Steel Mills

Big River Steel Grand Opening

Written by Ray Culley

Big River Steel, the newest and most technologically advanced scrap recycling and steel production facility in the world, is officially open for business.  

According to David Stickler, Chief Executive Officer of Big River Steel, the first line went operational nineteen months after groundbreaking: “A world record time to start up a mill. We’ve invested $1.3 billion in property, plant and equipment and this is the largest investment in the state of Arkansas history. We also are the first steel mill in the world to be a member of the Center for Collision and Safety Analysis…we’re sitting in the same room with the likes of Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes, helping them design their next generation of cars, using the next generation of steels.”

Stickler continued: “We really are a technology company.  We have automation throughout the mill to allow us to produce 1.65 million tons of steel with 435 workers. That’s close to 4,000 tons of steel annually per worker. I will tell you, best in class.”

“At our core, we think like a technology company.  We’re going to be working with a company called Noodle is artificial intelligence…the more we operate, the more this mill will learn.”

Stickler also introduced a moving tribute to former chairman John Correnti, who passed away midway through the construction.

Asa Hutchinson, Governor of Arkansas commented: “It’s an amazing opportunity for me as Governor to be here with global partners from all over the world coming here to see this incredible facility. This is our latest technology company here, it is our latest manufacturing company in Arkansas and it adds to our steel production and will put Arkansas on the forefront of steel production in the United States of America. I’m able to go across the globe and talk about the steel industry in Arkansas. I’m able to talk about the fact that you have a foundation here of a new generation of steel that will be foundational in the next generation of automobiles that will be manufactured in Detroit, across the country and we hope in Arkansas as well.”

Using “Flex Mill”  technology, Big River will serve a variety of markets and products ranging from industries that generate and move electricity, transformers that improve the efficiency of the transmission grid to “next generation” AHSS (Advanced High Strength Steel) for the automotive community.

The intensity for speed is evident even to the extent that work continued throughout the opening event with the sounds of cranes and trucks providing the background for the speakers.

SMU also had an opportunity to tour the mill and observe the EAF, caster, and hot mill, all running smoothly. The excitement was obvious when speaking with Mark Orvis, Manager of Technical Service and Inside Sales at Big River Steel. “One of the most exciting technologies with tremendous product opportunities is the RH degasser.  Big River is one of only three mini-mills in the world to have an RH. We’re chomping at the bit to figure out all the applications we can use it on. You might think when we got the first heat it would be time to rest, but that’s just walking up to the starting line.  All of us are gonna be burning the midnight oil for about the next 36 months straight.  That’s what we all came here to do, that’s the exciting part.”

The customer reaction has been good as well. Dave Lerman, CEO of Steel Warehouse, told SMU the start-up from his perspective has been good: “Good surface, good gauge control, nice big coils, well wound. I think that folks in production all the way through sales are all experienced guys.  They know what they’re doing, they’re not over-promising and I think it’s been about as smooth a start-up to a mill as I’ve ever seen. “

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