Tata Steel today announced a project to extend the operational life of its Blast Furnace 5 in Port Talbot, Wales, has begun.
The giant furnace – which has been running for the past 15 years producing almost 30 million tonnes of iron – is now being drained so vital engineering work can be carried out inside, extending its life by five to seven years.
Once the heart of the furnace, which is normally more than 1,200oC, has cooled skilled engineers will begin work to replace part of the heat resistant interior and vital structural parts. The project, costing tens of millions of pounds and expected to take several months, will also see the waste gas and dust extraction system being replaced.
The Blast Furnace 5 life extension project is a critical part of Tata Steel’s long-term strategy to strengthen its operations in the UK and will underpin improvements throughout its UK supply chain. Confirmation of the investment came at the same time as the announcement in June of definitive agreements being signed by thyssenkrupp and Tata Steel to form a joint venture of their European steel businesses.
Bimlendra Jha, CEO of Tata Steel’s UK business, said: “This is the biggest single investment we have made at the Port Talbot site for more than five years and demonstrates our commitment to building a stronger and more sustainable steelmaking business in the UK now and in the future.”
Alan Coombs, Chair of the Port Talbot multi-union committee added: “This investment in Port Talbot is a huge vote of confidence in the workforce, and follows some other major investments which will help sustain the steel industry in the UK.”
Today project engineers began what is known as a salamander tap of the furnace. This involves a number of holes being drilled through the base of the furnace to fully drain it of liquid iron. The operation is carried out remotely and it is expected it could take more than a day to remove all the remaining iron.
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About Tata Steel’s European operations
Tata Steel is one of Europe's leading steel producers, with steelmaking in the Netherlands and the UK, and manufacturing plants across Europe. The company supplies high-quality steel products to the most demanding markets, including construction and infrastructure, automotive, packaging and engineering. Tata Steel works with customers to develop new steel products which give them a competitive edge. The combined Tata Steel group is one of the top global steel companies, with an annual crude steel capacity of 27.5 million tonnes and more than 65,000 employees across five continents. The group’s turnover in the year ending March 2018 was US $20.4 billion.