Steel Mills

Cliffs to Bring Back No. 5 Cleveland BF, Invest in Electrical Steels

Written by Laura Miller

Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. plans to have the No. 5 blast furnace at its Cleveland Works back up and running at full capacity in August, company executives said on a second quarter earnings conference call on Friday, July 22.

Along with a furnace reline, the company took advantage of the downtime to perform other important repairs and maintenance in related areas of the Cleveland Works, including the wastewater treatment plant and the onsite powerhouse, Cliffs CFO Celso Goncalves said on the call.

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The revamp of the Cleveland Works will be the company’s last major capital project until at least 2025, chairman, president and CEO Lourenco Goncalves said. The Cleveland-based steelmaker has now revamped four blast furnaces since the acquisition of AK Steel in 2020. Although the company has filed an air permit application to build an EAF at its Middletown Works in Ohio, “There’s no EAF coming at Middletown,” he added.

Bringing back the Cleveland blast furnace to full capacity next month will align with improving steel demand from the automotive sector, company executives said.

“Relentlessly growing pent-up demand for cars, trucks, and SUVs has developed” as a result of the microchip shortage and other automotive supply chain issues over the past two years. Low unemployment rates mean Americans have the income to buy new vehicles, and need to do so because of work commutes. “Every car that can be produced over the next several years has a buyer,” the elder Goncalves said.

As the largest supplier of steel to the automotive sector, Cliffs is well positioned to serve the automotive sector with steel, especially considering the investments the company has made over the past two years “to meet this coming onslaught of demand.” These investments include the acquisitions of automotive-heavy steelmakers AK Steel and ArcelorMittal USA, and the Cleveland furnace reline.

To further serve the automotive industry as it transitions to electric vehicles, Cliffs is making a $30 million investment at its Zanesville, Ohio, facility to add another 70,000 tons of non-oriented electrical steel capacity, effectively doubling its capacity to produce those steels. Cliffs is currently the only domestic producer to make that product. The investment will upgrade and bring back equipment that was idled by AK Steel when Cliffs purchased the company. “We are basically bringing back to life a mill,” Goncalves noted.

Additionally, as it sees demand for electrical steels continuing to grow, Cliffs plans to do something similar at its facility in Mansfield, Ohio, which currently produces stainless steels, by adding the capabilities to produce electrical steels. This investment would not take away stainless tonnages but would be in addition to them, Goncalves said.

By Laura Miller,

Laura Miller

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