New capacities increase the resilience of the US steel industry

Recent consolidation and new capacity in the US steel industry is driving a faster transition to greener steelmaking technologies, US steel executives said in a September 30 discussion at City Hall.

Mark Millett, CEO of Steel Dynamics Inc. At an event hosted by the Association for Iron and Steel Technology, the shift to U.S. steel making in electric arc furnaces (EAF) was accelerated by the coronavirus. …

“This is a new era for American steel, and I just think COVID is the catalyst,” he said. “… We are rationalizing and consolidating our industry.”

Millett sees Cleveland-Cliffs’ September 28 acquisition of most of ArcelorMittal’s US integrated steel mills as positive for the industry.

The industry will change with Cliffs’ acquisition of ArcelorMittal’s US assets, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter, said David Stickler, CEO of Big River Steel.

“Most likely, we will get four producers of flat products from 10 to 15 million /year,” he said.

Cleveland-Cliffs, having bought AK Steel in March and announced the acquisition of ArcelorMittal, opted for a more traditional form of integrated steelmaking, while Nucor and SDI pioneered the EAF model. The partnership between US Steel and Big River Steel, created in late 2019, includes a hybrid of EAF and integrated steelmaking, Stickler said.

“This is a healthy market for customers, suppliers and investors,” he added.

Panelists said the commissioning of new plants in the United States and the construction of the Cliffs hot-rolled iron plant in Ohio will bring additional environmental benefits as older, less efficient facilities will be replaced. Currently, approximately 70% of steel production in the United States is environmentally friendly EAF products.

Big River Steel is looking “very seriously” at renewable energy investments in the future, Stickler said.

“We are being pushed by a number of our customers, including European automakers,” he said. “They recognize that our carbon footprint is the world’s leading, but they want us to be a better person.”

Dan Needham, vice president and CEO of Nucor Steel Indiana, said the supplier is building a wind power facility at Nucor’s new micro-plant in Sedalia, Missouri, to meet some of the mill’s energy needs. Nucor also uses hydropower at its Seattle plant, he said.

“We’re constantly looking at new technologies,” Needham said. “Of course we are looking at hydrogen, but it is too early to say that it will be successful in what they want to achieve in Europe.”

Stickler said he expects the shift to more renewable energy sources and hydrogen in steelmaking to accelerate in the coming years, as sustainability remains a focus of industry worldwide.

“30 years of waiting for environmental impact is a joke,” said Stickler. “If I said that I was going to do something in 30 years, it means that I am not really going to do it. How about three years? How about five years? This is the time frame we’re looking at for Big River Steel. ”

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