Steel Mills

North American Mills Idle Furnaces, Cut Production

Written by Sandy Williams

Despite a flurry of maintenance projects completed in the second half of 2019, several steelmakers are planning outages or idling of operations during the next few months.

Steel producing mills have been designated as essential critical infrastructure and are not subject to state COVID-19 shutdowns. ArcelorMittal, however, is adjusting production by idling its IH-4 furnace at Indiana Harbor West following the closures of automotive manufacturing plants in the U.S. 

“The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted ArcelorMittal USA’s key use markets. In response to this, we are adapting our capacity to meet changing demand while maintaining the flexibility of our operations,” said ArcelorMittal spokesman William Steers. “As a result, ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor has begun preparations for a safe and orderly blow down of the IH #4 blast furnace with necessary precaution to preserve the asset for future production.”

Indiana Harbor’s #3 furnace, with a capacity of 4,960 tons/day, was idled last year after reaching the end of its operational life. To continue production would have entailed an expensive reline of the furnace. With furnaces #3 and #4 shut down, only IH #7 is still operating at Indiana Harbor East.

U.S. Steel is continuing with the closing of steelmaking operations at Great Lakes Works as well as a 48-day maintenance outage at Gary Works. U.S. Steel declined to comment on the status of its Granite City mill.

NLMK USA has maintenance scheduled for its furnace in Indiana beginning in June. The company will also close its Farrell hot strip mill for 10-14 days beginning April 1 due to a shortage of slabs to process.

A reline of the furnace at Canada’s Stelco was originally scheduled for the second quarter, but was moved to the second half of the year.

Pipe and tube producers U.S. Steel Tubular and Tenaris have added to the list of operations that will be idled as tubular products are impacted by the sharp drop in oil prices and declining demand in the energy industry.

The coronavirus’ impact on U.S. automakers has hit SBQ producer Gerdau. The company is temporarily idling specialty bar production at four of its U.S. facilities. 


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