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German steelmaker Thyssenkrupp restarts BF no. 1 for 'last shift'

Highlights

Thyssenkrupp back to full pig iron capacity

All four BFs to be replaced in decarbonization drive

Pricing policy in steel market set to change

German steelmaker Thyssenkrupp restarted its biggest blast furnace Oct.1 following a reline lasting three months, the steelmaker said Oct. 4.

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Thyssenkrupp said blast furnace no. 1 had been operating 13 years without a reline. The restart "is probably the last shift" for the furnace as all four blast furnaces of the steelmaker will be gradually replaced from 2025 with direct reduced iron technologies with the view to replace coking coal with green hydrogen, it said.

Blast furnace no. 1 produces 10,000 mt of pig iron per day and completion of the reline -- in the "two digit million Euro range" -- means Thyssenkrupp can produce at full pig iron capacity again. The company's four blast furnaces have a total annual hot metal production capacity of 11.6 million mt.

Shipments and production are expected to fall during the July-September quarter at Thyssenkrupp because of the reline, Thyssenkrupp CFO Klaus Keysberg said in August. Blast furnace no. 1 started the shutdown July 7.

Crucial time for steel pricing

The restart comes at a crucial time for the flat steel market in Europe. The spot market has been in steady decline since summer with Western European mills starting to focus on long-term contract negotiations instead of the spot market, leaving EU domestic spot markets under pricing pressure from cheaper non-EU and Central Eastern European import offers. At the same time, volume take-up by automotive customers has dropped at European mills, shortening lead times.

The daily Platts hot-rolled coil assessment has decreased Eur135/mt from its record high of Eur1190/mt EXW Ruhr on June 25 to Eur1055/mt EXW Ruhr Oct. 1.

Energy transition is set to change steel price levels and pricing policy. The drive toward low-carbon emission steel production and the expected costs from both the necessary equipment investment and higher carbon prices for the European steel industry have led several European steelmakers to introduce or plan carbon surcharges as extra costs on base prices this year and next.

Increasingly more pressure is also set to come from end-customers including in the automotive and white goods sectors that aim to establish low-carbon supply chains.

Further decarbonization measures

Thyssenkrupp has also used the reline to install a Sequence Impulse Process (SIP) system on its blast furnace no.1 together with equipment maker Primetals, to improve efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions, the companies said in a joint statement Sept. 30.

"We know that new technologies will eventually replace the blast furnace, but these will take a long time to mature. Currently process improvements which reduce costs and improve the green credentials are critically important to steelmakers globally," said Paul Freeman, director of blast furnace business for Primetals Technologies UK.

The SIP technology acts to repurpose the enrichment oxygen, and deliver a series of controlled, high-energy pulses, increasing local concentration in the blast furnace raceway. The system is said to provide improved combustion and conversion of fuel, leading to better gas distribution and drainage potential.