One of Wales' biggest employers Tata Steel says it may delay relighting one of its blast furnaces if demand for steel remains slow.
The 185 million pound project to rebuild furnace number 4 at Port Talbot is about to get underway. It should be back online in November, but the company says that will now depend on the state of the order book later in the year.
The company says the decision to look again at the order book before relighting furnace 4 will not affect the rebuild project which is due to start next month. Another £53 Million project to install a new cooling system in the BOS (Basic Oxygen Steelmaking) plant will also go ahead at Port Talbot as planned.
Jon Ferriman, Hub Director of Tata Steel's Strip UK operations based at Port Talbot, said:
– Jon Ferriman, Hub Director of Tata Steel's Strip UK operations
The possibility that we may not relight No 4 immediately following completion of the rebuild in no way affects the project itself. Our commitment to giving steelmaking in Wales the strongest possible future remains undiminished.
The rebuilt furnace will be capable of producing larger volumes of hot metal and will have a 20 year lifespan. The decision to announce a possible delay though in bringing it back on line is an indication of slow demand and a quiet order book. Tata Steel's Chief Commercial Officer, Henrik Adam, said:
Any decision about when to restart No 4 needs to take the state of the European steel markets into account. We have been fortunate in being able to schedule the rebuild project during a period of relatively subdued demand, but we are conscious that there is likely to be a continuing need to stabilise the market once the rebuild is complete. We will only decide to delay the start-up of the furnace if it is clear an extended period of single-furnace operation at Port Talbot will not compromise the levels of delivery and service our customers require. We will continue to serve our customers by flexibly deploying the full range of our production facilities in Europe.
The European operations of Tata Steel comprise Europe's second largest steel producer. With main steelmaking operations in the UK and the Netherlands, they supply steel and related services to the construction, automotive, packaging, lifting & excavating, energy & power, aerospace and other demanding markets worldwide. Tata Steel is one of the world's largest steel producers. The combined group has an aggregate crude steel capacity of more than 28 million tonnes and approximately 80,000 employees across four continents.