Steel Mills

Big River Steel Batch Anneal/Temper Mill to Begin Production in March

Written by John Packard

“We will follow the market,” is what Mark Bula, Chief Commercial Officer at Big River Steel, told SMU during a phone interview late last week. We asked Bula to outline the progress of the mill and when they anticipate beginning production.

We learned that with the strength of the cold rolled markets, Big River Steel will have the ability to batch anneal and temper roll coils beginning in March. These would be the first pieces of equipment to begin processing steel at the still under construction mill. Bula told SMU they will have a more detailed announcement regarding the start-up of operations sometime in March. He told us, “If we can justify running the equipment we will do it.”

Big River Steel (BRS) is the $1.3 billion “Flex Mill” being built in Osceola, Arkansas. The flat rolled mill was originally scheduled to begin production by the summer of 2016. That schedule has been altered slightly with steelmaking operations at the mill not expected to be running until 4th Quarter 2016.

We were told that much of the structural and foundation and below ground level work has been completed. The melt shop roof and walls are up, the pickle-tandem cold mill and coating line are under cover and continuing to be built (although no ETA was provided for when the construction will be complete) and the hot strip mill/tunnel furnace have all the sub-structure in place but the building skins are not yet finished.

BRS was not able to be comment specifically about when various pieces of equipment would come online and begin production other than their comment that if the market will support a product and their equipment is ready they will produce the product.

We did spend some time discussing the concept of a “Flex Mill” which is a term trademarked by Big River Steel. Essentially, the idea behind Big River Steel was to utilize the best traits of an integrated mill and the innovation of the electric arc furnace technology in order to produce a wide range of grades and products not normally associated with a typical mini mill.

Here is how the Big River Steel website defines a “Flex Mill”

“Truth be told, you could care less about fancy names like Flex Mill™. You care about two things: quality and capability. We have two words to say to that: check and check.

Big River Steel will provide unequaled “flex-ability” by:

•   Evolving beyond a traditional electric arc furnace (EAF) mini mill with a Ruhrstahl Heraeus (RH) degasser for cleaner, more formable steels
•   Adjusting from thin slab to medium slab thickness to deliver better properties
•   Enhancing customer responsiveness by investing in leading-edge technologies”

Mr. Bula explained to us that their furnace will have the ability to produce steel from a 100 percent direct fee of scrap substitutes (like DRI, pig iron, etc.). This would eliminate residuals that are typically found in scrap.

Big River Steel is expected to compete in steels that technically haven’t been produced yet such as the 3rd Generation High Strength Steels for automotive.

As the mill moves into their second phase they will be looking to produce clean steels like electrical steels which are only produced by a limited number of steel mills in the United States.

In early November Steel Market Update will conduct a special Steel 101 workshop in Memphis, Tennessee which will include a tour of the Big River Steel facility. We anticipate this will be an exceptional opportunity to see a brand new mill up close and personal and to hear from mill personnel about the building of the mill, its capabilities and the progress of the ramp-up of the various pieces of equipment. We will have much more on this workshop in future issues of Steel Market Update newsletter as well as on our website.

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