Steel Mills

U.S. Steel Issued Warning on Emission Violations

Written by Sandy Williams

U.S. Steel has been issued an enforcement warning by the Allegheny County Health Department for continued violation of air quality standards at the Mon Valley Works facility in Pennsylvania.

A fire at the Clairton coke plant on Dec. 24, 2018, caused significant structural damage and damage to the equipment that cleans gases from the coke ovens. The facility has struggled with higher than normal sulfur dioxide emissions since the incident.

Attempts to mitigate the problem included flaring the coke oven gas to maximize dispersion and extending coking times to reduce the amount of coke oven gas produced. The company is also using a fuel blend with more natural gas in its operations and limiting the use of recycled coke oven gas from Clairton. U.S. Steel has been making weekly reports to ACHD on the status of repairs.

The enforcement order states that U.S. Steel must reduce its use of coke oven gas and its daily SO2 emissions at all of the Mon Valley Facilities until the repairs are completed.

It is ordered that the company must do one or more of the following:

  1. Reduce the volume of coal in each coke oven
  2. Further extend coking times from 22 hours to 30-36 hours
  3. “Hot idle” as many coke oven batteries as necessary to achieve compliance with SO2 emission standards
  4. Propose its own plan for compliance.

U.S. Steel has five days to notify the Health Department of its decision.

U.S. Steel issued the following statement today:

“U.S. Steel has received a copy of the health department’s order and is reviewing it. It is important to note that we have made significant progress on repairing our facility in the aftermath of the Dec. 24 fire. This matter has been a top priority for the entire company since it occurred, and we continue to work around the clock with maximum resources to resolve it as quickly as possible.

“Prior to the fire, we had made significant environmental performance improvements. While the fire is an unfortunate setback, we are committed to continuing that progress.

“U.S. Steel will continue to work collaboratively with relevant stakeholders, state and local government officials and agencies to achieve our common goal of protecting our shared environment and the jobs of thousands of skilled Mon Valley Works employees who manufacture world-class steel products that have been the pride of the Pittsburgh region for generations.”

Key Banc analyst Phil Gibbs commented that the enforcement order from ACHD is not likely to impact steel production in the near term, but may affect coal and coke costs. Said Gibbs in a note to clients, “Based on early anecdotes from our contacts within the coal/coke supply chain, they strongly believe that U.S. Steel will both be seeking coke in the North American merchant market (and/or from other domestic steelmakers), in addition to potentially pursuing foreign coke purchases. This is a change vs. 4-6 weeks ago and will likely create more persistent coal/coke cost headwinds through mid-2019.”

Mon Valley Works is an integrated steelmaking operation that includes four separate facilities: Clairton Plant, Edgar Thomson Plant and Irvin Plant, located in western Pennsylvania, and the Fairless Plant, located near Philadelphia, Pa. U.S. Steel has a dedicated website to provide information about Mon Valley Works and repairs at Clairton.

Latest in Steel Mills