Tata Steel restarts Blast Furnace No 4 in Port Talbot after £185 million rebuild
STEEL giant Tata today announced it has restarted its second blast furnace at Port Talbot after rebuilding it at a cost of £185 million.
The move will improve Tata Steel's operational flexibility and allow it to better serve customers in the UK and across Europe.
The company spent most of last year rebuilding Blast Furnace No 4. Production has now started.
Molten iron from the furnace will be converted into high-quality steel for a range of customers in sectors including construction, automotive, lifting and excavating, domestic appliances and packaging.
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Previously, Tata had said it would have to consider demand and the state of its order books before deciding to light the rebuilt furnace.
Last November it also warned workers in Port Talbot that 500 jobs would go as part of a UK-wide restructuring.
Tata Steel's European operations chief executive officer Karl Kohler said today: "This rebuild has been a flagship investment, part of our strategy for long-term competitiveness in UK, EU and worldwide markets.
"The efficiency and sustainability of the new furnace will also make a major contribution to our efforts to create an 'all-weather' company in Europe.
"We have been able to take advantage of a period of low steel demand to carry out this major engineering project and we are still operating today in an intensely challenging commercial environment.
"Restarting the furnace will help us improve our delivery performance, which will enable us to better serve our customers, but we will continue to manage our output at levels appropriate to market conditions."
Blast Furnace No. 4 was decommissioned last July before being completely rebuilt, incorporating the latest technology to improve energy efficiency, environmental performance, safety standards and capacity.
Tata said the requirements of its customers were central to the rebuild project. The furnace had enhanced health, safety and environmental care facilities, making it a worldwide standard-setter as one of the most efficient in the world.
It said further energy and environmental benefits would be gained from the recently-completed £55m energy-from-heat scheme at Port Talbot's steel plant which would save 10MW of energy – enough to power 20,000 homes.
Michael Leahy is general secretary of the Community trade union and chairman of the UK trade unions' Steel Committee.
He said: "The project's completion is a source of great pride and hope for the future of steel making in the UK.
"The blast furnace project created many jobs for local contracting firms, providing a real boost to the South Wales economy at a difficult time.
"Longer term, the rebuilt furnace marks the start of a new era of sustainable steelmaking in the UK."
The start-up of the new furnace has enabled Tata Steel to restart its second hot strip mill in South Wales. In anticipation of the furnace restart, the Llanwern hot strip mill resumed production in December.
A spokesman said: "The restarts give the company greater operational flexibility and enable it to better serve its customers."