Whether it’s restarting blast furnaces in the US and abroad, or pushing full-steam ahead at its Big River Steel 2 project, US Steel Corp. is keeping abreast of current demand, with an eye toward a sustainable future.
Ken Jaycox, US Steel’s chief commercial officer, sat down with SMU managing editor Michael Cowden on Feb. 7 for a Fireside Chat at SMU’s Tampa Steel Conference. He laid out how US Steel is navigating near-term market turbulence and the company’s vision for the future.
Talking about current conditions, Jaycox said, “All in all it’s been a mixed bag,” continuing: “It’s certainly been a much better January into February than what we had originally expected in December.”
Jaycox addressed the Pittsburgh-based steelmaker recently restarting blast furnaces at the Mon Valley Works in Pennsylvania and in Košice, Slovakia. “Not to overcomplicate it, but we are constantly looking at supply and demand,” he said.
He noted that US Steel saw a customer demand signal at Mon Valley – whose markets include appliance, distribution and conversion – that prompted it to restart the previously idled No. 3 furnace there.
In Kosice, only 60 miles from war-torn Ukraine, and facing the energy challenges roiling most European countries, US Steel also saw certain demand signals that warranted furnace restarts, Jaycox said.
US Steel is traditionally associated with integrated steelmaking. But it’s going all in on its “Big River 2” EAF sheet mill, which is slated to turn its Osceola, Ark., campus into a “mega” mill with annual capacity of 6.3 million tons.
“We are ridiculously excited about Big River,” Jaycox said. “It is absolutely a crown jewel.” He noted that the mantra for US Steel with the expansion at Big River is, “on time, on budget.”
US Steel is shooting for a summer 2024 completion date for Big River 2, Jaycox said. He added that the “secret sauce” for keeping true to that mantra is the construction team led by Jim Bell, who previously worked on Big River 1.
Bell was also involved in the construction of an EAF sheet mill in Columbus, Miss., that is now owned by Steel Dynamics Inc. (SDI).
Big River 2 might be the biggest project underway in Osceola. But it’s not the only one. US Steel is also finishing construction of a new non-grain-oriented (NGO) electrical steel line there. Startup is slated for 3Q of this year. The line has a rated capacity of 200,000 tons. It will start at ~40,000 tons, most of which will be devoted to qualifications and industrial-grade product, before ramping up into 2024, and hitting full production in 2025.
Automotive and industrial customers have already expressed some interest in product, Jaycox said. “We are excited about this market,” he added. “It’s certainly different from anything we’ve done in the past.”
Another area of enthusiasm for the company is in reshoring of businesses to the US, and North America more broadly.
“It’s a great opportunity to create jobs. It’s great for the economy,” Jaycox said, adding that it’s a way to help address the supply-chain disruptions faced by many businesses over the few years. And it’s not just talk, Jaycox said, noting that US Steel had customers in he solar industry who are reshoring.
The renewable energy market, in general, is one that Jaycox said “has legs to it.”
“We’re seeing a significant uptick in that space,” he said.
By Ethan Bernard, email@example.com
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