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Whyalla steelworks idle following shutdown damage

Manufacturing News

The Whyalla steelworks blast furnace is idle and workers have accepted a temporary loss of pay following an incident during a routine shutdown operation.

Owner GFG Alliance has confirmed that the blast furnace – Australia’s only source of steel rails and structural steel, had been closed since March due to an uncontrolled iron breakout which damaged the furnaces outer shell, according to media reports.

The furnace went too cold during maintenance with the damage done when the company was attempting to get the blast furnace back up to temperature.

A GFG Alliance spokesman said the company was making steady progress on repairs with eight wind tuyeres which blast air through the furnace to control heating during combustion now reinstated – the blast furnace needs 12 tuyeres to allow a re-start of operations.

The spokesperson said: “During the recovery work the furnace shell was damaged, this damage is repairable and that work is now underway.

“While GFG is working hard to bring the blast furnace back up to its usual operation as quickly as possible, this event may delay the anticipated restart date.”

Around 50 percent of workers at Whyalla have agreed to move from a shift roster of 42 hours over seven days to 7.6 hours a day over five days – effectively a 30 percent pay cut.

GFG Alliance has already accepted its last shipment of coal and closed its coke ovens in preparation for moving to greener steelmaking technology at Whyalla.

In April the company’s Liberty Steel announced that it had signed a contract with supplier Danieli for a $500 million 160-tonne electric arc furnace (EAF.) which is backed by $63 million from the federal government. Another $50 million is available from the South Australian government.

The investment will see steelmaking capacity at the site rise from one million tonnes per annum (mtpa) to more than 1.5 million tonnes.

Initially the electric arc furnace will utilise scrap steel, but Liberty plans to move to direct reduction iron produced from Whyalla’s extensive deposits of magnetite iron ore and green hydrogen produced in the area.

Further reading:
Whyalla site will retire blast furnace, up capacity with new electric arc furnace: GFG
Green steel eyes strong market demand for low carbon product

Picture: GFG Alliance

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