Slovakia’s US Steel Kosice restarts BF1

Slovakian steelmaker US Steel Kosice has restarted operations at its blast furnace 1, which was idled Dec. 2, a spokesperson for parent company US Steel told S&P Global Commodity Insights Jan. 19.

Operation restarted early January, they said, with a separate USSK spokesperson also confirming the return to operation and saying the company was operating two blast furnaces.

The company has three blast furnaces and a total crude steel production capacity of 4.5 million mt/year.

It had been planned that BF1 would return to operation in the first quarter of 2023 after it was idled due to high energy prices, low market demand and surging imports.

US Steel Kosice previously idled its BF2 on Sept. 4 for an initial 60 days, keeping BF1 and BF3 operational.

At the time, the company said the BF2 idling was a planned outage and it would continue to adjust maintenance schedules according to demand.

Neither spokesperson gave any other details about why BF1 had restarted operation and did not respond to questions about BF2’s restart.

However, a number of market participants said USSK would be restarting another blast furnace in February.

“US Steel Kosice approached us saying that they plan to restart a blast furnace in February, meaning that they will have more material,” a source at a Central European service center said.

“I think if all the mills start to restart the idled furnaces, we might forget about price rise. The demand is not strong enough to absorb additional volumes,” he said.

A European trader also said USSK planned to restart a BF in February, although said there was not much detail available. This was echoed by a third source.

Concerns are growing in the market that the increase of flat steel production rates might put an end to the bullish trend settled in the European coil market since mid-December.

A number of European steelmakers had idled a number of blast furnaces in the second half of 2022 in the attempt to prevent coil price downtrend.

USSK is not the only steelmaker returning blast furnaces to operation, with ArcelorMittal saying Jan. 18 it may restart the 4.5 million mt/year blast furnace A at its works in Gijon, Spain, at a reduced level in February.

Platts, part of S&P Global, assessed domestic HRC prices in Northern Europe at Eur740/mt ex-works Ruhr Jan. 18, down 20% since the start of 2022.

— Jacqueline Holman, Maria Tanatar