Wednesday, October 4, 2017

News: Bloom caster restarted at Rotherham steelworks

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Liberty Speciality Steels is marking a key milestone in its programme to make the pivotal speciality steel business viable again in South Yorkshire.

Having formally completed the £100m deal to acquire the Speciality Steels division of Tata Steel UK earlier this year, international industrials and metals group, Liberty House went on to announce that it will be creating around 300 new steel jobs at sites like Aldwarke in Rotherham and Stocksbridge in Sheffield.

Today marks the official re-activation the "small bloom" caster at Aldwarke more than 18 months after it was mothballed by previous owners during the steel crisis.

Re-commissioning this key piece of equipment, and an associated coiler at the neighbouring Thrybergh mill, has already created 64 new jobs with a further 150 to come over the next six months, as production from the revamped caster increases dramatically to provide more high-grade steel bar for automotive and engineering components in the UK and beyond.

The bar mill at Rotherham has doubled the number of shifts in order to boost output from 78,000 tonnes to 137,000 tonnes a year.

Sanjeev Gupta, executive chairman of the GFG Alliance, the group which includes Liberty House, will visit the works today and is expected to announce that the company is aiming to re-ignite Rotherham's second electric arc furnace early in the New Year, restoring the site's position as one of the UK's leading producers of recycled steel.

Production from the arc furnaces is expected to rise to over a million tonnes per annum and there are plans for the bar mill to roll over 400,000 tonnes a year.

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The move is part of an initial £20m investment from Liberty as it targets a bigger share of the aerospace and energy markets and meets the growing demand for high-grade steels to make vehicle parts such as gearbox parts, suspension springs and hydraulic drives. British car makers are looking to buy an increasing proportion of their vehicle content from UK sources and this trend is expected to accelerate post-Brexit.

Speaking ahead of his visit to Rotherham, Sanjeev Gupta said: "Speciality Steels is an operation of the highest international calibre with highly-skilled people. We're investing to ensure this business can capitalise on growing opportunities and reclaim its leading position in the market."

He said Speciality Steels was already benefiting from being part of the wider Liberty Group. For example, off-cuts from the engineering processes at Liberty's automotive pressings plant in Coventry generate around 24,000 tonnes of high-grade steel scrap a year for melting at Rotherham. Some of this metal is eventually engineered into high-value auto-components at Liberty's plants in the West Midlands and other parts of the country.

"This is an example of a sustainable circular economy that can grow and become resilient, thereby protecting jobs for the long-term," Mr Gupta added.

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Peter Hogg, chief operations officer for Liberty Speciality Steels, added: "We plan to increase our production of steel bar threefold within a year by bringing this equipment back into use. I'm optimistic that we'll achieve that. There is a great spirit of determination in the business and people are eager to change and move forward.

"We've still got a lot of work to do but re-commissioning the small bloom caster and the coiler is an important and very encouraging milestone for us."

Liberty Speciality Steels website

Images: Tom Austen


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