Long-time Birmingham industrial icon U.S. Steel Corp. officially opened its first-ever electric arc furnace in Fairfield today, bringing advanced technology to “the Valley.” The EAF will allow the company to have the “Best of Both” technologies.
“We are super excited about bringing this advanced technology to Alabama,” says U.S. Steel President and CEO Dave Burritt. “We are excited about bringing together what we call the best of both technologies — the best of mini-mills and the best of integrated mills, and together we have process innovation that mini-mills bring and product innovation that integrated mills bring to the fore. So, with this electric arc furnace, this is our first type of mini-mill technology and we look forward to the continued development of our strategy in Alabama.”
The project to restore steel-making to the Fairfield community began in February, 2019. Despite challenges along the way, including the COVID pandemic, contractors were able to complete the $412 million project on time and within budget.
The Fairfield EAF will, according to U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, add 150 full-time jobs to the company.
“Steel production and processing continue to play a key role in our local economy — thanks to steel manufacturers like U.S. Steel who continue to invest in our people and our communities,” Sewell says. “This is the type of economic turnaround that Fairfield, Alabama needs.”
Brent Sansing, general manager of U.S. Steel Tubular Operations, adds that the company currently has about 500 team members in tubular operations and that the EAF will employ between 150 to 200 team members, so the tubular operations will employ north of 700 when the Fairfield facility is fully operational.
“Not only do we have a new state-of-the-art arc furnace, we also have vacuum tank degassing, a ladel metallurgy facility and a completely revamped four-strand trans caster to supply our tubular facilities with the high-quality steel needed to not only meet but exceed the needs of our customers, America’s energy producers,” Sansing says, who is a third generation worker of U.S. Steel.
Doug Matthews, senior vice president, chief commercial and technical officer, tubular and mining, says, “In October, we did successfully strike first arc and since then we have continued to progress our hot commissioning. We have successfully made prime pipe off of our caster and produced off of the electric arc furnace. We are excited about what that means for our customers.” Matthews adds that adding the arc furnace positions U.S. Steel as a strategic supplier so that it can continue to enable energy independence in the U.S., “and help our oil and gas customers be able to be safer in their well construction, more environmentally friendly in their well construction and improve their cost efficiencies.”
The EAF will use scrap steel in its construction of its rounds, which is both more cost efficient and environmentally friendly than traditional made steel. The EAF also will allow U.S. Steel to make the full suite of American Petroleum Institute-grade standards, as well as U.S. Steel-proprietary grade steel.
“This really positions our tubular group to be able to not only survive but thrive in the United States market and continue to be, for generations to come, a go-to supplier for our customers,” Matthews says. “It enables us to be able to flex with the market so we are able to minimize our cost, minimize our operations when we have to, but when the market starts to take off, be able to ramp up and support our growing customers’ needs.”
“But at the same time, we are fully integrated, from billet all the way down to finished pipe. Being a one-stop-shop for our customers is really, really important — as you look at complex supply chains have been under pressure where simplistic supply chains have been much more efficient and nimble and able to move with our customers’ needs,” Matthews says.
Sansing and Matthews, as well as Burritt, all thanked the construction engineers, employees, customers, community leaders, community members and shareholders of U.S. Steel for their support of this expansion.