the world will be eventually no more. It will likely take several years to break it apart. The nail in the coffin was the purchase of the (relatively new) cold rolling mill by Nucor. That was the only really valuable piece of the mill left. Everything else was operating at an mid 20th century energy usage and efficiency footprint. So the famous “L” blast furnace will likely end up as scrap and what’s left will be probably hauled off to China.
Steubenville North, OH
Reportedly, the mill is in the process of being demolished. This mill had been shut down for several years so there is no surprise here. Sadly, I was not able to make it down there and take some pictures before the wrecking ball arrived because this mill was unique with the blast furnaces actually part of the bridge overlooking the Ohio River.
Mingo Junction, OH
Mingo has been shut down for about 4 years now. I’m still scratching my head on this one. Mingo has had nearly everything going for it. A nearly brand new Electric Arc Furnace ($100 million+), a newer caster, AND an 84 inch hot strip mill. Some the recent research I have done on the mill has indicated that there was much money put into the hot strip mill in the last 10 years for enhancements and upgrades. This represents a nearly perfect steelmaking operation with modern, efficient gear. They just demolished the Ore bridge a couple of weeks ago so it looks like the blast furnace will be next. So the Electric furnace is going to be the future of Mingo.
The jury’s still out on Mingo , folks. Stay tuned.
This one is close to my heart. A long time ago I saw with my own eyes the continuous caster, installed in 1988, in operation. Watching molten steel being transformed into slabs inside an enormous machine is truly a once in a lifetime event and I will never forget it. Today if you don’t have a caster you are out of business but back then it was a big deal for Warren.
The good news for Warren is that they were able to winterize the blast furnace. We still don’t know what will happen but there is an auction coming up this month to sell off some tooling, machinery, and auxiliary supplies. Oddly enough they will auction off the Wean 48 inch galvanizing line. I might argue that this is critical to the operation but I understand that CJ Betters needs to make money.
Pros for Warren are that they have historically been the market leaders for high strength/low alloy, high carbon, and electrical tool steels. The bad news is their customers have likely found other suppliers by now.
After that, we just don’t know about Warren. One serious problem with the Warren mill is that they only have a 56 inch hot strip mill. That’s kind of like the kiss of death in the steel industry. Anything less that 72 inches these days is considered obsolete.
Another ramification is that, based on some news reports, is that (across the board) much of the workforce is at or very near retirement age. When the accumulated knowledge of how to make steel and operate the equipment is taken off of the table, what does ramifications does that have for the future of steel making in this country?
It should get interesting to see what happens this year with Mingo and Warren.