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SMU Community News

Written by John Packard

So, this is where we will put responses to questions, human interest items and various other “bits and pieces” that we feel will be of value to our readers.

The constant news reports on the coronavirus with their rolling tallies of the number of Americans infected, and the number who have perished, are profoundly troubling. The higher the tallies, the lower people’s spirits. While Steel Market Update will never sugarcoat the bad news, we are keeping an eye out for the good news, because there’s still plenty out there. Here are just a few examples:

* Big River Steel donated 20 pallets of water from Pepsi MidAmerica, and three pallets of large plastic bags, to help meet the needs of various social service agencies near its Osceola mill.

* The Cleveland-Cliffs Foundation and the AK Steel Foundation, the philanthropic organizations of Cleveland-Cliffs, have committed $55,000 to food banks within the communities where the company operates. “During this time of rising need, Cleveland-Cliffs is supporting our local communities’ food banks as they are on the front-line distributing food and other essentials to families in need,” said Lourenco Goncalves, Chairman, President and CEO of Cleveland-Cliffs.

* Nucor Steel is teaming up with schools near its Norfolk, Neb., mill to use 3-D printers to make face masks for Faith Regional Health Services. Students from five school districts, assembled in Nucor’s Detailing Center, are using 13 printers to produce face shields to protect health care workers from infection.

If you know of a company that is stepping up to help its community in these trying times, even in some small way, Steel Market Update would like to report on it. Just email John Packard or Tim Triplett at

Question from a reader:

“In reading your Final Thoughts this morning, this line struck a chord: “Most of the blast furnaces taken down are in ‘hot idle’ meaning they can be returned to service within one to three weeks. On average, how long does it take to ‘take down’ an integrated furnace and how long does it take to bring it back up?  Can you answer this for a ‘hot idle’ as well as a ‘full idle?'”

John Packard’s response, with the assistance of Chuck McDaniels, a former metallurgist for an integrated steel mill and one of SMU’s Steel 101 instructors:

“Hot idle is where they bank the furnace (keep the refractory bricks warm) so it can be brought back up without having to do major maintenance. Depending on the furnace, it can be as short as a week to up to three weeks to have that furnace back up and running at full capacity.

”Full idle or cold idle is where they allow the bricks to cool down. Bringing a cold furnace back online is more difficult as there could be damage to the bricks or other sections of the furnace. Depending on what maintenance needs to be done, it could be three weeks or much longer to bring a cold furnace back online.

“It is true that the time to ramp up from a cold idle is longer than the hot, but depending on how the cold idle is planned and structured, it wouldn’t necessarily be difficult. A cold idle start-up could be done within three weeks if the original cold idling was structured for an expedited start-up. The cold start-up would definitely take longer than the hot idle, but could be accomplished in as little as two or three weeks under certain circumstances.”

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